Read a very interesting and easily explained article written by Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim in the New Straits Times today - I have know Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim since my Palm Oil days and he has been a man without any political affiliation and above that he is a person who writes based on scientific evidences.
As such, I'm happy to share the article for the benefit for my friends who we not able to glance through NST today.
the article as it appeared over the NST for your reading pleasure;
The Lynas rare earth s plant in Gebeng Malaysia can challenge China’s domination as the world’s leading supplier of the commodity
The Lynas rare earth s plant in Gebeng, outside Kuantan, is s one of the many processing plants being planned in the United States, Australia, Europe and Africa.
ASK any taxi driver in Kuantan about rare earth. Or listen to any coffee shop talk in Balok on Lynas Corporation.
Chances are, many will have negative things to say about the health and safety risks associated with rare earth processing.
Though the scientific facts say otherwise, a majority of the public in Kuantan is convinced that rare earth spells danger for their well-being.
The question is, are they fed the right facts? Are they being misled?
Whatever it is, there is no denying that those who vehemently oppose the Lynas rare earth plant in Gebeng have largely succeeded in shaping public opinion in their favour.
But how will that affect future foreign investments to Malaysia? Especially those high-technology investments which carry some level of risk related to safety and health, even though manageable with the proper system?
Judging by the pace of new technologies entering the marketplace in recent years, we will be seeing more such opportunities.
How do we deal with that? Do we just close our doors to such investments? Or do we prepare ourselves to manage safely and benefit from such opportunities?
One thing is clear though: the advent of the green economy will most likely increase mankind's dealings in new materials which can be challenging and risky.
We need to know how to manage such materials if we are to benefit from them. If we fail to do that, many others are lining up to deny us the opportunities.
This is seen in the rare earth business. While a minority in Kuantan is spreading negative facts about rare earths, everywhere else in the world is jumping on the business bandwagon.
China, for example, is expanding its involvement in rare earth production.
Most would agree that we need to seek new avenues to drive the nation's growth. Few would dispute the fact that our socio-economic future faces many threats.
The petroleum sector, for example, which for years has been a major contributor to the country's coffers, is showing signs of decline. The nation's oil and gas reserves cannot last forever.
Though new areas are being explored, it is just a matter of time before we join the likes of countries which were at one time flushed with oil wealth but are now dependent on imports. A good example is the North Sea. Not much oil is left there now.
Can revenue and other benefits from the rare earth business overcome the minimal and manageable risks of their extraction? Judging by the worldwide scramble to invest in rare earth, that is more than a realistic conclusion.
Rare earth has emerged as a strategic material for the world. And this has led to a rise in the global interest in the rare earth business. According to industry analysts, China, as the leading supplier, aims to control the trade in rare earth.
By imposing export controls, China also wants to influence world prices. Analysts believe that China is buying time to build the downstream sector by controlling supply as well as keeping prices high outside the country. Any new external source of supply would, therefore, not augur well for China. Analysts see Lynas as bad news for China. With increasing supply from sources such as Lynas, prices may decline, attracting more players into the downstream.
The rest of the world is campaigning hard to expand the supply sources of rare earth outside China.
Recently, there was a big rare earth conference in Canada to discuss strategies for increasing rare earth production outside China. And there was no one from China. And when news of Lynas getting their pre-operating licence was announced, there was jubilation at the conference as reported by a Malaysian participant.
The latest development is that new rare earth processing plants are being planned in many parts of the world.
These include the United States, Australia, Europe and Africa. Apparently, the interest in rare earth is not just because of their demand in green technology products.
Rare earth has, on the other hand, also found strategic applications in the military. Can Malaysia afford not to support investments in rare earth?