Another rare earth plant in Bukit Merah

Posted on April 27, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-Free Malaysia Today-

Even before the controversy surrounding a proposed plant in Kuantan is resolved, the Perak state government inks a MoU for another plant.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is gambling on yet another rare earth processing plant, this time in Bukit Merah area despite the environmental damage by the first rare earth plant set up there by Mitsubishi Chemicals nearly two decades ago.

Mitsubishi is still trying to clean up the affected area.

The latest development comes amid the hue and cry over the Lynas corporation’s RM700 million rare earth plant in Gebeng, Kuantan.

The Perak state government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hong Kong company Commerce Venture Manufacturing (CVM) Minerals Ltd in relation to “the establishment of a joint venture in Malaysia for the purposes of the exploration and mining of rare earth and other potential minerals and activities” in Bukit Merah.

CVM, via its subsidiary CVM Metal Recycle Sdn Bhd, submitted its application for a mining licence, seeking to conduct rare earth exploration on an area of 250 hectares to Perak’s Land and Mineral Office on April 18, 2011 – nearly six weeks after news of the Lynas factory shocked Malaysians.

Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak (PKNP), the development arm of the state government, is interested in 135,300,000 shares of the company, representing approximately 4.73% of the entire issued share capital.

The link to the memorandum can be found here.

The first rare earth plant in Bukit Merah, under Mitsubishi Chemicals, closed in 1992 after years of protests from citizens.

Birth defects

Ipoh residents blamed the rare earth refinery for birth defects and eight leukemia cases within five years in a community of 11,000. Seven of the leukemia victims have since died.

Now Mitsubishi Chemicals is engaged in a RM303 million clean-up of the area.

Mitsubishi Chemicals also reached an out-of-court settlement with nearby residents by donating almost RM500,000 to the community’s schools while denying any responsibility for the illnesses.

CVM’s board of directors are of the view that due to the steady increase in demand for rare earth, the low export quota set by the government of China and the tremendous increase in prices of the minerals, rare earth mining in Perak holds good potential.

Rare earth metals, crucial to high technology products such as Boeing smart bombs, Apple’s iPhone and the Toyota Prius, have become increasingly vital.

However, refining rare earth ore can leave behind thousands of tons of low-level radioactive waste.

Currently, China has a chokehold on rare earth by mining and refining at least 95% of the global supply of rare earth.

When contacted, CVM Minerals refused to comment.


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