New rare earth mining proposal in Bukit Merah: Double jeopardy for residents!

CAP and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) are outraged to learn that the Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a Hong Kong company, CVM Minerals Ltd, for a joint-venture exercise to explore and mine rare earth and other potential minerals and related activities at Bukit Merah, near Ipoh.

It is reported that CVM Minerals Ltd through its Malaysian subsidiary, CVM Metal Recycle Sdn Bhd, had on April 18 submitted an application for a rare earth exploration licence from the Perak State Land and Mineral Office, to explore the proposed concession area of about 250 hectares (617.763 acres).

This proposed exploration and mining of rare earth must not be allowed any further.  It is highly irresponsible for the Perak government’s investment arm to even contemplate of a project such as this after the suffering that the villagers in Bukit Merah had to go through due to the operation of the Asian Rare Earth (ARE) plant there.

Besides losing several young lives to leukemia, there were cases of cancer, congenital birth defects, miscarriages, high infant mortality rate and lead poisoning in Bukit Merah due to exposure to radiation and lead in the wastes.

The present proposal to mine rare earth here is clearly a case of putting salt on wound.

A particular hazard of the mining of rare earth is radioactive waste rock and tailings resulting from the common occurrence of thorium and uranium in rare earth ores.

Already, there are tonnes of waste of thorium lying around in the long term storage site near Bukit Merah.  This is a serious matter because thorium has a half life of 14 billion years and is radioactive and carcinogenic.

Malaysia appears to become a dumping ground for dangerous and hazardous rare earth related projects. Residents in Kuantan are vehemently opposing the rare earth processing plant in Gebeng by Lynas Corporation as they are concerned of the potential radiation.

It is distressing that the government is not learning from our previous ARE incident.  The government seems to be bent on putting the lives of Malaysians at unnecessary risk in its drive for investments and filling coffers.

It should be noted that the MOU is not legally binding and the joint venture agreement has not been signed. Thus it is not too late to terminate this imprudent proposal right now.

We strongly urge the Perak State Government and relevant authorities to cancel this proposal for the sake of public health and environmental protection.

Press Statement, 29 April 2011