Kuantan residents threaten sit-in if rare earth ore arrives
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 — Kuantan folk have threatened to block operations of a controversial rare earth plant by holding a sit-in as claims that Lynas Corp is ready to ship in ore has heightened tension among increasingly nervous residents.
Although the Australian miner has denied any plans to ship in material from its Mount Weld mine, it has also said it is confident of starting operations by the end of the year.
Leaders of local anti-Lynas movements told The Malaysian Insider that after more than six months of lobbying against the RM1.3 billion refinery due to fears of radiation pollution, residents are now threatening to stop the plant at all cost.
“They are threatening to lie down in front of the factory. People are getting nervous and some are planning to move out of Kuantan,” Save Malaysia Stop Lynas chief Tan Bun Teet said.
This is despite the federal government giving its assurance that “there will be no importation of raw materials into the country, and no operational activities will be allowed on site” until Lynas meets conditions set out in July by an international team of radiation experts.
Although none of the community leaders contacted by The Malaysian Insider have planned a sit-in, they also refused to take responsibility over public anger should the government allow Lynas to bring in the ore to Kuantan port.
“I am not in control of the people. If it comes down to that (ore in Kuantan), people have said that they are prepared to sit-in,” said Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, who has led protests against the plant.
Andansura Rabu, whose Badar represents Beserah residents living as close as two kilometres away from the plant in the Gebeng industrial zone, said that after last Sunday’s Green Gathering had its police permit pulled at the 11th hour, locals were “getting more tense.”
“Anything can happen,” he said.
PKR vice-president Fuziah said yesterday the Kuantan Port Consortium told occupants of the port area “that Malaysia can expect the rare earth oxide from Mount Weld to arrive in Kuantan by the end of this month.”
Some 1,000 people, led by Fuziah and Bersih chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, gathered in Kuantan over the weekend in protest against Lynas.
Lynas has refuted claims of radiation pollution, assuring Kuantan residents they would face “zero exposure.”
It is awaiting approval from the government after submitting its proposals on 11 conditions recommended by an expert review panel from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
These include a comprehensive, long-term and detailed plan for waste management that covers decommissioning and remediation.