Pusat rancang sekatan terhadap Lynas dilancarkan

Nigel Aw
4:45PM Dis 23 2012

Kumpulan Himpunan Hijau Anti-Lynas hari ini membuka pusat arahan baru yang dijangka menjadi pusat perancangan sekatan pada masa depan, terhadap loji Lynas di Gebeng.

anti-lynas base camp 231212Ketika dihubungi, anggota jawatankuasa pemandu Himpunan Hijau, Dr Phua Kia Yaw berkata pusat yang dibuat daripada dua
kontena berukuran 10×20 kaki itu terletak di atas kawasan seluas tiga ekar, dan disiapkan dalam masa 24 jam sahaja.

“Ia diletakkan di tempat yang sangat strategik, di salah satu jalan utama menuju ke kawasan perindustrian Gebeng (tempat loji itu terletak).

“Kita akan tunggu bilakah penghantaran bijih seterusnya, kemudian kita akan buat perancangan,” katanya.

Menurutnya, pusat itu akan juga berfungsi sebagai pusat perancangan dan pelaksanaan untuk aktiviti pergerakan itu, serta sebagai pusat penyebaran maklumat kepada penduduk luar bandar.

Ditanya mengenai kebimbangan bahawa pihak berkuasa tempatan boleh merobohkan struktur tersebut, Phua berkata perkara itu hanya akan ditangani jika ia berlaku.

[Baca berita penuh]


绿色盛会“反莱纳斯”基地启用 筹划阻挡第二批稀土矿砂进口


2012年12月23日 傍晚6点29分


anti-lynas base camp 231212绿色盛会委员潘家耀接受《当今大马》电访时表示,这个基地是坐落在巴洛(Balok)一块三英亩的土地上面,他们只是利用24小时的时间就成功将它架设起来,并且备有两个10英尺乘20英尺的货柜箱。





anti-lynas base camp 231212潘家耀补充,他们也会利用这个基地来规划和举行活动,同时也会向乡区人民传达讯息。






该运动将在12月31日早上8点于鹅麦美乐华花园(Taman Melewar)的伊斯兰党旧总部启程,在早上10点抵达文冬本努士伊斯兰党支部(Markas Cegar Medang),并在当地举行演讲以及推介“安南牌耳朵饼”。



Lynas blockade command centre launched

Nigel Aw
1:43PM Dec 23, 2012

Anti-Lynas group Himpunan Hijau will today kick off its new command centre that is expected to serve as a launchpad for future blockade action against the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp).

When contacted, Himpunan Hijau steering committee member Dr Phua Kia Yaw said the base camp  comprising of two 10 feet by 20 feet containers on a three-acre plot of land in Balok was completed in a mere 24 hours.

anti-lynas base camp 231212“It is very strategically placed, it is by one of the main roads leading into the Gebeng industrial area (where the Lamp is located).

“We will see when is their next shipment of ore, then we will plan accordingly,” he said.

He added that the base camp will also function as a planning and execution base for the movement’s activities, as well as a centre to dissemination information to rural folk.

Asked about concerns that local authorities may move in to dismantle the structures, Phua said the matter will only be addressed if it happens.

anti-lynas base camp 231212“If they (local authorities) come, we will discuss with them, but we have already spoken to the local people and they are very supportive about setting up the base camp here,” he said.

Phua said the base camp will also serve as a command centre for the movement’s upcoming anti-Lynas activity, the 300km drive campaign which will take place on New Year’s eve.

The first shipment of ore arrived on  the night of Nov 22 and made it to Lynas’ rare earth facility unhindered, with a heavy police presence.

However, Himpunan Hijau chairperson Wong Tack has vowed that the movement will blockade the factory from shipping out its products.


Radiologist sows doubt over Lynas recycling plan

8:08AM Dec 20, 2012

Despite repeated boasts by Lynas that wastes from its rare earths refinery in Gebeng, Pahang, can be recycled into commercially safe products, an Australian nuclear radiologist cautions that such technology has yet to be proven successful.

NONEPeter Karamoskas (left), a nuclear radiologist for 13 years and represents the Australian public on the Radiation Safety Committee of Australia, expressed his reservations on the Lynas recycling plan to New Matilda, an Australian news website.

The New Matilda report quotes Karamoskas as saying that the one million cubic-metres of Water Leach Purification (WLP) residue – the most critical waste produced by the refinery -generated within 10 years of operation, have to be mixed with five times the amount of aggregate to reduce its radioactive reading from 6Bq to 1Bq, the threshold for safe waste.

While he said that a similar process had been used in the Netherlands, the wastes produced there were far less radioactive, at close to 1Bq.

NONEKaramoskas, who specialises in the health effects of radiation, pointed out that this method has never been used with materials with a WLP reading of 6Bq, and it is extremely unlikely to be a long-term solution from a safety or economic point of view.

