Video Clip – TVPAS – Perception: Why We Must Stop Lynas? 29 July 2011

The Malaysian Insider – Anti-Lynas residents irked by MB’s ‘irrational’ remark

By Shannon Teoh

July 21, 2011

Adnan had complained about Kuantan residents’ refusal to budge in their opposition to the plant. – file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 – Kuantan residents opposed to a RM700 million rare earth plant being built there have challenged Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob to a debate after the Pahang mentri besar dismissed them as “irrational”.

Adnan told reporters last weekend that the state government will not engage with the local residents groups over the project as they were “ignorant.”

“We challenge him to a debate so that the public can see whose views are more rational,” said Tan Bun Teet, chairman of the Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas (SMSL) group of residents from the Pahang capital.

Residents from Beserah, who live as close as two km from the plant, also questioned the MB’s stance as the federal government was still willing to engage the residents.

“If the secretary-general of the ministry of international trade and industry can meet us and even agree to the points we made, why not the Pahang MB? Now who is irrational?” said Andansura Rabu, who leads the Badan Bertindak Anti-Rare Earth Refinery (Badar) movement.

Adnan had told reporters that experts have already studied the project but “even after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) panel report was announced, those anti-Lynas groups still would not budge.”

“They are not rational. So, there is no use engaging them in a dialogue. They are ignorant,” he added.

Opposition leaders, especially PKR vice president Fuziah Salleh, have attacked the Barisan Nasional (BN) state and federal governments over the plant being built by Australian miner Lynas Corp, turning it into a major election issue in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s home state.

Kuantan MP Fuziah has led local residents and environmentalists in loud protests against the plant that they say will be a source of radiation pollution.

The federal government bowed to public pressure in April and ordered a month-long review by a team of international experts led by the IAEA, which was concluded on June 28.

Putrajaya has adopted 11 safety recommendations from the review panel, which Lynas has said it is confident of meeting by the end of the year.

The mining giant has gone ahead with a deal with Thai engineering firm to complete a second phase of the plant by the last quarter of 2012 subject to approval from local authorities.

Lynas says that its plant – which will extract rare earth metals crucial for high-technology products like smartphones, hybrid cars and wind turbines – will create a RM4 billion multiplier effect annually and 350 jobs for skilled workers.

Although reports say the plant may earn RM8 billion for Lynas, critics have questioned the real economic benefit of the project, pointing to the 12-year tax break Lynas will enjoy due to its pioneer status.

The Malaysian Insider – We’re not your guinea pigs, Beserah folk tell AELB

By Shannon Teoh

July 21, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — Beserah residents have lashed out at local regulators for basing the health impact of a controversial RM700 million rare earth plant being built in Kuantan on whether there is an increase in radiation-linked diseases after it begins operations.

Badan Bertindak Anti-Rare Earth Refinery (Badar) told reporters today that it would be too late as residents would already have suffered from cancer and other diseases by then.

“We don’t want to be guinea pigs. This means the government will only take action after the fact. Once we have leukaemia, how will they address that?” said chairman Andansura Rabu (picture), who himself lives just 2km from the plant being built by Australian miner Lynas Corp.

The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) said yesterday that Lynas must compile a medical history of residents living near the plant in the Gebeng industrial zone before it can start processing rare earths there.

Director-general Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan said that the residents’ present state of health would serve as a baseline for future comparisons once Lynas begins operations, which the company expects will take place by the end of the year.

“We will see whether there is any increase of people afflicted with radiation-linked diseases or cancer,” he had said.

But Badar said the exercise would only be acceptable if it was for research purposes, not for deciding on the health of the general public.

“Furthermore, what is the action limit? When 20 residents are confirmed to have leukaemia?” Andansura said after a meeting with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry this morning.

A previous rare earth plant in Bukit Merah, Ipoh has been linked to diseases such as leukaemia, other cancers and birth defects, including at least seven deaths in the past five years, despite being shut down nearly two decades ago due to public pressure.

