Malaysiakini – Lynas licence decision to face legal challenge

Stop Lynas Coalition (SLC) will file a judicial review challenging decision of Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to grant a temporary licence to Lynas rare earth refinery in Kuantan

Stop Lynas Coalition (SLC) will file a judicial review challenging decision of Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to grant a temporary licence to Lynas rare earth refinery in Kuantan

Hafiz Yatim
10:08AM Feb 2, 2012

The Stop Lynas Coalition (SLC) will file a judicial review challenging yesterday’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board decision granting a temporary licence to the Australian rare earths plant in Gebeng, Kuantan.

Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh said SLC will instruct its lawyers to file a civil suit for judicial review, she said in response to questions from Malaysiakini.

“I am not really surprised with AELB’s decision although International Trade and Industry Minister had said yesterday a decision will be made in the coming days.

“I could see it coming, especially after reading (AELB’s director-general) Raja Aziz Raja Adnan’s responses lately,” she said.

PKR Vice President and Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh

PKR Vice President and Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh

Asked for her response on The New York Times article two days ago that there were safety and health concerns following the withdrawal of a Dutch multinational from the project, Fuziah (left) said AELB may have listed the requirements to be fulfilled by Lynas.

From there it can be seen that AELB granted the licence in a situation where its regulators themselves did not have a clear proposal from Lynas, she said.

“Basically in issuing the licence, it means AELB is prepared to disregard safety issues and gamble with the safety regarding the Kuantan public,” she added.

Late yesterday evening AELB announced that it has granted a temporary operational licence (TOL) to Lynas to operate its multi-million plant in Gebeng, Kuantan.

Protestors presence of no consequence

The decision was arrived at during a Jan 30 AELB board meeting.

This, despite the presence of 334 people there to give their comments. Another 1,123 had already given written comments when Lynas displayed its document between Jan 3 and 26.

Lynas is building the plant, one of the few sites outside China, to process rare earth-metals used in high tech equipment ranging from missiles to mobile phones.

It had insisted that the facility, which will process rare earths imported from Australia, will be safe, but critics say radioactive waste could leak out, threatening the public and environment.

Two days ago the New York Times (NYT) had also reported that Dutch multinational AkzoNobel, a key contractor, had withdrawn from the project.

NYT had confirmed the story with Lynas chairperson Nicholas Curtis.

AkzoNobel supplies important resins that function as glue for dozens of fibreglass liners for concrete-walled tanks that can withstand heat and corrosion.

Experts worry over safety aspects

Rare earths with low levels of radioactive contamination measuring hundreds of tonnes are mixed in the tanks with extremely corrosive acids at a heat of over 90 degrees Celcius.

Corrosion at high temperatures makes the acids ideal in dissolving the ore. However, this method is reportedly unstable.

“The company said last spring that it would supply chemicals for the Lynas project only if it was certain that it would be safe,” the NYT report read.

“Engineers involved in the project and internal emails showed that AkzoNobel withdrew from supplying the chemicals after it was told that the fibreglass liners would be installed in concrete-walled tanks that have a problem with rising dampness in the floors and cracks in the walls.

“AkzoNobel had been in discussions about the problem of rising dampness, but only became aware of the cracks recently.”

The report stated that engineers, who requested anonymity, felt it was their professional duty to voice the safety concerns.

Meanwhile, Lynas executive chairperson Nicholas Curtis, in welcoming the approval, said in a statement that the company respected the government’s processes and the regulator’s decision.

The rare earths miner said it had a responsibility to the Malaysian community to operate the plant in a safe manner, reports Bernama.

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