Govt mulls Mineral Development Board to develop rare-earth industry

It is estimated that in 10 years, the industry will generate investments worth RM100b

pic by TMR File

MALAYSIA’S mineral resources — which comprise tin ore, iron ore, gold, magnesium and coal — are worth an estimated RM732 billion in total.

To develop the multibillion-ringgit rare earth industry in Malaysia, the government is considering a proposal to set up a Mineral Development Board.

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar (picture) said the establishment of the board is in line with efforts to develop the rare-earth industry as one of the country’s new sources of revenue.

“The board will play a leading role in the development and governance of the mineral industry, including laws and regulations,” Dr Xavier told the Dewan Rakyat.

He was responding to a question from Datuk Seri Dr R Santhara Kumar (Pakatan Harapan-Segamat) who inquired about the ministry’s measures to develop the potential of rare earth in the country.

Dr Xavier said exploration efforts by the Mineral and Geoscience Department Malaysia have found sizeable amounts of rare earth in several states, including in Kedah, Perak, Johor, Kelantan, Terengganu, as well as Sabah and Sarawak, valued at RM178.14 billion.

“The ministry is also working on policies and legislation on minerals so that the rare-earth resources are mined and developed through sustainable practices,” he said.

It is estimated that in 10 years, the industry will generate investments worth RM100 billion.

Dr Xavier said the government is looking to create downstream opportunities in the industry through partnerships with the private sector.

“Downstream is also important. The rare earth industry should not be limited to just the mining and sale of raw materials overseas. The government will work together with private entities to provide the necessary capital expenditure needed to ensure that such activities are done in the country,” he added.

However, Dr Xavier said any plans to promote downstream activities via refinery plants that can convert raw materials into other products will be governed by strict standard operating procedures. This is to ensure the safeguarding of the environment and its surrounding communities.

On the government’s change of stance towards Lynas (M) Sdn Bhd despite concerns on safety hazards, Dr Xavier said the country must have an “open mind” towards the industry for its own future.

“The Cabinet is expected to make a decision on Lynas soon. But if we want the country to progress, we should make an example out of Lynas on how there can be a better system that we can use,” he said.