Local residents around Kuantan and environmentalists have also strongly opposed the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) due to fears of radiation poisoning and forced the government to order a month-long review that concluded on June 28.

Lynas expects to meet all 11 conditions put forth by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) review panel, which has been adopted by Putrajaya by year-end.

The Australian mining giant has said that its plant — which will extract rare earth metals crucial for high-technology products like smartphones, hybrid cars and wind turbines — will create a RM4 billion multiplier effect annually and 350 jobs for skilled workers.

Although reports say the plant may earn RM8 billion for Lynas, critics have questioned the real economic benefit of the project, pointing to the 12-year tax break Lynas will enjoy due to its pioneer status.

The Malaysian Insider – Nix Lynas plant, says doctors’ association

By Yow Hong Chieh

July 20, 2011

A file photo of anti-Lynas protestors demonstrating in Kuala Kuantan earlier this year.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 20 — The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has called for the Lynas rare earths plant to be scrapped in the absence of evidence that the plant will be “totally fail-safe”.MMA president Dr Mary Suma Cardosa said there were still many unresolved questions concerning the safety and implementation of the Gebeng plant despite assurances by both Lynas and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“We remain deeply concerned that public safety and health concerns have not been adequately met and could not be guaranteed, by whatever reassurances, that have been given,” she said in a statement today.

Dr Cardosa pointed out that neither the long-term waste management nor the possible contamination of surface water and atmosphere by radioactive waste material were addressed in the radiological impact assessment (RIA) report.

She said the open-air waste storage model mooted for the plant would allow radioactive particles to “dust the environment”, increasing the chance of inhalation by the surrounding community.

“The RIA did not include the assessment on internal radiation, which is very crucial as radioactive waste products are mainly alpha emitters,” she said.

External alpha radiation is generally not harmful but alpha particles can cause cellular damage and increase the likelihood of cancer if inhaled or ingested.

Dr Cardosa said these omissions from the report were worrying in light of allegations by The New York Times that the construction and design of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) may have serious flaws.

Current regulatory standards are not tailored to monitor waste containing radioactive elements, which she said was hinted at in the IAEA report, she added.

Pressure from local residents and environmentalists strongly opposed to Lynas’s Gebeng plant forced the government to order a month-long review led by the IAEA that concluded on June 28.

Lynas expects to meet by year-end all 11 conditions put forth by the IAEA review panel and for them to be adopted by Putrajaya.

The Australian mining giant has said that its plant — which will extract rare earth metals crucial for high-technology products like smartphones, hybrid cars and wind turbines — will create a RM4 billion multiplier effect annually and 350 jobs for skilled workers.

Although reports say the plant may earn RM8 billion for Lynas, critics have questioned the real economic benefit of the project, pointing to the 12-year tax break Lynas will enjoy due to its pioneer status.

15th July 2011 – PKR Vice President and Kuantan MP YB Fuziah Salleh at the European Parliament

15th July 2011- Kuantan MP YB Fuziah Salleh at the European Parliament

15th July 2011 – PKR Vice President and Kuantan MP YB Fuziah Salleh is at the European Parliament to meet with Asean Delegation of the EU early in the morning. Today, the European Parliament is not in session. YB Fuziah has been extending her stay in Europe after completed her dialogue on Asean Women Leaders with European partners to campaign Stop Lynas.

The Sydney Morning Herald – The global race is on for rare earths and Lynas

Philip Wen
July 14, 2011
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An activist protests outside the Lynas Corprations headquarters in Sydney.

An activist protests outside the Lynas Corprations headquarters in Sydney. Photo: AFP

Australia has a key role in the push to secure supply in the lucrative world of rare elements.

WHEN a Chinese trawler fishing in disputed waters collided with Japanese coastguard patrol boats early on September 7, the global supply of rare earths – crucial for producing smartphones, flatscreen televisions, hybrid cars and iPads – was plunged into turmoil, even if it was not immediately apparent.

