Monday, March 28, 2011

Kuantan rare Earth or good earth?

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Kuantan is such a nice place to start a family, that is where I stay for a long time, the first choice for staying in Kuantan, is its environment, a clean city located beside a river mouth near the South China Sea. It is a place of good earth.

It was until the set up of heavy chemical industry in Gabeng, that the environment hazard become apparent. The potential for acid rain and chemical plant accident hazards was my concern, at the time no body will buy the idea of that happen. I still have likeness for Kuantan, after living there for nearly 20 years, a city which is no very urbane, and near to the greenery and sea. I just do not understand why Kuantan need to take the path of heavy chemical industrialization?.....

Why built a rare earth processing in Kuantan, after the experience in Perak some years ago? the good earth become a rare earth..... and may be one day a bad earth.....

There is a similar case in Australia, at Whyalla, a city with location quite similar to Kuantan. A seaport, located in South Australia, like state of Pahang, with greenery surrounding the city, and facing the similar economic dilemma, as a tourist location starting industrialization.....

The Australian Greens party voiced out its concerns that the South Australian government may be rushing too much on the proposed rare earths processing plant in Whyalla following the state's move of giving major project status to the planned $1 billion rare earths facility by Arafura Resources Ltd (ASX: ARU).SA Greens head Mark Parnell said that the state government should also consider the possibility of radiation threats from the proposed rare earth processing plant in Whyalla as he added that Arafura and SA authorities need to furnish them detailed of the project's supposed environmental impacts. Mr Parnell said that the Greens are sounding the alarm so everyone in the state and more so the state government would be duly guided by the seemingly exciting economic prospect for South Australia.

Whyalla is the third most populous city in South Australia after Adelaide and Mount Gambier. It is a seaport located on the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.

There are always two opposing opinions, there are always request for Environment Impact Analysis, and the chances are official barriers will be easily overcome. There are already sign of good positive economic and employment news...

Ironically, why all the way from Australia to Kuantan? where Whyalla is able to provide economic benefit to the owner of the future rare earth processing plant in Australia; and where Australia has vast area of unoccupied desert land. Is it merely commercial justification of cost? or opportunity cost of future environmental cost? or just merely dumping?....

Another question is why the plant in Kuantan, when we still having the plant in Perak still under cleaning process, why take the risk?

It is still dilemma, of economic benefits or environment/health risks. But economic benefits for who?... what is the future opportunity cost? is it worth it?.....

But the ultimate answer of the decision will only be known after many years; the only picture that we can derived for the future impacts can only obtained from the happening of Chinese rare earth processing plants, the environment impact on the rare earth processing waste, the health hazards to the people....

According to an article published by the Chinese Society of Rare Earths, “Every ton of rare earth produced generates approximately 8.5 kilograms (18.7 lbs) of fluorine and 13 kilograms (28.7 lbs) of dust; and using concentrated sulfuric acid high temperature calcination techniques to produce approximately one ton of calcined rare earth ore generates 9,600 to 12,000 cubic meters (339,021 to 423,776 cubic feet) of waste gas containing dust concentrate, hydrofluoric acid, sulfur dioxide, and sulfuric acid, approximately 75 cubic meters (2,649 cubic feet) of acidic wastewater plus about one ton of radioactive waste residue (containing water).” Furthermore, according to statistics conducted within Baotou, where China’s primary rare earth production occurs, “all the rare earth enterprises in the Baotou region produce approximately ten million tons of all varieties of wastewater every year” and most of that waste water is “discharged without being effectively treated, which not only contaminates potable water for daily living, but also contaminates the surrounding water environment and irrigated farmlands.”

The disposal of tailings also contributes to the problem. Tailings are the ground up materials left behind once the rare earth has been extracted from the ore. Often, these tailings contain thorium, which is radioactive. Generally, tailings are placed into a large land impoundment and stored. In the United States strict controls are put into place and permits are required to store tailings. According to Wang Caifeng, China’s Deputy Director-General of the Materials Department of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, producing one ton of REEs creates 2,000 tons of mine tailings. Wang said that China has sacrificed greatly in its extraction of rare earths.

