‘Conditions must be met’

Lynas and US miner Molycorp Inc have had their production stalled by the challenges of running environmentally safe, complex chemical plants. ON top of that, prices of the products have, meanwhile, slumped after China's export curbs scared manufacturers who need the metals into finding ways to reduce their use.

PETALING JAYA: Pakatan Harapan MPs are adamant that the investment from Lynas is not a priority – even after the Prime Minister told the media in Japan that the rare earths processing plant would continue to operate in Malaysia.

Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had explained in detail the issue of the disposal of Lynas’ radioactive waste but this was not reported.

“Only part of the Prime Minister’s speech, touching on the investment and licensing aspect, was reported,” she said in a statement yesterday.

Fuziah, who has always been vocal against the Lynas plant in her constituency, said the main condition for renewing its licence was that its radioactive waste must be shipped back to Australia as per their agreement with the Government in 2012.

“The disposal of radioactive waste from Lynas remains at the core of the decision on renewing its licence,” she said.

“Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin has placed the condition of returning the radioactive waste back to its country of origin as the precursor to renewing its operations licence,” she said, adding that the minister would be going to Australia in mid-June.

“The people should give space for the minister to find a way to fulfil this condition and the people should continue to pressure Lynas to be responsible for its radioactive waste, without any compromise,” said Fuziah, who is also the deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

On Thursday, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said in Tokyo that if the rare earths plant’s operating licence was not continued, Malaysia might lose investments from Australia.

“Malaysia has had bad experience with radioactivity. Since then, we do not like radioactive material. Since Lynas produces radioactive material, we want them to ship the radioactive material back to the country where the raw material comes from but the country of origin does not want to accept it.

“We are going to talk to them but if we fail, of course, we need to do something with the raw material –maybe spread it somewhere so that there is no concentrated radioactive material in one place – but we will allow Lynas to carry on because, otherwise, we are going to lose a very big investment from Australia,” said Dr Mahathir at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

He was referring to Bukit Merah, which became a landfill for tin tailings back in 1990s after a plant was closed down when radioactive waste was found to be causing residents in the area to have miscarriages and leukaemia.

Over the past six years since it was set up, Lynas has been slammed for being silent on the lifespan of its radioactive waste, with claims that this could have long-term effects on public health and the environment.

Bentong MP Wong Tack, who led protests against the plant in the past, said he was not changing his stance against Lynas just because he was now with the Government.

“How can we renew the licence of an operator who has blatantly failed to adhere to the laws of this country? We say we uphold rule of law but no one should be above it.

“For the last six years, Lynas has failed to comply with the legally binding agreement to dispose radioactive waste. The Prime Minister must only renew its licence with the strict condition that the waste is shipped back to where it came from,” he said.

However, sources who have seen the agreement with Lynas said those calling for shipment were jumping the gun as it actually stated that there were two methods by which the company could dispose of the waste before it could be forced to ship this back to Australia.

“The first is to commercialise the residue and the second is to place the residue in a permanent disposal facility. If the plant fails to do the first two, then Lynas will have to ship the waste back to Australia,” said the source.

Related stories:

Yeo to meet Australian minister over waste disposal

Australia hails Dr M’s intentions over Lynas


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