Monday, May 2, 2011


This is a Barisan Rakyat Bloggers contribution in solidarity with the people of Kuantan.

by Allison Jackson – Sun May 1, 1:17 am ET

BAOTOU, China (AFP) – Peasant farmer Wang Tao used to grow corn, potatoes and wheat within a stone's throw of a dumping ground for rare earths waste until toxic chemicals leaked into the water supply and poisoned his land.

Farmers living near the 10-square-kilometre expanse in northern China say they have lost teeth and their hair has turned white while tests show the soil and water contain high levels of cancer-causing radioactive materials.

"We are victims. The tailings dam has contaminated us," Wang, 60, told AFP at his home near Baotou city in Inner Mongolia, home to the world's largest deposits of rare earths, which are vital in making many high-tech products.

"In this place, if you eat the contaminated food or drink the contaminated water it will harm your body," Wang said, pointing towards lifeless fields now strewn with rubbish around Dalahai village, a few hundred metres from the dump.

China produces more than 95 percent of the world's rare earths -- 17 elements used in the manufacture of products ranging from iPods to flat-screen televisions and electric cars.

Two-thirds of that is processed in mineral-rich Baotou on the edge of the Gobi desert.

Environmental groups have long criticised rare earths mining for spewing toxic chemicals and radioactive thorium and uranium into the air, water and soil, which can cause cancer and birth defects among residents and animals.

Beijing, keen to burnish its green credentials and tighten its grip over the highly sought-after metals, has started cleaning up the industry by closing illegal mines, setting tougher environmental standards and restricting exports.

But Wang and the other farmers in Dalahai blame state-owned giant Baogang Group, China's largest producer of rare earths and a major iron ore miner and steel producer, for poisoning their fields and ruining their livelihoods.

Strong winds whip across the dump's millions of tonnes of waste, blowing toxic and radioactive materials towards surrounding villages.

"It is the pollution from the tailings dam," Wang Er, 52, told AFP, pointing a dirty finger at his spiky hair which started turning white 30 years ago.

Baogang, which has rare earths and iron ore refineries stretching for about seven kilometres along a road in the area, did not respond to AFP requests for comment.

But a 2006 study by local environment authorities showed levels of thorium, a by-product of rare earths processing, in Dalahai's soil were 36 times higher than other areas of Baotou, state media have reported.

"People are suffering severely," the Chinese-language National Business Daily said in December, citing the official study. Sixty-six villagers died of cancer between 1993 and 2005 while crop yields fell "substantially".

"There is not one step of the rare earth mining process that is not disastrous to the environment," Greenpeace China's toxics campaign manager Jamie Choi said in a recent report.

Choi said the impact of the government crackdown depends on whether it is "implemented properly".

But the environmental damage already caused by rare earths mining in China could be irreversible, according to Wang Guozhen, a former vice president of the government-linked China Nonferrous Engineering and Research Institute.

"The money we earned from selling rare earths is not enough for repairing the environment ... definitely not enough," Wang told AFP.

As demand for rare earths soars, China is slashing export quotas. Analysts say Beijing wants to drive up global prices and preserve the metals for its own burgeoning high-tech industries.

The moves have prompted complaints from foreign high-tech producers while the United States and Australia have responded by developing or reopening mines shuttered when cheaper Chinese supplies became available.

Several kilometres from the massive dumping ground is the privately-owned Baotou City Hong Tianyu Rare Earths Factory -- one of dozens of operators processing rare earths, iron and coal in a dusty no-man's land.

Workers wearing blue uniforms and army camouflage runners inhale toxic fumes as huge spinning steel pipes process tonnes of rare earths bound for high-tech manufacturers in China, Japan, the United States and elsewhere.

A production manager surnamed Wang told AFP the factory produces "several thousand tonnes of rare earths a year" and the toxic waste is piped to another dumping ground in the area.

The desolate fields around Wang's village have been left fallow as farmers wait for government compensation. Some appear to have fled already, with empty houses and shops along dusty roads falling into disrepair.

Authorities have offered to pay farmers 60,000 yuan per mu ($9,200 per 0.067 hectares) so they can move to a new village four kilometres away. But they won't have land to till and the farmers say the compensation is inadequate.

"People like us can only cultivate the land and raise animals. If we don't have a regular job, where will our income come from, how will we live?" asked Wang Tao, his brown face creased with worry.


