KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--B•E•A•CC•H•, the environment cluster of the CSO Platform for Reform, along with 21 civil society organisations (CSOs), call upon the Perak Menteri Besar to retract his inaccurate remarks concerning the lanthanide mining project in northern Perak and gazette the entire site in question as a forest reserve.    

Saarani was quoted as saying, “I have checked with the departments and it (lanthanide mining project site) has been proven that the area is not under the permanent forest reserves or CFS (Central Forest Spine),” in a press conference after launching the 2030 Perak Sejahtera Plan on 15 June 2022 .

This is completely untrue. Parts of the project site form part of Primary Linkage 8 of the CFS Masterplan. This was confirmed by the EIA Executive Summary made available by the Department of Environment . 

Other parts of the project site are part of the Kenderong Forest Reserve. In other words, this project would completely undermine the CFS Masterplan, which identifies the location of the project site as a key area for forest connectivity.

Therefore, B•E•A•CC•H•, which stands for Biodiversity, Environment, Agroecology, Climate Change and Habitats, strongly urges the Perak MB to retract his inaccurate and misleading remarks on the environmental impact of the lanthanide project.

According to the Peninsular Malaysia Town and Country Planning Department’s 2009 Final Report on the CFS Master Plan for Ecological Linkages, Primary Linkages are described as “areas where it is crucial to re-establish forest connectivity in order to achieve the main Central Forest Spine link. 
These areas are inevitably located between the most important blocks of forests; usually in narrow stretches where non-forest land use is still minimal… Due to their locations, these areas are usually also important corridors to large mammals which use these areas to move from one forest to another.”    
It is important to also bear in mind that all forest areas identified in the CFS Masterplan need to be kept intact, not just the linkages. There would be no point maintaining the Primary Linkages while parts of the forest reserves in the CFS itself, which the Primary Linkages were supposed to link, are excised. 
Areas that were excised need to be reforested and regazetted as forest reserves or protected areas to achieve the goals under the CFS Masterplan.

Leela Panikkar, coordinator of B•E•A•CC•H•, noted that the lanthanide mining project’s EIA clearly states that the project site is high in biodiversity value and is an important habitat for critically endangered species such as the Malayan tiger, the Malayan tapir and the Asian elephant. To go ahead with the project would render meaningless the conservation efforts to protect these critically endangered species and only increase human-wildlife conflicts, of which there have already been several records.

GRASS Malaysia president M. Yusaimi Md Yusof highlighted that the Malaysian government had adopted the CFS Master Plan as part of the country’s National Physical Plan.

“Our Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has described the National Physical Plan as the ‘highest document on land use planning in the country’ . Therefore, all federal agencies and state governments, including the Perak State Government, are duty bound to protect the Central Forest Spine, especially the Primary Linkages clearly identified in the CFS Master Plan,” he said.

GRASS Malaysia is a member of B•E•A•CC•H•

Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah, President of Sustainable Development Network Malaysia (SUSDEN Malaysia), further called on the Perak MB to clarify how he could be in the dark that the lanthanide project would affect forests, as MBI Inc Perak owned a total of 1,430.634 acres or 578.957 hectares of forest land allocated for the project.

“When and why did MB Inc. Perak acquire land parcels D1, D2 and D3? If these three land parcels are no longer forest reserves, when were these forest reserves degazetted? Until they are officially degazetted, they must still be considered as forest reserves. The Perak MB should answer our questions,” said Muhammad Sha’ani.

SUSDEN Malaysia is also a member of B•E•A•CC•H•

It was reported on 16 August 2022 that the Perak state government has received planning approval from Gerik District Council for the lanthanide mining project.

Muhammad Sha’ani said there is a clear conflict of interest for the Gerik District Council to approve the lanthanide mining project since it is one of the project’s landowners.

According to the project’s EIA as illustrated in the graphic above, the Gerik District Council is the landowner for land parcel C, involving 89.99 acres or 36.42 hectares of land, that would be developed by Tulus Mentari Holdings Sdn Bhd.
There are also general concerns regarding the weaknesses of the EIA process. It is supposed to function as a safeguard to ensure that areas of high biodiversity value and environmental sensitivity are protected against development. 
If projects still get the green light despite the sites being recognized for environmental significance in the EIA report itself, then the process is not serving its function effectively to prevent environmental disasters.

A recent example is Tasik Chini where mining leases were approved and this severely degraded the water quality and biodiversity value of the area. The Government had to take emergency measures such as implementing a moratorium on mining in the area and to seriously look at rehabilitation measures . 
It is clear that mining should not even be considered in or near to such important ecological landscapes. Yet, projects were approved and the obvious consequences followed.  
The relevant authorities are urged to scrap the lanthanide mining project rather than repeat the process of approving mining projects in critical areas and facing environmental disasters again and again throughout the country.  

B•E•A•CC•H• and supporting entities call for the Perak Government to rehabilitate and regazette the area as a forest reserve in accordance with the CFS Masterplan.

Endorsed by the Following Civil Society Organisations:

1. B.E.A.CC.H. (Biodiversity, Environment, Agroecology, Climate Change and Habitat), Environmental Cluster of the CSO Platform for Reform
2. Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES)
3. Agora Society Malaysia
4. Aliran
5. Environmental Protection Society Malaysia (EPSM)
6. Forum Kedaulatan Makanan Malaysia
7. Free Tree Society Kuala Lumpur
8. Gabungan Darurat Iklim Malaysia
9. Greenpeace Malaysia
10. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK)
11. Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam (KUASA)
12. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
13. Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar Kuala Langat
14. Pertubuhan Alam Sekitar Sejahtera Malaysia  (GRASS Malaysia)
15. Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam
16. Rimba Disclosure Project
17. SAVE Rivers
18. Sahabat Alam Malaysia