Malaysia

Putrajaya must reveal Lynas waste storage plan, says Guan Eng

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
June 23, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 – Lim Guan Eng has demanded Putrajaya reveal where it plans to store Lynas’ waste residue, saying that only by doing that will the public be convinced of the refinery’s safety.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday “scientific facts” have proven that the Lynas Corp rare earth refinery in Gebeng will be safe.

The prime minister said the public must make an informed decision regarding the safety of the rare earth refinery and not be swayed by “imaginary fears.”

“By giving Lynas a 12-year tax holiday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is committed to allowing Lynas to operate as BN (Barisan Nasional) values profits more than people’s health.

“Najib has still not explained why Lynas has to travel thousands of miles away to transport rare earth ore that is mined in Western Australia to Kuantan, when it is cheaper to build one in Australia?” Lim said in a statement here.

The DAP secretary-general dared PM Najib to store the waste residue behind his own residence, saying only that will assuage the fears of the public.

“How can the Prime Minister be so insensitive as to describe genuine concerns of health and public safety as ‘imaginary fears’, when he or his wife and children do not have to face the risks should anything go wrong?

“The public has indeed made an informed decision regarding the safety of the rare earth refinery when they can see that Australian government refuses to take back the rare earth residue and that the Lynas facility is not sited in Putrajaya but amongst the ordinary rakyat in Gebeng,” Lim added.

He said that Lynas Corp only had two choices now – to state where the waste residue will be stored or dispose it.

“Failure by Lynas to do so may endanger the environment as since no country will accept the waste residue, then will they be dumped into the sea? Transferring waste residues from one country to another that is not the source country could also be contrary to international rules,” Lim stressed.

The Australian miner has cleared probably its final major hurdle 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 four 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 satisfying.

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 Najib 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 what it says will be the world’s largest rare earth plant 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.”

Anti-Lynas lobby Himpunan Hijau warned Lynas Corp and the government yesterday of “wave after wave” of protests against the impending issuance of a temporary operating licence (TOL) for the Australian miner’s rare earth plant, beginning with a day-long assembly this weekend.

Himpunan Hijau plans to end its 24-hour protest this weekend by marching up to Lynas’s Gebeng plant on Sunday morning after a night of speeches called “rising flame of anger, turn Lynas to Ash.”