Environmental considerations

Mining, refining, and recycling of rare earths have serious environmental consequences if not properly managed. A particular hazard is mildly radioactive slurry tailings resulting from the common occurrence of thorium and uranium in rare earth element ores.[35] Additionally, toxic acids are required during the refining process.[11] Improper handling of these substances can result in extensive environmental damage. In May 2010, China announced a major, five-month crackdown on illegal mining in order to protect the environment and its resources. This campaign is expected to be concentrated in the South,[36] where mines are commonly small, rural, and illegal operations particularly prone to release toxic wastes into the general water supply.[10][37] However, even the major operation in Baotou, in Inner Mongolia, where much of the world's rare earth supply is refined, has suffered major environmental damage.[11]

The Bukit Merah mine in Malaysia has been the focus of a US$100 million cleanup which is proceeding in 2011. "Residents blamed a rare earth refinery for birth defects and eight leukemia cases within five years in a community of 11,000 — after many years with no leukemia cases." Seven of the leukemia victims died. After having accomplished the hilltop entombment of 11,000 truckloads of radioactively contaminated material, the project is expected to entail in summer, 2011, the removal of "more than 80,000 steel barrels of radioactive waste to the hilltop repository." One of Mitsubishi’s contractors for the cleanup is GeoSyntec, an Atlanta-based firm.

Source: Wikipedia

Lynas risks RM50m bill per mishap in Kuantan

Raja Aziz DG of Atomic Energy Licensing Board, added that Lynas has yet to complete an application for a pre-operating licence which would open up a three-year window for AELB to monitor and verify if the entire refining process will be according to its pre-declared plans “Lynas says it has sent me the application But if you send me a letter without the documentation it does not constitute an application We have looked at it and it is not complete ” he said.



Cucu Mat Kilau said...

Pak Zorro. Terima kasih kerana berjuang untuk rakyat. There was a case in one of the branch campus of a public university in Perak where there were 3 incidences of cancer from about 300 workforce. The campus was located adjacent to an "amang" processing plant. No scientific study was carried out. Please push for an independent scientific study to be carried out in order to determine the baseline radioactivity and monitor the increase or otherwise from the proposed industry.

Anonymous said...


Actually, Barisan Nasional doesn't care if people in Lynas drop dead one-by-one. There is so much money to be made for them in this contract, what's with a few thousand Malaysian lives ... especially, if these are not in anyway related to the BN leaders.

Don't be so naive!!!

motherchell said...

My dear Zorro, Thank you for bringing this report to the fore.
The children of the Uputras are more valuable than the children in the outback in Bolehland-- so they feel. Have we thought about the Malaysian so called "experts" who could not reconnect the main power cables on the Penang Bridge after a fire sometime back. They had to wait for German engineers to do the needful. What exactly is Rare Earth to UMNO educated morons is anybody's guess. All the Uputras need is commissions galore with their children marrying Aryans to fill up their bank accounts overseas. Malaysia is just a resource funding center for their pastimes overseas. As Taib has set himself a place in Lebanon. Najib too may not have the time to visit his Pekan which would be Blade Runner territory in a few years time. They have still not seen embryos with defects due to depleted Uranium etc. What would UMNO's MPs know what a Periodic Table is all about?? especially the Kinabangan moron types who are too busy bonking away! Time will tell when Hell breaks loose for the so called leaders last days on Malaysian soil!!
Much Regards

zorro said... never cease to amaze me. is by being naive that we elicit responses. you ever heard about smoking out?

Cucu mat got to give me more specifics brother....let's have it, yah?

Anonymous said...

At least Zambry kecut and withdrawn MOU with Hong Kong on a rare-earth processing in Perak after witnessing the protest against the stupid act of his Pahang counterpart.

Any update on The Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS)?
MoCS is preparing to unleash a people’s power revolution to oust Taib if he does not step down by the deadline the movement has set.

zorro said...

Anon810am...the latest update here...

Anonymous said...

Dear Uncle Zorro

Thank you for supporting the people of Kuantan in our battle (I am a Kuantan boy and I am very upset with the irresponsibility of the authorities in allowing Lynas to build its plant) against greed and reckless disregard for the health and well-being of the people of Pahang AND Terengganu.

Note that the Terrenganu border is very near to Gebeng.

If this is not stopped, the rest of Malaysia and Singapore will be eating radioactive salted fish and radioactive keropok from Kuantan too!

Phua Kai Lit

Anonymous said...

I am a Kuantanite, and most of us here are not very optimistic that the plant will be shut down, not when so much money has changed hands. Serves those who voted BN right, they have been spat on right on their faces - vote them in and that gives them a right to do anything they like, with no regard for human lives and health. So much for the Go Green Day, what for, when what is facing us is even deadlier than some non biodegradable plastics!

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha this is what you voters get for voting Barua Najis! They will pimp your land, air and water for that great RM! Continue to vote for them and they pimp your children next!