“If this was all ready to go, they would be trumpeting it in the public arena… already it looks slippery. If this was possible, wouldn’t most countries around the world be doing it?” he is quoted as saying in the article.

The article is the second part of a special report on Lynas by Wendy Bacon, a professor and award-winning investigative journalist who sits on the board of the Pacific Media Centre, which is part of the School of Communication Studies at AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand.

NONEBacon also cites a report prepared for Lynas by technical consultant Worley Parsons, which notes that the by-product production requires time and investment.

Even if recycling options work, Bacon said, Lynas would still be accountable for all dangerous wastes, which under a new Australian law for the disposal of radioactive wastes cannot be imported back into Australia.

Few buyers for recycled wastes as fertiliser

“Worley Parsons reported that the WLP residues contain relatively high levels of the nutrients phosphorus and magnesium, which have potential agricultural uses, particularly for palm oil plantations.

“However, it might be hard to find buyers for fertiliser based on recycled wastes. This option has not been mentioned recently,” Bacon wrote in her article.

“Instead, the current preferred option is to dilute the radioactive materials from 6Bq to 1Bq and bury it as roadfill and in other civil engineering works.”

NONEKaramoskas argued that it was extremely unlikely that the road mix could be exported, other than to a country with “lax standards”, because it would breach international best practice standards.

Lynas has announced that the WLP residues from its refinery would be converted into a commercially safe product called“synthetic aggregate”, which would then be exported for use in civil engineering projects.

Yesterday the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board said therecycling plan proposed by Lynas has yet to be approved by the board because currently there were no wastes from its refinery from Gebeng which can be tested.

The Lynas Advanced Material Plant is now in its initial stage of production.



Lynas’ Waste Plans A Toxic Pipe Dream


Scientists and community leaders are concerned about radioactive waste from Lynas’ Malaysian plant but the company representative who took Wendy Bacon’s questions brushed off the criticism

This is the second of two articles about Lynas by Wendy Bacon. Read the first here.

Australian rare earth company Lynas has always known it had a waste problem. It plans to process rare earth concentrate, imported from its mine at Mount Weld in Western Australia, at its Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Malaysia. It will not only produce rare earths for export but also a huge amount of waste, including more than a million cubic metres of low level radioactive material.

Lynas was originally going to build its LAMP plant in China, which produces more than 90 per cent of global rare earths. But according to its 2007 annual report, it decided to move to Malaysia, because the Chinese government was increasing its control over production, including applying environmental standards more strictly. Lax regulation had led to what a Chinese government white paper described this year as extensive emissions of radioactive residues and heavy metals, clogged rivers, environmental pollution emergencies and accidents causing “great damage to people’s safety and health and the ecological environment”.

Lynas was attracted to Malaysia because it was offered tax free status for 10 years. Its first choice was a site in the state of Terangganu where it quickly received necessary construction approvals. Then the Malaysian government asked Lynas to move south to the Gegang industrial estate which was built on a reclaimed swamp, 2.5 kilometres from the port of Kuantan in Pahang. Although the new land cost $30 million rather than $5 million, the company reported that it “had little choice but to accept this”, and in any case the infrastructure at the new site was better as it was close to petrochemical plants. For its cooperation, Lynas’s tax holiday, which included all imports and dividends, was topped up to 12 years. The company told the sharemarket that it would start producing rare earths by June 2009.

New environmental approval documents were filed in January 2008. It took only five weeks for the state and local council environment departments and the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board to give the company a construction license. It is clear from the documentation that at this stage the company had only temporary plans for waste storage, had not addressed the possibility that future events including flooding could affect the safety of the site, or selected a permanent waste facility. Despite the delays, shareholders were told that production would still start in 2009. As 2012 ends, the plant — which will take months to become fully operational — received its first rare earth concentrate several weeks ago.

There is an emphasis in the the company’s glossy investor presentations and annual reports of the sustainability of its products, which are necessary for the operation of almost all electronics — from smart phones to missiles. However, there was little mention of the waste — or “residue”, as Lynas prefers to call it.

Lynas and its supporters assert its operations are completely safe, but as NM reported on Monday, others — including scientists — are less confident. Lynas relies on an IAEAreport that found it had complied with international standards in its construction phase, but needed to do more prior to operating. Lynas told New Matilda that since the IAEAreport, it has taken the “additional safety step” of placing “hydrated residues in safe, reliably engineered, elevated storage cells that are designed so that there is no possibility for any leakage of material into the environment”. These storage cells will be monitored by Lynas and the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB).

The IAEA also recommended that Lynas proceed no further until it had filed comprehensive plans for the permanent disposal of waste, decommissioning of the plant and remediation of the site at the end of its life. The AELB and Lynas issued a joint statement mid-way through last year stating that this work would be done before any rare earths could be imported. But then, earlier this year, the AELB jumped the gun by granting a temporary operating license which gave the company 10 months to come up with these plans. This temporary operating license was then delayed as a result of court action until November.