May be when the time come, someone, just like Dr M on Bukit Merah issue, will not remember, all have forgotten....

The people have to decide on the fate of their city; when Japan decided to built nuclear plants in Fukushima, there was no opposition views, now the people are regret over their earlier decision to support the building of nuclear plants in their area. But it is too is similar to the Chinese farmers near the rare earth processing plants, it is too late.....

If you are still in dilemma, please read the article " In China, the true cost of Britain's clean, green wind power experiment: Pollution on a disastrous scale", ( You will understand what is the consequence of the rare earth processing, the biggest world rare earth producer is now facing the effect of environmental destruction, that will be the same story for Kuantan, or even Wyalla....The cost is too great to bear for the future .....

The issue is still political issue......a global political issue; and the engagement of the locals into the global shortage of rare earth outside China. China has almost total monopoly of the rare earth market, and recent embargo of their rare earth export raised the alarm of global users. The global supplies chain become greatly affected. China is now facing environmental problem due to excessive illegal rare earth mining and treatment of the mining waste. In fact, rare earths are relatively abundant. But why many want rare earth, but few are mining them? it seems only China is mining them. It is because rare earth are very difficult to extract, and processing them can cause environmental damage. The process involves toxic acids, and rare earths are often found in deposits containing the radioactive elements uranium and thorium. That is the reason why few country want to mine them due to environmental reasons, and opposition from home countries.

A New York Times (NYT) report said today Australian mining company Lynas's refinery in Kuantan could break China's monopoly and their embargo on rare earth. Is it for the benefits of people or "for others" it wise or worth it?...

The people of Kuantan and Whyalla has to decide......

Note: Lynas Corporation's (ASX: LYC, OTC: LYSDY) proposed transaction with Forge Resources (ASX: FRG) to grant Forge subleases over designated areas within the Mount Weld rare earth mining leases has been deemed acceptable by an independent expert.Lynas owns the richest known deposit of rare earths in the world at Mount Weld, near Laverton in Western Australia. These leases contain the Crown and Swan deposits that hold tantalum/niobium and phosphate deposits, and are considered non-core assets of Lynas.

Lynas will receive a consideration of $20.7 million cash plus an option to acquire up to 7 million ordinary shares in Forge as well as ongoing royalty payments, should Forge successfully develop the Crown deposit or the Swan deposit. Lynas will have the right to purchase any rare earths that are produced as a by-product from the Crown/Swan deposits at international market prices, with no associated development costs to Lynas, should the deposits be developed. In the agreement Forge is required use its best endeavours to produce intermediate rare earths by products from any development of the Crown and Swan deposits. Forge will grant Lynas a right of first refusal to take delivery of any rare earths from any other mineral deposits that any member of the Forge Group acquires.
(extract from Lynas Corporation official website, dated 28-3-2011,

Recommended books/articles/websites:

1. Personal website of Pang Tsu Ming (彭子明)State Assemblyman for Semambu, Pahang,
2. Kuantan MP pledges to send mining firm back Down Under, The Malaysia Insider,
3.Anwar calls for movement against Pahang rare earth plant. The Malaysia Insider,
4. Dr M took 26 yrs to admit Bt Merah dangerous, why build another in Kuantan? Written by Mariam Mokhtar, Malaysia Chronicle,
5. Taking a Risk for Rare Earths, by KEITH BRADSHER, The New York Times, published on March 8, 2011,
6. Lynas Advanced Materials Plant,
7. Mitsubishi Quietly Cleans Up Its Former Refinery, by KEITH BRADSHER, The New York Times, published on March 8, 2011
8. Rare earth element,
9. Malaysia pledges to strictly regulate Aussie rare earth plant amid pollution risks,by Eileen Ng, The Associated Press/The Canadian Press on Thu, 10 Mar, 2011 4:34 AM EST,
10. Warning on radiation hazard of Whyalla rare earths processing, are concern in Whyalla, Australia)
11. The Politics of Rare Earth,by Patrick Chovanec,
12. SA government to declare Arafura Whyalla processing site as major project,
13. Curse of the rare earths,
14. In China, the true cost of Britain's clean, green wind power experiment: Pollution on a disastrous scale,

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