Malaysia

Activists doubt AELB can regulate Lynas rare earth project

October 12, 2012

AELB director-general Datuk Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan (far left) being heckled by SMSL demonstrators after a court hearing in Kuantan on October 10, 2012. — Picture courtesy of Save Malaysia, Stop LynasAELB director-general Datuk Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan (far left) being heckled by SMSL demonstrators after a court hearing in Kuantan on October 10, 2012. — Picture courtesy of Save Malaysia, Stop LynasKUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 — Radiation regulator Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) has failed its public duty to ensure sustainable development in the long term by granting Lynas Corporation three key licences needed to fire up its rare earth plant in Pahang, activists campaigning to block the Australian miner said today.

The Kuantan-based Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) movement cast doubt on the regulator’s ability to keep Lynas in check by staying silent on the award of an ore import licence and a waste disposal licence despite earlier promises to follow the 11 recommendations by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and keep the public informed of the licensing process.

“This is unacceptable and we will fight until the end to stop this foolish decision. Lynas has no place in Malaysia,” said SMSL president Tan Bun Teet.

“How then can we, the people, trust them in ensuring that the rare earth plant will be managed to a high standard?” said  Kuantan resident Ismail Abu Bakar, who is among the SMSL campaigners opposed to the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) project in Pahang, in a media statement.

SMSL noted that the two licences were only made public during a court hearing last Wednesday and that AELB has yet to issue an official announcement.

The group said it was still concerned because Lynas has yet to release a safe long-term radioactive waste management plan.

The group has mounted a legal bid to put a stop to the project and won a small victory after the High Court extended a hold on the Australian company’s temporary operating licence (TOL) to November 8 while it decides whether to consider a review aimed at permanently blocking production at the RM2.5 billion refinery.

Unprecedented public anger against the Lynas plant has been fertilising Malaysia’s green movement and could affect voter sentiment ahead of key national polls that must be called soon.

The rare earth plant — the biggest outside China — has been ready to fire up since early May, but the company has been embroiled in environmental and safety disputes with local residents since construction began two years ago.

Lynas has repeatedly maintained that its plant is safe and cannot be compared to a previous Japanese plant in Bukit Merah, Perak owned by Mitsubishi Chemicals, that has been linked to a spate of birth defects and eight cases of leukaemia resulting in death.

The Asian Rare Earths (ARE) plant shuttered in 1992 following a public outcry but spent two decades and RM300 million to decontaminate the site.