Lanthanide Not Radioactive But Its By Products Are Ngo Tells Perak Mb
The environmental group Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has warned that rare earth mining raises the risk of radioactive contamination of its surroundings, even though the lanthanide being mined is not radioactive.
It said the process of mining lanthanide will concentrate naturally occurring radioactive elements in the soil, making it more bioavailable and raising the risk of exposure to radiation.
“The point is that the proposed activity in Kenering has a high risk of increasing the concentrations of naturally occurring radionuclides, such as thorium, in the existing environment, in addition to ammonium (which is non-radioactive but is toxic).
“The practice of in-situ leaching to extract and recycle processed water as a leaching solution imposes a high risk of increasing the concentrations of naturally occurring radionuclides and enhances the exposure from natural radiation sources,” its president Meenakshi Raman said in a statement today.
She is responding to Perak Menteri Besar Saarani Mohamad’s statement on Wednesday where he reportedly accused the opposition of misleading the public.
“(Pasir Pinji assemblyperson) Howard Lee Chuan How, who was a state executive council member at the time, was aware of the project, but he is now saying that the mineral is radioactive.
“We have gone through all the necessary (procedures) to get clearance to mine the mineral, and it is not radioactive,” The Star quoted the menteri besar as saying.
Perak Menteri Besar Saarani MohamadThey were referring to rare earth mining activities in Kenering, Gerik.
Radiation levels much higher than average
Citing the project’s environmental impact assessment report, however, Meenakshi countered that the soil at the project site has 3.8 times the thorium-232 levels compared to the national average.
In addition, she said the thorium-228 on the site has radioactivity above one Becquerel per gramme, meaning it would need to be regulated as a radioactive substance.
Thorium-232 and thorium-228 are both radioactive isotopes of weakly radioactive metal thorium.
“These facts alone raise alarm bells, which seem to have been ignored or downplayed by the menteri besar.
“The menteri besar must also address this aspect of the mining process and not only focus on the final extracted lanthanide ore, which tends to convey the message that the mining process is safe and environmentally sound, which is not the case from SAM’s perspective,” she said.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia president Meenakshi RamanMeenakshi also contested Saarani’s assertion that the project would not involve the felling of any trees.
“The entire project involves the construction of seven hydro metallurgical plants (40.7 ha in total). It is therefore misleading to say that no trees will be felled when trees have to be felled for these metallurgical plants.
“Moreover, the main concern with the project is that compared to conventional methods, in-situ leaching may have less impact in terms of land clearing, but it poses more serious risks to groundwater and the degradation of soils.
“This is made worse when the entire site falls within the National Physical Plan’s classification of being rank 1 as an Environmentally Sensitive Area, which does not allow such mining activity from taking place in the first place,” she said.
She also noted that in-situ mining activities in Ganzhou, China, have caused more than 100 landslides.
The menteri besar’s harping of lanthanide’s non-radioactive nature while failing to address concerns regarding its extraction process and the resulting sludge does not help in building trust with the public and local communities, she added. - Mkini
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