Anti-Lynas group tells MB to back them in rare earth fight
KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — Kuantan residents campaigning against the rare earth refinery being built in their backyard hit back at Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob today, challenging the Pahang mentri besar to lead their fight to halt the construction of the plant.
“We are not against the government but we are wondering if the government is against us,” said Vincent Jiam, chairman of the local residents group that calls itself Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas.
“If he (the Pahang mentri besar) himself wants to lead us in the petition against Lynas, then we will all sign up with him,” he added.
Adnan said yesterday that the state government had given Australian miner Lynas Corp approval to construct the plant after a series of strict screening processes, and gave an assurance that it would not produce radiation once it begins operations in September.
“The proposed construction of the plant was politicised by certain quarters, masterminded by opposition parties,” he said.
Two years after the green light was given to build the plant in the Gebeng industrial zone, rising fears over the potential radiation hazard have forced the Pahang government into holding a series of townhall talks later this month to safeguard the RM700 million project.
The current radiation crisis in Japan after a nuclear power plant was crippled by the recent tsunami has compounded worries that the Lynas plant will be a repeat of Malaysia’s last rare earth project which has been blamed for causing at least eight leukaemia cases, with seven resulting in death.
The plant in Bukit Merah, Perak, operated by Mitsubishi Chemicals from 1985 to 1992, is still carrying out a massive RM300 million clean-up, nearly two decades after being shuttered.
Jiam also accused the mentri besar of dragging politics into the matter when, in fact, the protesters were willing to work with anyone to achieve their target of stopping the project.
“But we know he is not willing to help us stop the plant,” he said.
The group’s communications manager, Jonathan Wong, said both the state and federal governments were not willing to engage the local residents.
“So then who is going to help us? We go to Fuziah Salleh because she is our MP,” he said, referring to the PKR vice-president.
“If anyone wants to politicise the issue, then please play your ball game elsewhere,” Wong added.
Lynas has repeatedly stressed that its rare earths ore is obtained from its mine in Mount Weld, Australia and contains only trace amounts of the radioactive element thorium which, it said, is roughly 50 times less than those found in Bukit Merah.
It expects to receive a preliminary operating licence from the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) before September to begin refining the rare earth metals.
The company hopes the plant will bring in RM8 billion a year from 2013 based on current prices for the refined metals that are crucial to the manufacture of high-technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and bombs.