Lynas ops public hearing: Authorities say company abides by regulations, critics unconvinced

KUANTAN: The operations of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) have been given the all-clear by regulating agencies while the anti-Lynas crowd continues to oppose it.

By the end of the nearly five-hour public hearing on the issues surrounding the rare earth refinery's operations, all parties had had their say.

Government agencies such as the Department of Environment (DoE), Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB), Malaysian Investment Development Authority and the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) generally found Lynas to be in compliance with rules and regulations.

Pahang DoE director Rosli Zul said throughout the development of Lynas, the department found that the company had abided by all the relevant environmental regulations.

He also revealed that the results of pilot stage laboratory trials on Lynas' CondiSoil product showed that it was positive for the environment.

Rosli, however, stressed that CondiSoil was still being considered by DoE and was not commercialised yet.

CondiSoil is a soil conditioner product derived from the residues produced during rare earth processing at the LAMP.

Rosli also said water that had passed through the Gebeng industrial area, where the Lynas plant was located, was actually cleaner than before.

"Water sample from upstream of Sungai Balok is Class 4 but after it gets to the industrial zone, the water quality turns into Class 3. The volume of treated water released by the industrial plants actually helps to improve Sungai Balok's water quality.

"Lynas possesses an advanced system and so far, it has performed according to the rules when it comes to this aspect," he said.

Meanwhile, AELB director-general Hamrah Mohd Ali explained that licensing conditions required Lynas to perform research and development to recycle its residues, failing which the company had to store it in a permanent disposal facility (PDF), and if this could not be fulfilled, Lynas would have to remove it from Malaysia.

Speaking to The Star later, Hamrah said Lynas had never specified where it would locate the PDF but had submitted plans and research for potential sites.

He said the current licence for Lynas to perform research and development on its residues would expire by the end of the year.

Their views prompted a snide remark from Bentong MP Wong Tack, who congratulated the government officials for their "salesmanship".

Wong, who presented his perspective as the chairman of green advocacy group Himpunan Hijau, questioned whether the agencies and experts had received funding and research grants from Lynas.

The executive review committee also heard from several scientists and gave an opportunity for Lynas to explain its operations.

Lynas general manager of radiation safety Prof Ismail Bahari said the company was prepared to abide by any conditions imposed by the authorities.

"Most important of all is that whatever decision taken must be based on scientific proof. We perform research to avoid baseless accusations.

"There must be a reference point. The authorities set the standard and what Lynas do is to abide by the guidelines," he said.

The question and answer session, however, quickly devolved into a segment for attendees to express their emotionally-charged opinions, whether for or against Lynas.

Except for the intermittent episodes of heckling by the attendees, the hearing was generally conducted in an orderly manner.

Among those in attendance were Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, Lynas CEO Amanda Lacaze and Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas chairman Tan Bun Teet.

Review committee chairman Prof Datuk Dr Mazlin Mokhtar said they would now prepare a report for the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister based on the data they had collected.

Dr Mazlin said the committee would act in a neutral, professional, transparent and open manner.

The report is expected by Nov 27, he said.