By Dr Mahathir Mohamad
1. I was the first to write in my blog about rare earth, about how difficult it was to rid ourselves from activated rare earth when it was no longer needed.
2. Rare earth can be used for many things and in many ways. The rare earth represented by tin tailing, mostly ilmenite, when activated can be used in colour television. Today colour television uses plasma or LED.
3. This posed a problem of getting rid of the activated rare earth left in Malaysia. Finally it was agreed between Mitsubishi Electric and Malaysia that a site in Perak of almost a square kilometre be reserved for burying under concrete the activated “amang”.
4. Although visitors were banned and no human habitation was allowed at the site, I am told that now there is no more danger of radiation and human dwellings have been built there.
5. The Lynas project is not about activating the rare earth to make it radioactive. It is about extraction of the element to be used in making lithium ion batteries and magnets.
6. Lithium ion batteries are extensively used to power electronic products including mobile phones.
7. We carry in our pockets and use mobile phones all the time, putting them against our ears to hear and speak over the air waves. Obviously they are not harmful. This lithium ion battery does not emit harmful radiation.
8. As I understand it, the Lynas plant in Pahang does not involve activating any of the rare earth components to make them radioactive. The process cannot be harmful. As for the waste, it does not give off harmful radiation either. The waste is just ordinary earth which is normally mixed with the small amounts of rare earth. The necessity to export the waste does not arise.
9. Malaysia is endowed with significant quantities of rare earth. In its natural state it is harmless. Tin tailings or “amang” is probably more likely to give off radio waves than rare earth. The mining and extraction of rare earth can bring much wealth to Malaysia. In fact Malaysia should be producing lithium ion batteries for use in electric and hybrid cars. Today these batteries are being produced in Germany and Britain, using rare earth from China and elsewhere.
10. Lithium ion batteries will be much in demand in the future. They are usually rechargeable and can last for many years.
11. It would be a great loss to Malaysia if misguided people prevent us from extracting and using the high clean electrical capacities of rare earth. Just as the lithium ion batteries in the cellular phones is not harmful even when we carry them everywhere in our pockets and put them to our ears, the mining and extracting of rare earth from Malaysian earth will not harm us in any way.