And Australia’s crucial role in the lucrative trade was also to be thrust firmly into the international spotlight.

The errant vessel’s skipper was arrested and detained, calls for his release went unheeded, and a diplomatic row, seeded by a long-standing territorial feud, erupted between the two Asian nations. For two weeks, tensions worsened with no resolution in sight – until China decided to hit Japan where it hurt.
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Lynas executive chairman Nicholas Curtis at a recent press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Lynas executive chairman Nicholas Curtis at a recent press conference in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Vincent Thian

On September 22, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao banned rare-earth exports to Japan, and threatened ”further action” if the fisherman was not released. Two days later, the man was set free.

”In order to further grow our mutually beneficial relationship based on strategic interests, I believe it is necessary for Japan and China to handle matters calmly,” Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at the time.

The export ban was swiftly revoked, but the world had received a nasty wake-up call. China has a stranglehold on the rare-earths market, accounting for 97 per cent of worldwide production. And it was clear it was prepared to use that dominance for political, as well as economic, gain.
Recycling rare earth magnets inside hard drives in Matsudo, Japan.

Recycling rare earth magnets inside hard drives in Matsudo, Japan. Photo: AP

Japan, in particular, had to find alternative sources of rare earths, or risk whole industries being affected.

New applications for rare earths are being discovered all the time. The 17 closely related elements have remarkable magnetivity and help make phones smaller, TVs bigger and display panels brighter. They also represent our best-known chance to make energy-efficient technologies, such as electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar cells financially viable.

”We are as addicted to rare earths as we are to oil, we just don’t know it,” says Nicholas Curtis, chief executive of Australian rare-earths miner Lynas Corporation.

Even before the diplomatic incident, China had begun to restrict exports of rare earths, to ensure it could meet the demand from its local industry. Shipments have been cut from 67,500 tonnes in 2005 to 30,250 tonnes last year. With prices of some rare earths having soared up to five times since the start of the year, the worldwide race to break China’s stranglehold is officially on. ”I think the situation has become more acute more rapidly than anybody would have ever predicted,” Curtis says. ”The crisis in the supply of rare earths in the last year or so has resulted from a combination of events that came together and created this perfect storm – and that focused policymakers very heavily on the strategic implications on rare earths.”

With California-based Molycorp also in the mix, Australia’s Lynas is widely considered to be leading the pack. Much like Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals in its infancy, Lynas has rocketed from a penny-dreadful stock to a company worth $3 billion almost on expectation alone – it has yet to start production.

China’s dominance in producing rare earths stems from the 1980s when statesman Deng Xiaoping recognised the potential in the obscure elements (including a possible role in the development of nuclear weapons) and threw massive resources behind their research. Playing catch-up has been an arduous process.

”It’s a specialty chemical industry, mining is one small part of a very much larger picture,” says Steve Ward, chief executive of rival Arafura Resources, which hopes to become the third major non-Chinese player when its Whyalla processing plant is complete.

The complexity with rare earths isn’t in finding a bountiful deposit or figuring out how to dig them out of the ground. Processing the ore into a useable form is the hard part, particularly because of the hazardous acids and chemicals involved and the radioactive waste it produces. It is the engineering design, environmental safeguards and government approvals that take years to achieve.

After 10 years’ work, Lynas expects to start producing as early as next year. When in full production, it can produce a sixth of the world’s rare earths.

Backed by a Japanese government that has committed ¥19.7 billion ($A230 million) to secure rare-earth supplies outside China, commodities trader Sojitz became one of Lynas’s cornerstone investment partners late last year.

Last week, German giant Siemens also announced its intent to form a long-term partnership with Lynas, effectively guaranteeing its rare earth supply.

Yet with the world watching, Lynas’s world-beating hopes are at risk of being left at sea by being caught in a political maelstrom of its own.

ROADBLOCKS and barbed wire lining the streets of Kuala Lumpur failed to stop an estimated 50,000 protesters from marching through Malaysia’s capital on Saturday, demanding fairer and more transparent election laws ahead of a poll expected in the middle of next year.

