Scientific facts show Lynas safe, says PSC
KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 — Lynas Corp is closer to getting its temporary operating licence (TOL) for its rare earth refinery after the 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 comes just four days after the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI) dismissed an appeal against the Australian miner’s plant by residents living nearby and instead imposed two conditions that Lynas says it will have no problems satisfying.
The parliamentary panel, which was boycotted by the opposition over claims it was set up merely to “whitewash” the RM2.5 billion project, wants a monitoring committee made up of regulatory agencies, NGOs and experts to continuously monitor the plant’s operations.
“Studies show the average dose of radiation at the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) is 2 milliSievert (mSv) a year for workers (the allowed annual limit is 20mSv) and 0.002mSv a year for the public (annual limit 1mSv).
“This shows the rate (of exposure) at LAMP is low and safe,” it said in its report to be debated by MPs today.
“Based on scientific facts, LAMP has a health risk which is far lower than mining, the Asian Rare Earth (ARE) plant, thorium (the main radioactive waste from LAMP) processing and nuclear plants,” it added.
The ARE plant in Ipoh was shuttered over two decades ago over fears of radiation pollution which has been linked to incidences of leukaemia and birth defects in the Bukit Merah area which is higher that those in surrounding areas.
“LAMP has fulfilled legal and regulatory requirements... which are stricter than international standards. The committee recommends the TOL is issued (and) a monitoring committee is formed to continuously monitor LAMP operations.
“This committee must be made up of relevant agencies with the participation of NGOs and certified experts,” it added in the report.
The Sydney-based firm told The Malaysian Insider it will submit proposals today to meet the new terms which appear to be the final obstacles in obtaining a long-awaited TOL which was approved in February but held up due to the challenge from the residents.
However, residents, who filed the appeal to MOSTI, have said they will challenge the minister’s decision in court, calling the conditions “flimsy” and “not specific enough and will in no way safeguard or appease the fears of residents living in the area.”
The parliamentary committee on Lynas was approved in the Dewan Rakyat in March amid opposition furore over the alleged lack of terms of reference and suspicion that the nine-man panel would be used to “whitewash” the issue.
Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers also questioned the point of the select committee given that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had already said the government will not be bound by the panel’s findings.
Lynas had said last month that it was on track to start up its rare earth plant in Malaysia within weeks after Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin, chairman of the parliamentary committee, called it “the safest rare earth plant in the world.”
It also 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.”