IPOH (Nov 27): NGO Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is worried that the Perak authorities may begin rare earth mining in the state after a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the state government and Chinese company Chinalco GXNF Rare Earth Development, the Malay Mail reported today.

The deal was meant to “explore the possibility of mining rare earth minerals in Perak”.

“Clearly, the exploratory works are a first step in embarking on rare-earth mining in the state, and SAM views this with utmost concern.

“Perak is already home to a radioactive permanent waste facility in the Kledang Range that contains dangerous and harmful wastes of thorium and uranium, inherited from the notorious Asian Rare-Earth (ARE) plant that operated in Bukit Merah, Ipoh during the mid-1980s to 1990s,” SAM president Meenakshi Raman said in a statement today.

The news portal reported Meenakshi saying that the MoU was “revealed” by the Ministry of Water, Land and Natural Resources in a Nov 16 statement that described the move as “positive”.

“It is most shocking that the Perak government as well as the Ministry of Water, Land and Natural Resources have not learnt the tragic lessons of the ARE plant that resulted in serious radioactive poisoning in the Bukit Merah community.

“High incidences of deaths among children, who suffered from leukaemia and cancer, children with elevated levels of lead in their blood, and above normal rates of miscarriages among pregnant women due to the radioactive poisoning,” she added.

Meenakshi also explained that the radioactive thorium and uranium wastes remain hazardous for very many years.

“It is most irresponsible of the state government and the Ministry of Water, Land and Natural Resources to promote environmentally unsound investments in rare-earths, despite the ARE lesson and the controversial Lynas rare-earth operations in Gebeng, Pahang.

“The state government and by the Ministry of Water, Land and Natural Resources must act responsibly in halting investments that bring huge profits for companies in the short-term and leave behind toxic, radioactive and hazardous legacies of waste dumps for generations to be burdened with,” she added.

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