Shutting Down the Critics
New Matilda asked to interview the Lynas Executive Chairperson Nick Curtis but he was not available. Instead we interviewed a Lynas spokesperson who insists that the waste products of the LAMP project are “not hazardous in any way”. He refers to the safety record of Lynas which in “all of its constructions … has been achieved with zero lost time injury.”

When New Matilda suggested that problems are more likely to arise in the long term, even 20 or 30 years away, he replied: “I would be lying if I categorically tell you there is no risk in 20 or 30 years time from anything. What I can tell you is that the unanimous conclusion of all of the scientific experts from all of the different organisations that have investigated this material and everything else is that there will be no discernible risk for the public or anyone else from this facility.”

But this is far from true.

For example, in April this year, the National Toxic Network (NTN), a community based network “working to ensure a toxic-free future for all”, published a preliminary assessment of the waste steam of Lynas’s LAMP project. It was prepared by Lee Bell, a qualified environmental scientist with 20 years experience in analysis of industrial process plants, groundwater monitoring and contaminated sites. He co-chaired the Core Consultative Committee on Waste under the former Labor government in Western Australia, which reformed the state’s hazardous waste sector. Readers of his 29 page NTN report (pdf), which was reviewed by another scientist, are likely to be concerned about the company’s environmental plans.

I asked Lynas’ spokesperson about the NTN report: “Whatever you think of it, it [the report] is a solid document. It appears to be academically referenced and it also appears to have had some form of review. If you read it, on a number of scores, you would be concerned?”

To which the Lynas spokesperson responded: “The relevant thing there is ‘appears to be’ that is a really interesting phrase … I take you to the disclaimer right at the end [of the report] — ‘Please note this information is provided as general information and comment should not be seen as professional advice’ — on the basis that it ‘appears to be well referenced’, that is a strange disclaimer to have.” In response Bell explained the disclaimer is used to indicate the report is intended for public use. Most of Lynas’s reports on the other hand are not easily accessible.

The Lynas spokesman rejected an NTN claim that the LAMP’s location on a reclaimed swamp with a high rainfall is relevant to disposal of low level radioactive waste. Asked if he was aware it was a “marshy site”, he said, “I have no idea”. He explained that although there is a pristine fishing village and beach at Kuantan three and a half kilometres away on the coast, “if there is a risk there, it is much wider than just Lynas because the LAMP is in a petrochemical zone”. In fact, the site is on a reclaimed peat swamp.

Bell doesn’t buy Lynas’ argument that their plant will be yet another structure in the petrochemical zone. “The area may well have been developed for petrochemical plants — but these do not have large tailings ponds full of low level radioactive material,” he said. “Refineries usually dispose of their waste by on-site incineration or off-site disposal in stable geological areas. This is comparing chalk and cheese.”

Discrediting sources is a familiar public relations tactic used by companies to protect themselves against journalists relying on their critics as sources. So NM asked if the company had prepared a response to the NTN report. The spokesperson said it had but it was “unfortunately contained material before a [Malaysian] court and I can’t share that with you”.

The NTN report deals with LAMP waste steams which include non radioactive fluoride, dust particulates, gas, acidic waste water as well as more than 22,000 tonnes of low level Water Leach Purification (WLP) radioactive waste which a year. The most critical issue is the control and disposal of the WLP wastes — which for radioactive material may mean for many hundreds of years.

On the basis of specific criticisms, NTN has two main recommendations. First, that the temporary license issued by the AELB should be revoked until the issue of long term waste disposal is resolved and second, that the plant should not be allowed to operate until the release of mlliions of litres of effuent into the Balok River that runs past the site has been “further modelled and assessed”.

“The lack of data on these issues (the impact on the river) means the Lynas EIA is well below international standards and insufficient for granting of operational licences,” theNTN says; the LAMP temporary license would never have been granted in Australia.

Novel Solutions — But Will They Work?
Included among the documents filed for the January 2008 approval was a report prepared for Lynas by technical consultants Worley Parsons which revealed some innovative ideas for dealing with the permanent disposal problem.

Worley Parsons worked on the basis that there would more 800,000 cubic metres of the most radioactive WLP waste over 10 years. (The company has stated its mine will last for 20 years and more recently told New Matilda, 50 years). When other wastes were included, there would be 2.7 million cubic meters of waste that need permanent disposal over 10 years.

Lynas’s preferred option has always been to recycle as much of the waste as possible. If safe, recycling has environmental advantages but Worley Parson also noted that by-product production requires time and investment. It may also have little or no commercial value, although this may change over time. Neither Worley Parsons or Lynas have ever suggested that even if recycling options worked, they would account for all dangerous waste, which under a new Australian law for the disposal of radioactive waste cannot be imported back into Australia.

