KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 5 — Australian miner Lynas Corporation has received a temporary operating licence (TOL) from government regulators, paving the way for it to fire up its controversial rare earth plant despite widespread public protests and concerns about safety.
In a statement issued here today, Lynas said the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) had issued the TOL today.
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 (Mosti) 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.
“Receiving this licence from the AELB is a significant milestone for Lynas,” said Lynas Executive Chairman Nicholas Curtis today.
“The TOL provides additional validation of the safety of Lynas’ operations in Malaysia and supports the previous assessment by the world’s pre-eminent radiation safety authority, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that the LAMP is safe and fully compliant with international standards.”
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.
Lynas added that the AELB will monitor the plant’s operations and adherence to prescribed safety standards.
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.
In a separate statement today AELB said the TOL would be valid for a period of two years effective September 3.