ABOUT two years ago in 2020, the current Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor promised to turn the Kedah state into El Dorado. In other words, the land of milk and honey.
Rather than El Dorado, I thought it would be appropriate to re-name Kedah as “Wakedah” considering the windfall the state would derive from the richness associated with the mining of rare earth elements.
However, after much noise was created, nothing was heard about the rare earth mining deal hatched between the Kedah state government and the mining investment companies – probably from China.
With the opposition from the environmental groups, Sanusi probably decided to postpone the mega project.
Just recently, however, Sanusi – not outdone by the opposition – presided over a memorandum of understanding (MOU) ceremony between the Menteri Besar Incorporated (MBI) and a local company technically anchored by a large Chinese investment company.
(Editor’s Note: On Jan 11, MBI Kedah inked a MOU with Jangka Bakat Minerals Sdn Bhd and China’s Xiamen Tungsten Co Ltd on the exploration, technical assistance, and mining of rare earth elements in the state)
Sanusi in his overzealousness to promote the mining of rare earth elements said that the state would allocate about 146 acres of land for the mining venture.
The mining investment is said to amount to a whopping RM60 bil. This was something promised two years ago (not trillions that were earlier suggested).
Big scale water pollution?
Nevertheless, Sanusi was upset that the relevant federal authorities had not laid out the procedures for rarer earth mining.
Since the rarer earth elements might not be radioactive, it would not be problem for the state to undertake this venture within the ambit of the Federal Constitution.
But Sanusi conveniently forgets that radioactive or not, large scale mining requires the relevant federal environmental approvals.
There is no way Sanusi can escape the need for compliance, among other things.
Since the mining investment is large scale in nature, there are implications for water conservation in Kedah. If this massive mining investment is to proceed, there might be problem of water supply not just to Kedah but to other northern states.
Large scale mining of this nature might spell disaster to the environment. I wonder how the relevant federal agencies would allow for this to proceed without the repercussions.
The financial returns dangling before his eyes have motivated him to pursue this massive mining investment option regardless of the impact on the state’s environment.
While PAS leaders openly display their disdain for Chinese companies, both local and foreign, why is there a change of heart by allowing Chinese investment in rare earth mining?
Is it true then that when it comes to the derivation of financial benefits, PAS politicians are willing to make ideological compromises?
The massive rare earth investment project might promise the heaven to the Kedahans in the form of illusionary riches. But going back on past developments, the rakyat of Kedah have nothing to look for except poverty and misery.
El Dorado or Wakedah will remain an illusion to the ordinary people in Kedah. If the project proceeds – which hope it doesn’t – I wonder who will be the real beneficiaries.
PAS needs political funds urgently to keep the green wave high and lashing. – Jan 12, 2023
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.