Worley Parsons reported that the WLP residues contain relatively high levels of the nutrients phosphorus and magnesium, which have potential agricultural uses, particularly for palm oil plantations. However, it might be hard to find buyers for fertiliser based on the recycled waste. This option has not been mentioned recently. Instead, the current preferred option is to dilute the radioactive material from 6 becquerals (Bq) to 1Bq and bury it as roadfill and in other civil engineering works.

While Lynas says it is confident in the current by-product plans, they are yet to be tested. Dr Peter Karamoskas, who has been a nuclear radiologist for 13 years and represents the Australian public on the Radiation Safety Committee of Australia’s nuclear safety agency shares none of that confidence.

Speaking on his own behalf, Karamoskas said that to be safe more than a million tons ofWLP residue with a radioactive reading of 6Bq have to be mixed with five times the amount of aggregate to reduce its reading to 1Bq. While he said that a similar process had been used in the Netherlands, the waste was far less radioactive, sitting near 1Bq, which is the threshold for safety.

Karamoskas said it has never been used with material with the LAMP WLP reading of 6Bq. He says that it is extremely unlikely to be a long term solution from a safety or economic point of view: “If this was all ready to go they would be trumpeting it in the public arena … already it looks slippery. If this was possible wouldn’t most countries around the world be doing it?” He thinks it is extremely unlikely that the road mix could be imported, other than to a country with “lax standards” because it would breach international best practice standards.

Karamoskas and the NTN operate on the precautionary principle used in European environmental regulation (and increasingly elsewhere) — you don’t go ahead until you have evidence that processes are safe, which in the case of Lynas is for thousands of years.

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, a medical doctor and well respected Opposition socialist MP, wrote a long piece explaining the LAMP risks in Malaysian independent outlet Malaysiakini, “Is the anti-Lynas movement being unreasonable?”

“It has always been my belief that I should speak up for or against policies based on facts and principles, and not because of political expediency. To espouse something which is not true or which you do not believe in, just to make you or your party popular amounts to misleading the public and reflects a lack of respect for the public! … We should practice the “precautionary principle”. If there is a risk that a particular course of action might bring adverse effects, then one should consider not embarking on that action unless there are very compelling reasons for doing so.

Lynas badmouths its critics for exaggerating LAMP safety risks, while at the same time, its own supporters exaggerate the level of safety. This week, former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed was widely reported in the Malaysian media after he slammed the critics of the project, saying the nation needed to accept that it was not harmful.

“Rare earth is not dangerous like nuclear … rare earth is not yet known to cause diseases among users of its end product,” he told a Chemical Industries Council of Malaysia (CICM) dinner. The former PM seems not to understand that it is the waste from the rare earth processing, not the rare earths themselves that are radioactive. Even in Malaysia itself, the dangers of rare earth waste are well known because of tragic environmental and health damage at Bukit Merah, the site of an old Mitsubishi plant.

In the commercial world, the precautionary principle is not playing. “Resolving the residue disposal is a risk down the track,” Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Terry told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last week, adding that the company’s priority in the coming months should be on getting the plant up and running and completing its first sales. The WSJ reported that Lynas has already been forced to raise A$175 million in the past month to help fund the ramp-up of output. It is also entering a much softer rare earth market than what was seen globally 12 months ago.

As Karamoskas put it, the Malaysian public should not rely on Lynas staying in business for the long haul. It needs “credible long term plans” because if Lynas does not stay in business, “the Malaysian public will be left to deal with its problems for thousands of years”.

Lynas has sued members of the Save Malaysia Stop Lynas campaign  for defaming the company. This case will be heard early next year along with an appeal against the lifting of the stay on the licence and another application for a judicial review of the granting of the license lodged yesterday.

Wendy Bacon is a Contributing Editor to New Matilda, a Professor with the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, an activist, media researcher and blogger at WendyBacon.com She is on the board of the Pacific Media Centre.


Fuziah: ‘Kerajaan patut terima kasih kepada saya’


18 Disember 2012

Fuziah Salleh
Fuziah Salleh

SHAH ALAM – Naib Presiden PKR, Fuziah Salleh enggan tunduk kepada desakan beberapa pihak termasuk Pengerusi MCA Kuantan, Datuk Ti Lian Ker yang mahu beliau meminta maaf kepada penduduk Kuantan dan rakyat Malaysia, sebaliknya kerajaan perlu berterima kasih kepadanya berhubung isu projek nadir bumi Lynas Advanced Material Plant (LAMP) di kawasan perindustrian Gebeng di Pahang.

“Kenapa harus saya minta maaf? Tiada sebab saya perlu minta maaf.

