IPOH, June 15 — Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Saarani Mohamad today said the rare earth mining project involving lanthanide in Gerik is not located within the permanent forest reserve and Central Forest Spine (CFS), as alleged by some environmental groups.
Saarani said the land for the proposed project is owned by the State Agriculture Department Corporation (SADC).
“Yes, it is true the law prohibits mining inside the permanent forest reserve area, but the location of the project is not a permanent forest reserve. The land is owned by SADC. This allegation is wrong.
“Also, we have checked and confirmed with the Perak Land and Mines Department (PTG), the state Forestry Department and the state Mineral and Geoscience Department (JMG) that the land is outside of the Central Forest Spine (CFS) area,” he told a press conference after launching the Perak Sejahtera 2030 Plan at Kinta Riverfront Hotel and Suite here.
Saarani also told the environmental groups to get their fact rights before making any allegations.
“To those making these allegations, I respect their concern for the safety of the people and the sustainability of the environment, but please check with relevant department to see if it is true that the project is inside the permanent forest reserve,” he said.
“They should make sure the information they get is from the right source. They can always check with the relevant authorities, such as the PTG and Forestry Department, and importantly, to trust them.
“If they don’t trust them, where else we can find relevant authorities who can determine which area is the permanent forest reserve and which is not?” he added.
Yesterday, Sahabat Alam Malaysia field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman said that environmental groups only opposed to the use of forest reserve land for Perak’s lanthanide mining and not the project itself.
Urging the state government to move the project out of the Kenderong Forest Reserve in Hulu Perak, which is located in the CFS, Meor Razak said the location was a vital movement corridor for local fauna and classified as a rank 1 environmentally sensitive area (ESA), the category of highest importance.
“Disturbing the CFS will affect and damage the wildlife inhabitants and cause the extinction of protected animals, such as tigers, elephants, sun bears, tapirs and deer, which are invaluable.
“Also, the existing law does not allow any mining, logging or development to be conducted in environmentally sensitive areas rank 1 except for low-impact ecotourism or research work,” said Meor Razak.
When asked when the lanthanide mining project would commence, Saarani today said that the project is still pending several approvals.
“When we first found out about the lanthanide, we did not start mining immediately. We had to first find out the safety and mitigation measures.
“Yes, some preliminary work was done by the responsible party in the area.
“But when the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources came up with new tariffs for the preliminary work, we were warned that we had to follow the standard operating procedures (SOP) before proceeding further.
“Therefore, since early 2021 we have stopped all the preliminary work there and told to carry out remedial work. During this period, we were waiting for the ministry’s SOPs. The ministry had a public hearing both online and physically, and crafted SOPs that was approved by the Cabinet.
“However, the SOPs still did not allow us to carry out any work in the area until the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is approved. After that, the Environment Department issued a certificate allowing us to carry out the pilot project. Yet, we still need to get more approvals before we can start work on the land,” explained Saarani.
Saarani also stressed that the Perak government will make sure the project abides by all the regulations set by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources once it begins.
“If the regulations are breached, we will not allow the project to proceed. This is not only a pilot project for Perak, but also other states are waiting to find out what happens in Perak before venturing into this project. If Perak can proceed, then other states will follow suit,” he said.