KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — Several Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmakers are expected to join the growing campaign against Lynas Corp’s rare earth plant near Kuantan, in the hopes their support will halt the controversial rare earth refinery’s construction permanently.
The campaign against the RM700 million refinery in the Gebeng industrial zone has been led so far by Kuantan MP and PKR vice-president Fuziah Salleh, along with local and Australian environmental groups, citing concerns over potentially hazardous waste that may result from processing rare earths.
“The plan right now is to get BN MPs, to oppose the [construction] of the [refinery]... it has to be ideally a bi-partisan approach, this has to go beyond political allegiances,” a BN source told The Malaysian Insider in Parliament earlier this week.
The source said there were “rising concerns” within the federal coalition that the risk factors were “too great” should the plans to build the rare earth refinery carry on as planned.
“This is about the safety of the Kuantan folk; we don’t know how safe it is... it is better to not go ahead with this.
“There is also concern that should this backfire, BN would be affected, and the repercussions may be too deep,” added the source.
BN support against the project has, however, been tepid, as seen during a Parliamentary briefing on the plant yesterday, where no BN MPs were seen attending it.
The project is currently frozen pending a month-long review by a team of international experts.
The government ordered the review after bowing to public pressure in April and is awaiting recommendations from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)-led review panel due at the end of the month.
Local residents and environmentalists have opposed the refinery due to fears of radiation pollution that has been linked to diseases such as cancer as well as birth defects.
But Lynas, who insists that the facility is safe, is confident that its plans to begin operations in September will not be delayed despite the government review.
It expects a windfall of RM8 billion once the plant is running at full capacity by 2013, producing rare earth metals that are crucial for high technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and wind turbines.