PETALING JAYA: Minister Yeo Bee Yin is making plans to go to Australia to discuss Lynas with its government officials.
The Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister said this during an interview even as the Prime Minister had earlier told media in Japan that the rare earths processing plant would continue to operate in Malaysia.
The Cabinet, said Yeo, had decided to let her go and meet government officials in Australia, adding that the Australian government had the power to issue the permits for shipping waste back to the country.
Yeo, who had previously told Lynas to honour its commitment to remove its water leach purification residue from Malaysia said she would meet with the relevant minister on the issue.
However, she said confirmation on whether the Malaysian government would actually give the green light to Lynas would only be decided after her trip.
“This will have to wait for me to come back from Australia, then only can there be a report to let the Cabinet decide. The waste issue has to be resolved,” she said in an interview with 8TV.
Malaysia, added Yeo, was the only country besides China with a rare earths processing plant and that it would have to learn from China on how to manage the waste.
She said the process which produced the radioactive waste was carried out in Australia before the intermediate, clean product was shipped to Malaysia for further refining.
Western Australia’s Mining minister Bill Johnston had, in May, ruled out the possibility of importing the waste from Lynas in Gebeng.
Lynas mines its rare earth in Western Australia.
At another function, ministry deputy secretary-general (climate change) Dr K. Nagulendran said they were awaiting a response from the Australian government.
“The plant will stay as Tun has stated but for us, as a ministry, we are only concerned about environmental issues,” he said while visiting GreenTech Malaysia near Bandar Baru Bangi yesterday.
On reports that there were no longer any groundwater pollution at the Lynas site, Nagulendran said the findings of the ministry’s review committee in 2016, which discovered groundwater contaminated with heavy metals, could be a one-time incident.
“There was a peak (in the level of heavy metals), which the committee picked up on. After that, we continued to monitor the site, and even Lynas monitored (the site).
“It went back to normal, so it could be a certain spike that happened when there’s a disturbance in land use,” he said, adding that it’s unlikely that the cause of the pollution was Lynas.