Police fired tear-gas and arrested more than 1400 of the opposition-backed protesters, who claim Malaysia’s ruling National Front party relies on electoral fraud to cling to power.

It is becoming a familiar trend. Inspired by the real prospect of political change, the voices of dissent previously unheard in the government-controlled media are making a real impact through social media and online blogs.

With momentum shifting strongly since the last election, the National Front faces a real danger of losing the next poll, expected to be mid-next year, having held power since the country’s independence in 1957.

It is against this political backdrop that Lynas is trying to build the world’s largest rare-earths refinery plant in Kuantan, capital of the central Malaysian state of Pahang. The company’s success hinges heavily on the plant – all its rare earth ore concentrate will be processed and exported from the facility.

But for Lynas, the plant’s construction has become a hotly contested political football. And a change in government could spell big trouble.

Local Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, a member of the opposition People’s Pact alliance, has attracted fervent support for her aggressive campaigns against the plant’s construction.

The genial grandmother of six has questioned the government’s decision to award a 12-year tax exemption to a foreign company that would ship its profits offshore and leave the town saddled with “tonnes and tonnes” of radioactive waste.

Protesters have held weekly demonstrations in Kuantan since March, increasingly fearful and infuriated by the threat the plant poses to the health of residents and their fishing and tourism industries.

Things took an ugly turn last month when two makeshift petrol bombs were thrown into the residence of Lynas construction manager Bill Morris and ”Go Back To Australia, Lynas” was painted on his front gate. Morris was unhurt.

The New York Times has chimed in with an article containing damaging allegations of Lynas contractors cutting corners, citing local whistleblowers concerned over building practices at the plant and potential leaks in concrete tanks holding hazardous materials.

“Maybe it does reflect the political interest in rare earths but I haven’t seen many other plants in the world where during construction a front-page New York Times article is written about whether the concrete in 11 leachate tanks is porous or not,” Curtis notes wryly.

“It’s dramatising what is a normal construction process – in every construction program there are issues.”

A dozen Malaysian protesters even took their fight all the way to Australia last week, funding a week-long trip to picket Lynas’s head office in Sydney and lobby government officials in Canberra. ”It just demonstrates how determined we are to get rid of Lynas from Malaysian shores,” says protest organiser Lee Boon Teet.

The relentless political pressure had forced the government to ask the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct an independent review, the results of which were released two weeks ago. The agency found no breaches of international safety standards but made 11 recommendations, including that Lynas outline its detailed plans for the permanent storage of 840,000 tonnes of radioactive waste.

Curtis has admitted error in not properly consulting the people of Kuantan earlier, but insisted the plant would be “absolutely safe”. He also quickly moved to quell any fears of lengthy delays, insisting it would satisfy the IAEA’s recommendations by year end.

But Fuziah says it is hypocritical of Curtis to suggest Lynas would consult communities more closely while pushing to complete the plant.

”For Lynas to say that they will get it done by the end of the year is such an arrogant statement,” she says.

Fronting international media in Kuala Lumpur following the release of the IAEA report, Curtis bristled at suggestions the political situation could cause further delays.

”I’m not here to comment on the political situation in Malaysia,” he said. ”We’ve been very clear that we believe we will be commissioning the plant by the end of 2011.” Curtis says he sees no scenario in which Malaysia could prevent the plant being built if it satisfies all safety requirements.

”You don’t change the rules on companies that have already invested and hope to keep your status as a suitable destination for foreign investment,” he says.

Fuziah denies she is campaigning against the plant in a mudslinging match against the government. ”I stand firm by what I’m saying because I believe my stand is right,” she says.

