Over 200 Lynas workers fear for their jobs after ban

KUANTAN: With Lynas Malaysia ordered to end its radioactive waste production in the country from July, more than 200 employees are fearing for their jobs.

They claim they will be affected if the cracking and leaching component at Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) was shut down, along with some 350 to 400 contractors as well as numerous suppliers.

Hundreds of unhappy employees held a gathering in Balok, asking the government to review the order.

“All we are asking is for us to be treated the same as any other industries,” said Lynas vice-president of people and culture Mimi Afzan Afza.

Cracking and leaching supervisor Mohd Badrulhisyam Zulkifli, 40, said he would not have continued working in Lynas if it was detrimental to his health.

“I have worked for Lynas for 13 years and I am still healthy. I am not stupid. If this plant is dangerous, why would I continue working here?” he said.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Chang Lih Kang had announced recently that the government would not consider Lynas’ request to drop licensing conditions related to cracking and leaching activities, the generation of water leach purification residues and the import of lanthanide concentrates from Australia.

This means Lynas would no longer be allowed to carry out activities that produce radioactive waste after July.

Lynas chief executive officer and managing director Amanda Lacaze had said this would result in the loss of hundreds of direct jobs, thousands of jobs in the community and hundreds of millions of ringgit in local expenditure.

Also at the gathering were contractors for Lynas and members of the Balok community.

Kampung Balok resident Datuk Shaharuddin Shamsudin, 73, said Lynas’ detractors should produce evidence that the plant’s operations were dangerous.

“I have never heard of any cases of mutant babies being born or residents getting cancer due to the plant’s operations,” he said.

Radiation safety general manager Dr Ismail Bahari said the company had developed local expertise and infrastructure in the rare earth field and shutting down cracking and leaching would be like cutting off a limb.

He said the rare earth product supply chain would be disrupted as it took LAMP up to six years to achieve full operations.

The new and larger facilities in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, had yet to be completed.

Asked about Chang’s assertion that cracking and leaching could be retained if the radioactive waste was shipped out of the country, Ismail said international regulations prohibited such actions.

He said the ideal solution was to conduct research into reusing the waste.

“We can conduct such research. However, I urge the authorities to be decisive once we produce results with our research,” he said.

Lynas has submitted an appeal against the Atomic Energy Licensing Board’s decision to reject the company’s application for the removal of the conditions.

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