With most of its natural resources already nearing depletion, Malaysia has been urged to seriously consider opening itself to accommodate the production of rare earth metals.
Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim , Chief Executive Officer of the Academic of Sciences Malaysia, in a report titled "Rare Earth Industries: Moving Malaysia's Green Economy Forward," said the rare earths sector could very well fuel Malaysia's drive to achieve high income status by 2020.
"Our oil, land and other reserves are depleting, so we need to look for new opportunities and this is one of it," Ibrahim said.
These days, high-tech industries depend on a sustainable supply of rare earth elements. Rare earths are widely used in manufacturing a number of applications including aerospace, consumer electronics, automotive and telecommunications.
Malaysia has 30,000 tonnes of rare earth reserves from residual tin deposits.
"Malaysia is very much strategically placed in the race for green technology competitiveness in the next five to 10 years," Datuk Dr Lee Yee Cheong, ASM chief spokesman, said during the launching of the report.
Moreover, the report said the highly controversial Lynas Corp. rare earth plant in Gebeng can be a catalyst for the development of green technology in Malaysia. Despite reports the plant is 85 per cent complete, the Malaysian government has yet to issue a pre-operational license to Lynas Corp. It is expected to be operational by early next year.
Since rare earths support environmental friendly technology, Malaysia has the opportunity to build downstream industries around the plant.
Ibrahim said global demand for rare earth minerals will continue to soar with the continued high-tech advances, saying Malaysia should not just focus on the low value from upstream but also to venture further into the downstream as it would help to foster the nation's economy.
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