Read more:

Video Clip – Al Jazeera on Bersih 2.0 Rally in Kuala Lumpur 9 July 2011

July 9, 2011: The day Malaysia woke up and realised it cannot hide nor ignore its deep divisions for much longer…

The only reason why the BN government is against transparency and electoral reform is because they have been manipulating the electoral process in the first place…

Time to vote them out of office, don’t you think?

by TowkayBandrek on 9 Jul 2011

The Malaysian Insider – Five Pakatan MPs among 540 detained

July 09, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 — Five Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MPs were among the 540 people detained today as tens of thousands of Bersih 2.0 supporters descended into the city to join the group’s rally for electoral reforms.

Among the five MPs were PAS vice presidents Datuk Mahfuz Omar and Salahuddin Ayub, who were arrested at KL Sentral around 12.45pm today. Deputy president Mohamad Sabu was later confirmed by police as also having been arrested.

Two PKR MPs, Azmin Ali and Fuziah Salleh, were also picked up as they sought to make their way to the rally.

The Malaysian Insider understands that PKR vice president Nurul Izzah Anwar successfully bypassed the tight police cordon thrown up around the city.

The five arrested MPs were among 91 people barred from entering the city centre.

Bersih remains adamant on rallying at Stadium Merdeka, with tens of thousands of supporters now converging on the historical venue.

The Malaysian Insider – Mayhem at Maybank HQ, Jalan Pudu

July 09, 2011

Riot police fire tear gas at Bersih marchers in Kuala Lumpur, November 10, 2007. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 — Tens of thousands linked arms and marched towards riot police firing water cannons near Jalan Pudu in heavy rain, an hour after a similar incident at the Maybank headquarters as the crowd took all roads and paths towards Stadium Merdeka calling for free and fair elections.

A violent scuffle broke out earlier, leaving one man bleeding from the head. Police had warned the crowd to disperse, saying it was an illegal rally but the crowd continued to march. Police are now firing tear gas at the crowd.

An hour ago, the riot police continued firing the water cannons as they retreated from the crowd at the Maybank heaquarters. The crowd later ran into the Menara Maybank carpark, with some sharing salt to nullify the effects of chemical-laced water. Riot police later ordered the crowd to disperse but thousands remain around the area. At least five men were seen kneeling in prayer at a patch of green near the headquarters of the country’s biggest lender.

Earlier reports said tear gas was fired to disperse a large group gathered near the Bar Council building on Leboh Pasar Besar.

On a live video stream of the rally online, the crowd was seen covering their faces and fleeing the scene as plumes of gas wafted towards them.

Earlier today, PAS vice presidents Datuk Mahfuz Omar and Salahuddin Ayub were picked up by police shortly after noon at the KL Sentral transport hub, before they could make their way to the rally. Deputy president Mohamad Sabu was later confirmed by police as having been arrested.

The trio were in the list of 91 individuals banned from entering Kuala Lumpur and among 540 would-be Bersih supporters arrested so far.

Police subsequently also detained PKR vice president cum Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, and PKR supreme council member Khalid Jaafar as they attempted to join the rally.

Thousands have already taken over the streets along the narrow lanes of Kuala Lumpur and historic areas across the city centre, as the Bersih 2.0’s march for electoral reform entered into full swing.

Pockets of supporters that began gathering at various checkpoints including Petaling Street, Jalan Pudu, Pasar Seni and Brickfields are now moving towards the historic Merdeka stadium, chanting as they march.

The movement’s leader Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan and other Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Saifuddin Nasution, Khalid Samad and R. Sivarasa are gathered KL Hilton Hotel in KL Sentral.

Light Strike Force (LSF) personnel and scores of police personnel are already surrounding the prestigious hotel, waiting for the leaders to begin their march towards the stadium.

Today, Ambiga criticised the crackdown against the rally, pointing out that they asked for clean and fair elections.

“The cause of Bersih has been taken over even before the first step. What is the necessity for this show of might over the show of right? Right will always win out,” she told a packed press conference.

“It has stirred a sense of outrage against the government who live in a timewarp, who do not realise that their strategies do not work anymore. You cannot quell our voices, you used might of the state against the rakyat… it is totally uncalled for,” added Ambiga, who was flanked by members of the Bersih 2.0 steering committee.