“Seharus bukan memohon maaf, sebaliknya (kerajaan perlu) berterima kasih kerana tindakan-tindakan terpaksa diambil,  kalau nak harapkan MCA, Pengerusinya, Datuk Ti Lian Ker… syarikat itu dah buat duit berjuta-juta dan rakyat yang terdedah kepada potensi bahaya,” kata beliau kepada Sinar Harian Online yang dihubungi hari ini.

Mengulas lanjut mengenai desakan itu, Ahli Parlimen Kuantan ini berkata, sekiranya beliau tidak membuat pendedahan tersebut, sudah pasti orang ramai tidak mengetahui akan bahayanya sisa radioaktif nadir bumi itu jika tidak dilupuskan dengan betul.

“Oleh sebab tekanan daripada sayalah kerajaan terpaksa membuat beberapa perkara.

“Sebelum ini, tidak ada garis panduan untuk pengurusan sisa buangan bahan radioaktif, tapi sekarang dah ada garis panduan itu,” katanya.

Beliau menegaskan kenyataan Lian Ker itu satu cubaan untuk mengalih pandangan rakyat daripada isu sebenar, bukannya bahaya radiasi tetapi pengurusan sisa radioaktif.

“Kita bercakap tentang pengurusan sisa radioaktif yang masih belum diselesaikan,” katanya.

Kata Naib Presiden PKR ini, apa yang dibangkitkan oleh pihak-pihak yang menentang beliau hanya “isu radiasi.”

“Tapi kita bangkitkan isu pengurusan sisa radioaktif serta isu alam sekitar yang langsung tidak diusik dan disentuh oleh mana-mana pihak,” katanyan sambil menyifatkan Barisan Nasional cuba mengalih isu demi melindungi diri mereka.

Sebelum itu, beberapa pergerakan politik dan badan bukan kerajaan (NGO) di Kuantan telah membuat laporan polis ke atas Fuziah setelah beliau dilihat berterusan membuat kenyataan negatif berkenaan LAMP.

Selain itu, beberapa NGO di Pahang mendesak Fuziah supaya memohon maaf kepada LAMP berhubung kesilapan daripada pembohongan dan penyelewengan fakta tanpa asas saintifik mengenai kilang  memproses nadir bumi itu.

Mereka mahu Fuziah dan kumpulan anti-Lynas mencontohi portal berita Free Malaysia Today yang memohon maaf secara terbuka berhubung isu itu pada Julai lepas.


The Toxic Waste That’s Not In Our Back Yard

17 Dec 2012
Wendy Bacon
By Wendy Bacon

Australian-owned company Lynas is quietly shipping rare earth to a processing plant in Malaysia – without a firm plan in place to dispose of dangerous radioactive waste. Wendy Bacon reports

If a manufacturing plant involving radioactive materials moved into your community, one of the first things you would ask is, “what’s going to happen to the waste?”

This is exactly how residents of Kuantan on Malaysia’s east coast reacted when the Australian company Lynas announced plans to build LAMP, the world’s biggest rare earth processing plant in their area.

Several years later, they have no clear answer. Indeed last week, while the plant that will use concentrate imported from Lynas’s rare earth mine at Mount Weld in Western Australia was finally ramping up for production, the Malaysian Government and the company were in direct conflict about what would happen to the waste.

On 8 November, after two years of delays caused by court challenges and inquiries, a halt on a temporary licence granted to protesting citizens in September was lifted. Five days later, Lynas secretly moved 100 containers of rare earth concentrate from a depot at Bilbra Lake and quietly shipped them through Fremantle Port. The containers were unloaded and delivered under police escort to the $800 million plant on 22 November.

But last week, four Malaysian government ministers backed by the entire cabinet declared that Lynas’s temporary licence will be cancelled if it does not fulfill a condition to export all radioactive waste from Malaysia. Lynas was forced to call a share trading halt claiming that there is no such condition in its licence, which at this stage is not public. By the end of last week, Lynas’s share price fell further to 55 cents, down from $1.21 this time last year.

The 17 rare earth elements are used in many products including mobile phones, flatscreens, missiles and wind turbines. All environmental experts agree that mining, refining and recycling rare earths can have serious, long term consequences if not carefully managed, specifically because the elements are found with thorium, which is mildly radioactive. Ninety-six per cent of global production currently occurs in China, where mines and plants have caused serious environmental degradation.

Lynas continually asserts that their plant is “absolutely safe,” but confusion and insufficient planning for waste disposal has sparked local opposition. The campaign includes grassroots campaigning group Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL), local members of parliament, the Malaysian Green party, Australian Greens MPs and members and Friends of the Earth Australia. Even the Malaysian bar council hosted an event at which an engineering professor and lawyers opposing to the plant spoke. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has pledged the opposition would scrap the plant if it wins national polls next year.

