KUALA LUMPUR: Civil society groups are pleading to meet Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad before the Cabinet decides to renew the operating licence for Australian rare earths producer Lynas Corp, which is due for renewal in September.
Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) chairman Tan Bun Teet said a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had written to the Prime Minister seeking a meeting with him three weeks before the last Parliamentary meeting, which ended on July 18, but their letter was neither acknowledged nor replied.
"It is not fair that he has met the Lynas chief executive officer (CEO) and listened to one side of the story but not to us.
"We have made many attempts to make the Government understand what is going on.
"I believe the truth never got to the Government," said Tan, who represented the groups in a joint press conference here on Sunday (July 21).
Tan said that the groups hope to meet Dr Mahathir within the next three weeks, as it is believed that the matter of Lynas licence renewal will be discussed in a Cabinet meeting in early August.
So far, over 80 NGOs including Bersih 2.0 and Parti Sosialis Malaysia have signed a petition demanding the Cabinet to not renew the operating licence for Lynas.
The petition will be presented to the Cabinet and MPs in the Parliamentary Caucus on Monitoring Lynas, said Tan, urging for more NGOs to support the petition.
Tan said that based on the recent statements by Dr Mahathir and several ministers, they expect that the Cabinet will be in favour of letting Lynas continue running in Malaysia.
In May, during a trip to Japan, Dr Mahathir said that Malaysia would be renewing Lynas' licence and that the radioactive waste should perhaps be spread out.
Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof previously said that Lynas would continue to operate as it is one way for the Government to attract foreign investments.
Meanwhile, Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar recently said that the Government was looking to develop the rare earth mining industry following discovery of such minerals in several states, including Sarawak.
"We are alarmed by these ministers championing Lynas corporate profit at the expense of Malaysia's environment and public health.
"We voted for Pakatan Harapan on May 9 last year because we wanted a clean and sustainable Malaysia," said Tan.
He added that the NGOs are urging for the Government to consider the financial capability of Lynas to implement its own proposal before deciding to renew its licence.
"Cabinet should take heed that Lynas' financial position has always been precarious although it pays its executive staff fat salaries in Australian dollars.
"Its ore consists of mostly light rare earth that is not worth much. Lynas could not even afford to pay Malaysia the USD50mil deposit in cash.
"It has no intention to build a leak-proof permanent disposal facility (PDF) that can last at least 1,000 years appropriate for its thorium waste because it could not afford to do so," said Tan.
The groups claim that there are nearly half a million tonnes of waste sitting in inadequate storage dams that leak and overflow to contaminate groundwater and the surrounding environment with nowhere to go.
In addition, Lynas also has 1.2mil tonnes of scheduled waste that has been stored on site against Malaysian regulations, said Tan.
"We do not want Lynas' waste to remain in Malaysia.
"Why should Malaysia sacrifice productive land to build Lynas' mega tomb for its toxic waste?" said Tan.