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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Perak says no to Bukit Merah rare earth plant

The Perak government says the MoU was only for a feasibility study and it was inked by low-level officers.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Perak government will not allow a second rare earth plant to be built in Bukit Merah, executive councillor Hamidah Osman said today.

He said the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Hong Kong’s Commerce Venture Manufacturing (CVM) Minerals Ltd and the Perak State Development Corporation (PKNP) was merely a “low-level” agreement.

“The MoU was just a feasibility study of the area. To be allowed to mine, they’d have to ask for authorisation from the state. This MoU is a low-level decision, they haven’t even presented the MoU to the state government.”

She said that CVM Minerals would not get authorisation for any rare earth project under any circumstances.

“We definitely wouldn’t agree, especially as we are trying to green the state. The MoU was never presented to us, and if it was, we would not be in favour of it,” she said.

She came to Menteri Besar Zambry Abdul Kadir’s defence, saying that despite being PKNP chairman, he was not responsible for the decision made.

“That would be the CEO’s jurisdiction.”

Hamidah, the Sungai Rapat MP, also told FMT that the state government intended to issue a firm directive saying that no MoU should be signed by any state-linked company without the approval of the state.

“I hope that nobody takes advantage of this as a political issue because as far as the state is concerned, our final word is no. The plant goes against our concept of making Perak a green state,” she said.

‘A 7% stake’

FMT reported yesterday that the Perak government had signed an MoU with CVM Minerals 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” there.

CVM, via its subsidiary CVM Metal Recycle Sdn Bhd, submitted its application for a mining licence to the state Land and Mineral Office on April 18 to conduct rare earth exploration on an area of 250 hectares – nearly six weeks after the environmentally hazardous Lynas rare earth project in Kuantan was publicised.

PKNP has a 4.73% stake in CVM, although Hamidah claimed that it was actually a 7% stake.

The first rare earth plant in Bukit Merah, under Mitsubishi Chemicals, closed in 1992 after years of protests from citizens. The area is still undergoing a massive RM303 million clean-up helmed by Mitsubishi Chemicals.

Residents of Bukit Merah, which is situated in the outskirts of Ipoh, 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.

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.

Bukit Merah is part of the area known as Belanja, which covers about 11,137 hectares in the Batu Gajah district and has a multiracial population totalling 26,211 people.

CVM Minerals has not commented on the issue, despite repeated calls. - FMT

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