While Malaysia is still at the drawing board stage to extract its rich rare-earth minerals, a syndicate from China has been detected mining and smuggling them with relative ease due to policy loopholes.
KUALA LUMPUR — December 10, 2019: Almost everyone in the local mining industry has heard of it but only few know for certain that a syndicate from China has been mining rare-earth minerals in Jeli, Kelantan, and smuggling them out.
It is learnt that the authorities had a few weeks ago raided the mine.
“How do they smuggle it out of Malaysia? They declare it as clay when in fact it is rare-earth which has been precipitated,” said a source, adding that the activity had been going on for quite a while.
It is also believed that the syndicate had been in cahoots with a local company to smuggle the mineral to China.
Another source said the runoff from the mining at the jungle area is disposed into a nearby river.
The authorities are however tight-lipped.
When contacted today, Kelantan Department of Minerals and Geoscience director Che Abdul Rahman Jaafar clarified that the mining is not illegal because the miner had just received a business licence from the state.
“It is now awaiting for approval of its EIA (environmental impact assessment) report. This is the only information I can tell you right now,” he said.
Unlike the mining in Jeli, Lynas Corporation’s rare-earth factory in Gebeng, Pahang, only refines raw materials that were extracted from its mine in Mt. Weld, Western Australia.
The case of suspected rare-earth mining and smuggling is likely to generate disapproval from environmental groups, which had censured the government when it signed a memorandum of understanding with a company from China last month in a bid to systematically explore rare-earth deposits in Perak.
Rare-earth mineral is an essential input in modern technologies, gadgets, machinery and magnets with China having a stranglehold over its supply, producing over 80 per cent of global output.
In July it was reported that Malaysia has rich deposits of rare-earth in Kedah, Perak, Kelantan, Johor, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak valued at RM178.14 billion.
Malaysia had stopped mining rare-earth for 40 years due to radioactive poisoning in Bukit Merah, Perak, which allegedly caused a spate of leukemia and birth defects at a nearby village.