For two years in a row, SMSL delegations from Kuantan have protested outside Lynas’s annual general meeting, spoiling executive chairman Nick Curtis’s attempts to soothe his anxious shareholders. The delegation’s leader, Tan Bun Teet, recently spoke at a NSWparliamentary reception hosted by Greens MP Jamie Parker held after the 20 November meeting. He lives near the plant and told attendees he was angry Curtis had led shareholders to believe the campaign against the plant was small.

Any misunderstandings about the strength of opposition to the plant were resolved when the delegation arrived home to join the last day of a 300 kilometre protest walk from Kuantan to Kuala Lumpar, which by the time it reached the capital had swelled to 20,000 people. When SMSL discovered Lynas had successfully smuggled the concentrate into the plant while they were gone, they issued an angry press statement, saying:

“Lynas must be desperately worried to be doing this secretly. At its AGM on Tuesday in Sydney I was there just to hear its executive chairman Nick Curtis [tell] its shareholders that the Stop Lynas campaign in Malaysia consist of just 10 people! If we are so weak and ineffective, why try to gag us through a defamation action, why ship its ore concentrate in such secrecy and at night using police escort?” (The company, which has already settled two defamation writs with Malaysian media outlets, is suing members of the SMSL campaing.)


Lynas managing director Nick Curtis was not available for interview, but a company spokesperson told New Matilda that the arrival of the containers was kept secret because of threats by green groups to blockade the shipment. Local authorities organised the police escort without a request from Lynas, the spokesperson said.

In asserting the safety of its operations, Lynas continually relies on a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, commissioned by the Malaysian Government in 2011. The report confirmed that the plant had complied with Malaysian regulations, which meet international standards. But a closer examination of the report’s findings is not reassuring. The agency found that the Malaysian Government — which had allowed the company to begin construction without long term, permanent plans for its waste — needed to be strengthened so that it could effectively regulate the industry.

It recommended that the company lodge its intended plans for long term storage of waste, waste disposal and for decommissioning the plant at end of its life. This crucial information had been omitted from previous company Radiation Impact Assessments compiled in 2008 and 2010. As the plant’s opponents were quick to point out, no company would have been allowed to begin construction before this information was lodged and independently assessed in Australia.

Shortly after the agency’s report came out, the New York Times reported that documents supplied to them by Lynas engineers showed structural cracks, air pockets and leaks in concrete shells for 70 containment tanks that would hold toxic plant materials. They were also critical of the materials used to construct the tanks.

The Lynas spokesman dismissed the engineers’ complaints in the New York Times article, saying: “The reality is that any concrete construction will quite often have cracks when concrete dries, it’s normal and those cracks will subsequently get filled in when concrete dried. Any pockets would have been filled in before the leak proof lining that is put into the concrete … These are guaranteed by an independent contractor.”

Lynas company documents show that three weeks after the agency’s report came out it had filed the recommended plans with Malaysian authorities. But it is unclear how detailed these plans were and what exactly the company promised to do. Lynas told New Matilda that it has filed a Permanent Disposal Facility plan but that it is “commercially in confidence”. New Matilda asked for a copy but did not receive one. Patersons Securities analyst Andrew Harrington was reported in The Australian last week to have told his investor clients that the licence did require a permanent disposal facility to be agreed between Lynas and the government but that this was still being discussed.

Lynas’s spokesperson says the residue contains naturally occurring radiation but this is much lower than minimum level occurring naturally in environment, and should not be described as hazardous

The company says it plans to transform the residue into synthetic gypsum for road building and other projects, a process being used successfully in the oil and gas industries, but yet to be done in the rare earth industry. “Lots of work has been done by a whole bunch of academic and commercial organisations as to whether this residual material is capable of being used in this work,” the spokesperson said. “They are all very confident it will work.” He said they have already had expressions of interest but he could not “say one way or the other … everything these guys say or do is blown up and is capable of being taken out of context”.

The company had planned to sell at least some of the gypsum in Malaysia, if the government gives permission. Failing this, Lynas will pursue customers in Indonesia, the United States and Australia, but the company’s spokesperson declined to give further details on this matter. In any case, nothing more can be done until there is enough residue for pilot production.

Asked whether there are plans for safely decommissioning the plant, the spokesperson said this was really “academic” because there is enough raw material to keep the plant operating for 50 years. But the company has previously talked about a life of 20 years; if the plant operates for longer than that, the amount of radioactive waste, which can last for hundreds of years, will be much greater. Even if the plan to process the waste into secondary products is successful, there is no guarantee an export market for synthetic gypsum will be stable.

Given the company’s optimistic plans to produce gypsum, it is hard to understand why in March this year it applied to the South Australian government to import waste from the plant back into Australia. In answer to a question by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam on 30 October this year, senator Joe Ludwig, speaking on behalf of the Minister for Health, said that an application from Lynas was currently under consideration by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). “ARPANSA requested more information from Lynas Corporation on 2 April 2012,” Ludwig said. “Lynas Corporation has yet to respond and the application cannot progress until the requested information is received.”

