KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 11): The government will introduce a policy prohibiting the export of rare earth raw materials to prevent exploitation and resource loss, as well as ensure maximum returns for the country.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced that a detailed mapping and a comprehensive business model, integrating upstream, midstream, and downstream industries, will be developed to maintain the rare earth value chain within the country.
"The rare earth Industry will emerge as a new growth resource, based on sustainable and environmentally friendly non-radioactive rare earth elements. These elements are crucial in manufacturing batteries, super magnets, and electronic devices," Anwar stated in Parliament while presenting the Mid-Term Review of the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025).
Anwar further mentioned that the rare earth industry is anticipated to contribute up to RM9.5 billion to the country's gross domestic product by 2025, and create nearly 7,000 job opportunities.
"To achieve this target, the new National Mineral Policy will be designed to drive comprehensive development of the mineral industry, based on principles of sustainability and responsibility. This policy will serve as a guideline for conducting mining activities in permanent forest reserves, environmentally sensitive areas, and protected regions,” he added.
Malaysia’s Mineral and Geoscience Department had identified 16.1 million tonnes of non-radioactive rare earth elements (NR-REE), with an estimated market value of RM809.6 billion, the Dewan Rakyat was told in June.
The department identified “29 areas with strategic potential for NR-REE in Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Sarawak, Selangor and Terengganu”, Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said at the time.
In July, it was reported that the standard operating procedure for mining of NR-REE had been approved by the Cabinet.
A pilot project has also commenced in Perak — reportedly containing 1.687 million tonnes of NR-REE including lanthanides — where materials had been exported from the state.
The pilot is carried out in a pilot area measuring 87.4 hectares, involving extraction of NR-REE minerals using the in-situ leaching method, the Perak state assembly was told in May.
An inaugural export of the end-product totalling 296.19 tonnes in February provided RM1.66 million in royalty to the state, the assembly was told. In the February-April period, 4,477 tonnes of lanthanides were exported to China, Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Saarani Mohamad said at the time.
Another state that is venturing into the sector is Kedah, where its Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor in December 2020 indicated potential reserves of NR-REE worth RM62 billion in the state. Terengganu is also exploring opportunities in the sector, according to reports.
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