Anti-Lynas group demands to know where rare earth wastes will be sent
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 — Lynas Corp’s biggest critic has demanded to know where the Australian miner plans to ship waste from its controversial rare earth plant in Kuantan that was finally issued a temporary operating licence (TOL) this week by federal regulators.
The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) has said the TOL was issued based on various conditions including the removal from Malaysia of radioactive waste from its plant.
But Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) said in a statement today that Lynas and the authorities should reveal details of the waste removal, because it had been established that Australia would not allow Lynas to return the waste there.
“Show us exactly how Lynas will remove its radioactive waste from Malaysia. How can the AELB expect us to accept this weak proposition when we know for a fact that Lynas has no way of shipping its radioactive waste out of Malaysia legally?” said Ram Ponusamy, a local resident quoted by SMSL in its statement.
Environmentalists have also pointed out that trans-boundary transportation of hazardous waste was controlled by the Basel Convention, and it would be nearly impossible for Lynas to find a country willing to accept millions of tonnes of its waste.
SMSL said it was outraged that despite two impending judicial reviews at the Kuantan High Court and an appeal case for judicial review in Putrajaya, the government proceeded to issue the TOL to Lynas this week.
“We are appalled by the government’s action. The government has lost the very last little bit of credibility left and may have acted in contempt of the court as a result,” said Tan Bun Teet from SMSL.
“Lynas may think that with the TOL, it can do whatever it wants. We would like to assure concerned Malaysians that we will do whatever it takes to stop Lynas — here in Malaysia, in Australia and in every corner of the world where Lynas hopes to conduct its business.”
SMSL has said it would seek to get an injunction to freeze the TOL issued earlier this week to the Australian miner.
Lynas Corp confirmed yesterday that it had received the TOL from government regulators, paving the way for it to fire up its controversial rare earth plant.
Opponents have called the RM2.5 billion project “the world’s largest radioactive waste dump” despite the Sydney-based firm’s insistence that radiation would be at very low levels as “it will break down and alpha particles will release very strong radiation into the food chain.”
Lynas cleared its final major hurdle in June to getting its TOL after a parliamentary select committee (PSC) called for the licence to be issued as “scientific facts” show that the controversial Kuantan plant is safe.
The positive feedback tabled in the PSC report came just days after the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry dismissed an appeal against the facility by residents living nearby and instead imposed two conditions that Lynas said it will have no problems meeting.
Lynas had said in April that delays in obtaining the licence for its facility, which was initially approved in January, may have “very serious consequences” for the RM80 billion worth of rare earth orders already received as it is “sold out for the next 10 years.”
Unprecedented public anger against the Lynas plant in Kuantan has been fertilising Malaysia’s green movement and could affect voter sentiment ahead of key national polls that must be called soon.
Earlier this year, thousands of people gathered for a peaceful demonstration in Kuantan calling on the government to stop the plant from being fired up.
The company said that the issuance of the TOL would enable Lynas to commence the transport of rare earth concentrate and to complete all necessary steps to prepare for first feed to kiln, which is expected in October.
Last week, five Kuantan residents made headway in their last-ditch bid to stop Lynas Corp from firing up its plant after they got the High Court’s nod to challenge the science, technology and innovation minister’s decision to award a TOL to the Australian miner.