The South Australian government would also have to approve the import of the waste. New Matilda has asked the company about this application and will report its answer tomorrow.

The International Atomic Energy Agency report also found that the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board should improve the transparency, visibility and public understanding of its approach to regulation and that Lynas should improve communication with residents and stakeholders. The company admitted that it had fallen down in that area and since the report was published, has done 15,000 community consultations and improved its information and monitoring plans.

Eighteen months later, as Malaysia’s burgeoning environmental movement gains confidence and the country heads towards its national elections in 2013, it is unlikely to win over its angry opponents. They remain unsatisfied that an untested recycling process should replace firm plans for safe permanent storage of waste for the life of the plant and afterwards. Even if Lynas makes all its plans and contingencies public it may be too late.

Lynas will be in court in Malaysia on 19 December. The SMSL campaigners will be appealing against the Kuantan High Court decision to lift its stay on the company being able to exercise its rights to proceed under the temporary licence.

Wendy Bacon is a Contributing Editor to New Matilda, a Professor with the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, an activist, media researcher and blogger at WendyBacon.com She is on the board of the Pacific Media Centre.


Confusion reigns over Lynas’ waste disposal plans

Kuek Ser Kuang Keng
8:01PM Dec 12, 2012

Cabinet today reaffirmed the joint statement made by four of its members on Monday that Lynas Corporation is bound by its one temporary operating licence (TOL) issued to Lynas remove the residue generated by its rare earths refinery out of Malaysia.

NONEHowever, this clearly contradicts what Lynas Corporation executive chairperson Nicholas Curtis told the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

He claimed that there was no such provision but the company would still be voluntarily shipping the residue, in form of safe recycled products, to allay safety fears in Malaysia.

Curtis had spoken just a day after the four ministers, whose portfolios are directly related to the project,  had assured on Monday that the residue or materials derived from the residue would be shipped abroad, as part of the TOL agreement.

The matter was discussed in Cabinet today and the four ministers issued a three-paragraph statement this evening assuring the public that its decision was firm.

“There will be no change in the government’s position to demand Lynas to remove the residue generated by Lynas Advance Material Plant (LAMP) out of Malaysia, consistent with the conditions stated in the TOL.”

History of contradictions

The statement also said that Cabinet will ensure that all related government agencies will closely monitor LAMP’s operations, especially in the handling and the management of the residue generated by LAMP.

The four ministers are International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed, Science and Technology Minister Maximus Johnity Ongkili, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Douglas Unggah Embas and Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai.

However, the four did not address the Wall Street Journal report, which clearly contradicts them.

The TOL is not a public document and it has become increasingly clear that both Putrajaya and Lynas Corporation interprets the document differently.

Thus, the contradictory claims coming from both parties – which is not something new –  is likely to fuel public confusion on the matter further.

Below is a compilation of events which show Putrajaya’s inconsistencies on the matter:

Feb 1 –  Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) approved the TOL with five conditions, mostly detailing the Permanent Disposal Facility (PDF) requirement without stating the need to export the waste.

Feb 22 – The four ministers issued a joint statement stating that prior to the issuance of the TOL, Lynas shall submit a letter of undertaking that it will accept the return of any residue generated by its refinery to its original source.

Sept 5 –  After a lengthy delay, the AELB issued the TOL and said that Lynas had made a commitment to export the waste from the refinery, but it did not explicitly state that it is a requirement in the TOL.

Sept 7 – AELB director-general Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan said Lynas’ commitment to ship out the waste is non-binding, according to the TOL.

The very next day, the AELB issued a press release, correcting Raja Abdul Aziz by stating that the management and removal of residue is an integral part of the TOL conditions and agreements, and it is legally binding and the AELB will enforce it.

Dec 7 – Chinese newspaper Guang Ming Dailyquoted Lynas Malaysia managing director Mashal Ahmad as saying during a media briefing that the waste cannot be exported, as stipulated by international law, but the company will convert the waste into ‘synthetic aggregate’, which is non-hazardous and has commercial value, for export.

Dec 10 – Lynas issued a statement denying reports quoting Mashal stating that the waste products will remain in Malaysia.

The company stressed that the recycled product would be exported to other countries in accordance with international and local standards and regulations for use as civil engineering material.

Lynas said that the facility to convert waste into commercial products was operation ready.

Later that day, the four ministers issued a joint statement stating that the TOL granted to Lynas requires, as a specific condition, that the company removes all the residues generated by the refinery out of Malaysia.

In an article published by the Wall Street Journal, Curtis refuted the claim, stating that exporting the waste was not a TOL condition.


