pic by BERNAMA
THE Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (KeTSA) is drafting the standard operating procedures SOPs to ensure sustainable mining of non-radioactive rare earth elements (NR-REE).
KeTSA Minister Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah said the SOPs will include the overall activities in the mineral mining sector and its waste management systems, progressive mining site closures and manufacturing processes.
“The SOPs are supported by relevant legislation. The full compliance with the SOPs will be the main condition for companies to start any NR-REE mining.
“However, this does not mean the government is ready to allow extensive NR-REE mining,” he told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
He was responding to a query by Fuziah Salleh (Pakatan Harapan-Kuantan) on the decision by the National Land Council (NLC) regarding the approval to explore and extract REE in Kedah and other places nationwide.
“For example, the government will not allow any REE mining activities, especially in forest reserves, without any technical evaluation and approval to avoid pollution that could affect the environment, water resources and community health,” Shamsul Anuar said.
He added that the National Mineral Council (MMN), which has been recently reactivated, will evaluate the SOPs for NR-REE, of which the discussion will involve the state government and relevant ministries.
“Although the permit issuance for mineral exploration is under the authority of the state government, the conditions will be formed jointly between agencies at the federal and state levels to ensure all conditions are fulfilled before approval is given,” he said.
Recently, a Kuala Lumpur-based company received a permit by the state government to explore and extract REE in Ulu Muda, Sik and Baling in Kedah, which have mineral deposits estimated at RM62 billion. The large-scale project has been argued to disrupt the water supply in three northern states — Penang, Kedah and Perlis — and affecting 4.2 million people, according to Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP).
Kedah Mentri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor said the company will carry out exploration and mineral extraction activities without involving mining methods, while describing the elements explored are non-radioactive and in high demand, particularly in the manufacturing of digital technology components.
Shamsul Anuar said the NLC has not discussed in detail the REE exploration in Kedah or other places in the country.
“KeTSA has not issued any approval for mining activities in any state, especially in forest reserve areas, without any assessment and technical approval.
“The ministry will take action against any party that mines without approval. At present, the project in Kedah has not received any approval yet,” he said.