Pilot Project at Hulu Perak: SAM to Submit Written Objection Soon – Meenakshi

The Sahabat Alam Malaysia – Friends’ of the Earth Malaysia (SAM) is strictly against the development of a pilot project involving the mining of non-radioactive rare earth elements (NR-REE) at the Kenering subdistrict in Hulu Perak.

According to the President of SAM, Meenakshi Raman, a meeting will be held together with the NGOs in order to prepare an objection in writing to the Menteri Besar and Sultan of Perak regarding the pilot project which had its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report approved. 

“SAM is shocked to learn of news that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the rare earth lanthanide mining project in Hulu Perak was approved last week, when it was earlier reported on the Department of Environment’s (DOE) website that that the EIA had been rejected. According to the EIA which has now been approved, the project is to involve 2161 hectares, which is massive, making it possibly the largest in the country.

“Menteri Besar Saarani Mohamad was recently reported to have said that the mineral could be another source of revenue for the state and that the pilot project on state land will determine if there will be harmful radioactivity from mining.

“The statement is misleading, since the EIA itself already shows the presence of thorium in the soil sample tested. 

“Already the naturally occurring radioactive Thorium (Th-228) of tested soil sample from the land owned by the Perak State Agricultural Development Corporation (PPPNP) / land parcel PT1764 is reported to be above the regulated 1 Bq/g. Any uncontrolled accidental release of reactants (e.g., sulfuric acid) during set-up and operations could have catastrophic consequences.

“The project will be using Ammonium Sulphate as the key chemical. The groundwater modelling result already showed high risk of ammonium and sulphate contamination in Well 2 and 3 used by the plantations of PPPNP and FELCRA within the proposed mining area. This will directly affect the local communities and their access to drinking water,” she explained to Ipoh Echo when contacted recently.

She also voiced her concern for the contamination of rivers, which are an important water source for the local communities at nearby settlements of Kg. Pong and Kampung Orang Asli Bukit Asu.

“We understand that the project is located in the headwaters of the Sg. Rui, a tributary of Sg Perak. Therefore, any degradation of the surface water or groundwater resulting from the proposed mining could affect the whole or a very large portion of these watersheds and their ecosystems. 

“How can such a mining project be allowed in a highly environmentally sensitive area which is in the Central Forest Spine (CFS) range, and has been classified as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) Rank 1? 

“To avoid significant disturbance and damage to the surrounding environment, only controlled activities like low impact nature tourism, research and educational activities are allowed within ESA Rank 1 area and mining cannot be considered as a low impact activity.

To oppose the proposed project, SAM had submitted comments and reports to the DOE in August last year.

“Approving such mining activity in an ESA Rank 1 ecosystem is most outrageous, and in violation of the federal government’s planning policy. It can in no way be viewed as a sustainable activity.

“In particular, the proposed activity has a high risk of increasing the concentration of ammonium and thorium, which are radioactive substances in the existing environment. 

“The Menteri Besar and the DOE must explain how the EIA was approved despite the concerns raised and response from the public including that from SAM.

Rosli Mansor

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