LYNAS sets the tone, while the BN Government dances to its tune

Fuziah Salleh's Media Statement Sample 4Media Statement
Fuziah Salleh
12th December 2012

When the 4 Ministers did a Joint Statement that Lynas’ waste must be exported out of Malaysia, Lynas was hit hard and had to halt its shares trading. Some desperate politicians from the ruling government thought that they could salvage dwindling support to the government by reiterating that Lynas has to ship its waste back. The reason given that the government is not prepared to compromise on the health of its citizens was a messaging opportunity not to be missed for some BN Ministers who are desperate to win votes.

AELB knew very well that the exportation of radioactive waste is not allowed according to international law. Yet AELB put down a letter of undertaking from Lynas to remove its waste out of Malaysia as a requirement of the TOL (temporary operating license). Knowing fully well that this cannot happen, since Australia has made it very clear that they will not accept Lynas’s toxic radioactive waste, apart from the terms laid down by international law. However it was still put down as a requirement of the TOL. Certainly this clause is none other than an effort to hoodwink the anti Lynas groups.

Interestingly, soon after the Joint Ministerial statement on the 10th Dec, which brought Lynas shares trading to a halt, Ongkili, the Minister for MOSTI has had to come to Lynas’ rescue.

Even when Ongkili said yesterday that Lynas’s radioactive and toxic waste, if in its raw form will have to be exported out of the country, he knew that technically it cannot happen. That is why Ongkili was quick to add that if the waste is commercialized it can then be exported since it is no longer classified as hazardous materials.

Ongkili continued to say that Lynas can export waste materials which have been turned into commercial items termed co-products, provided that the radioactivity is reduced to less than 1 Bq|g. Thus in doing so he openly admitted the fact (which I have stated all these while) about the plan by Lynas to dilute their radioactive waste. The process of dilution allows for the waste to be declassified from being labeled as radioactive.

In his haste the MOSTI Minister, must have forgotten the ‘plot’ that the letter of undertaking by Lynas to remove the waste out of the country was just a spin to pull the wool over the eyes of anti lynas groups.

When Mashal of Lynas openly admitted that international law does not allow for exportation of radioactive waste, he incidentally had called the bluff of the 4 Ministers.

The guideline in the “Radioactive Waste Management Plan” put together by AELB in 2011, which is 3 years after Lynas was given license to construct, was written in hindsight with the realization that our country indeed does NOT have a guideline for radioactive waste management, and some clause can be interpreted as facilitating Lynas in getting rid of its radioactive waste. The guideline allows for dilution of the radioactive waste so that once it is declassified, from being labelled as radioactive, it can then be processed as commercial items.

Let us remind ourselves, that if Lynas were to operate their plant in Australia, they will have to return their toxic and radioactive waste back to the mine in Mt Weld. Other rare earth refinery such as Molycorps is subjected to the same requirements – to send back their radioactive waste to the mine. But in Malaysia, not only does Lynas enjoy 12 years tax break, they get their electricity, water and gas at a subsidized rate too, courtesy of the rakyat.

Lynas has had things going their way for so long, since the beginning in fact. Thus Lynas will not allow anything to come in its way now. The rakyat is waiting and watching on what the government will do next.

FUZIAH SALLEH is a PKR vice-president and member of parliament for Kuantan.

AELB can revoke TOL on LYNAS but chooses to close one eye

Fuziah Salleh's Media Statement 11 Dec 2012

Media Statement
Fuziah Salleh
11th December 2012

Lynas has breached conditions stipulated in the issuance of the Lynas TOL, but yet AELB is not taking any actions.

I refer to the Joint Ministerial Statement dated 22nd Feb 2012, which clearly stated the conditions of the TOL issued on Lynas.

Refer to item no. 5 in the Joint Ministerial Statement attached, which is copied below:-

5. As the public is aware, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) announced its decision to award a TOL to Lynas (M) Sdn Bhd on February 1st 2012. Issuance, however, is subject to the company fulfilling these five conditions:

i. Lynas is required to submit to AELB details of the plans and location of a proposed permanent disposal facility that will manage the residue, if any, generated by the factory

ii. This submission must be made within ten months from the date the TOL is issued

iii. This requirement must be complied with regardless of any alternative proposal Lynas may make for the management or disposal of the factory residue (eg. recycling, conversion into products that can be sold, etc)


From the above conditions it is very clear that Lynas has breached the conditions of the TOL since it is more than 10 months since the TOL was approved on 1st February 2012.

But yet, the Ministers choose to keep silent on this matter. Instead they are making political statements about returning the waste from Lynas just to gain popular support.

The question is, does the BN government have the political will and commitment to revoke the TOL on Lynas in view of this breach of condition? The residents of Kuantan are waiting. So are the people of Malaysia.

FUZIAH SALLEH is a PKR vice-president and member of parliament for Kuantan.