International experts urge greater transparency over Lynas plant
KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — International rare earth experts today said the Malaysian government should be more open and transparent in informing the public on the Lynas rare earth refinery in Gebeng, Kuantan.
Speaking to reporters after the International Symposium on Rare Earths here, Dacha Strategic Metals vice president Alastair S. Neill today acknowledged there were a lot of concerns raised on the “lack of transparency and communication”, and suggested both the government and Lynas Corp be “more open, more communicative and consultative” with the public.
“There is no advantage on any side to hide information. Hiding anything is road to disaster,” said Neill.
“The only way forward is to be as open and transparent as possible,” he added.
Karlsruhr Institute of Technology’s Christoph Wilhelm mirrored his colleague’s sentiment, saying it is important to provide the people with adequate knowledge on radioactivity.
“It is important to get knowledge transferred; basic knowledge to our people to protect the environment. Right now there is a lack of knowledge,” he said.
In light of problems raised regarding the operation of the Lynas Advance Materials Plant (LAMP), Academy of Sciences Malaysia chief executive Ahmad Ibrahim pointed out that “every industry has risks”.
“The question is, are these risks manageable? And from scientific data and specialists: Yes, they are manageable,” he said.
He added that the refinery would be a “big earner of revenue in the country”.
“If the country is ready to move forward and to tap on science as an instrument of development then we have to be objective. We have to be rational based on evidence,” Ahmad said.
“Society and the community have to decide. If they want, they have to prepare, take necessary measures, and proper enforcement,” he said.
More than 8,000 anti-Lynas protesters gathered just two months ago in Kuantan in the biggest rally so far against the Australian miner’s plant that received conditional approval in early February.
Anti-lynas protesters also took part in the April 28 Bersih 3.0 rally, joining their numbers with the movement calling for electoral reform.
Local radioactivity regulators Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) had said it would approve a temporary operating licence subject to further conditions including identifying a suitable long-term waste disposal site.
Lynas had said last month that identifying this site “is a work in progress” but local residents have made an appeal under the AELB Act to the science, technology and innovation minister to cancel the project.
The Australian miner, which has projected a windfall of RM8 billion annually from the plant that has been given a 12-year tax break, insists it has met and exceeded local and international safety standards.