KUANTAN: Staunch Lynas opponent Fuziah Salleh (pic) insists that groundwater near the rare earth refinery contains toxic elements.
The Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department said elements detected in the groundwater contamination monitoring data from the 2015-2016 Health Impact Assessment provided by Lynas to the executive review committee included nickel, lead and chromium.
"It is ironic that in Malaysia, Lynas has persistently denied that it is the source of serious heavy metal contamination, even though data taken over a 12-month period from September 2015 from its own groundwater monitoring stations have shown otherwise, apart from the month of April," Fuziah said in a statement on Monday (June 10).
She said groundwater contamination detection required a protracted, regular and technically reliable independent monitoring strategy, and a conclusion could only be made with a high level of statistical confidence based on multiple and repeated samples taken across seasons.
The Kuantan MP said this kind of pollution had very serious public and environmental health implications in the long run.
"Of course, Lynas would never have admitted to the contamination because if it does, then it will be liable for this pollution. As a speculative rare earth junior mining company, its future lies in its ability to mask the real problems it is facing in Malaysia.
"Simply branding people who have raised concerns about its pollution and waste as activists is underestimating the many experts from different fields whom I have met over the years.
"These are highly skilled educated professionals with postgraduate qualifications from various reputable universities in Malaysia and from advanced industrialised countries overseas.
"They have given their pro-bono professional advice out of their sense of duty to the country and for our rakyat, and because they feel that Malaysia deserves the truth and environmental justice," she said.
Fuziah's statement is in stark contrast with a recent announcement by Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar that the groundwater around the Lynas refinery was no longer polluted by heavy metals as shown by the latest tests conducted in the surrounding area there.
Lynas subsequently issued a statement expressing disappointment that anti-Lynas activists were using misleading and false information about groundwater in an attempt to create fear in the local communities.
According to Fuziah, the radioactive materials in Lynas' waste, although naturally occurring, had gone through mining and harsh chemical treatments.
"They are now in fine powdery form and have been released from the rare earth ore. In Australia, Lynas’ naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) waste is considered radioactive.
"Many poisons are naturally occurring also and if any of it is released into our environment or our body, we would be poisoned. The same logic can be applied to Lynas’ NORM waste," she said.
Fuziah added that Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin was planning to personally visit Australia later this month to negotiate the return of Lynas’ NORM waste to its mine pit in Mount Weld in Western Australia.
"Lynas had given two undertakings back in 2012 to remove its NORM waste to get its operating licence.
"Both thorium and uranium radionuclides and the heavy metals present in Lynas’ waste are toxic. Many of these are cancer-causing substances and must be isolated from the biosphere, not left to pollute the environment.
"Thorium especially is a long-living low-level radioactive radionuclide which will remain hazardous forever, leaving a toxic legacy for current and future generations.
"I have a duty and responsibility as an elected representative of the people to raise my concern," Fuziah said.
On May 30, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reportedly told the media in Japan that Malaysia would allow the Australian rare earths producer to continue operating its plant in Gebeng, Pahang.
However, in an interview with 8TV, Yeo said she was making plans to go to Australia to discuss the Lynas issue with government officials there.
She also said that the confirmation on whether the Malaysian government would give the green light to Lynas would only be decided after her trip.