Stephanie Sta Maria | February 18, 2012
Kuantan residents have stepped up their fight against Australian mining giant Lynas Corp by filing a court case against them.
PETALING JAYA: A group of Kuantan residents have hauled Lynas Corp, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) and the Director-General of Environmental Quality in the Department of Environment (DOE) to court following the recent approval of its temporary operating license (TOL).
The 10 applicants, who live between 3km and 18 km from the RM2.5 billion Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng, are accusing Lynas of ignoring their fears of health and environmental repercussions.
They have also accused AELB of breaching several Federal Constitution provisions particularly Articles 59 (1), 13 and 8(1) pertaining to freedom, equality and the rights to property respectively.
The applicatants stated that the AELB had acted in breach of national justice by approving the TOL as it had not given an opportunity to those who wanted to make representations on the safety of LAMP in a “meaningful or proper” manner.
Yesterday’s court filing has appealed that the TOL be suspended in order to prevent Lynas from firing up its operations in the second quester of the year.
It also called for AELB to be prohibited from issuing any temporary or permanent license to Lynas until a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) report is submitted to and approved by the DOE.
Kuantan MP, Fuziah Salleh, on Thursday called for a DEIA report in light of a “flawed” Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA) report.
However a representative from the DOE deemed a DEIA unnecessary as the PEIA was sufficient and had already been studied and approved.
No previous experience
The court filings included two affidavits by chemical engineer, Dr. Lee Chee Hong, and executive, Zakaria Abdullah.
Lee, who has been deeply involved in researching and presenting his findings on LAMP, emphasised that allowing Lynas to begin its operations would put Malaysia at risk of another environmental disaster.
“If such a disaster were to occur, it would be on a much greater scale and magnitude than Bukit Merah,” he warned.
“In my opinion, Lynas cannot guarantee that such an environmental disaster can be ruled out because it has no previous experience whatsoever in operating a plant like the LAMP or handling hazardous radioactive material.”
Lee pointed out that during a recent onsite visit to the plant, Lynas had admitted that most of the data it presented in the public domain were obtained from process stimulation results and laboratory analysis.
“It is wholly unrealistic to accept the Lynas claim of zero risk and zero radioactivity when it is solely based on a hypothetical basis and driven by computer stimulation and laboratory analysis,” he stated.
“With the welfare of about 70,000 inhabitants and a potential environmental disaster not being ruled out, I cannot understand why Malaysia is prepared to tolerate the potential hazards from a plant that will give no substantial benefit to Malaysia because of the pioneer status granted to Lynas for 10 years.”
This status will exempt Lynas from taxes for a decade and all monies will be repatriated to Australia.
Hearing date soon
Meanwhile Zakaria, whose home is closest to the LAMP site, said that the AELB is required by law to inquire whether Lynas’ safety standards has taken into account the lessons learnt in the Bhopal, Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.
“The speed with which the AELB made its decision is even more incredible given the serious and relevant considerations raised in the public comments submitted to it,” he said.
AELB came under fire for announcing the approval of the TOL just three days after receiving over a thousand submissions of public feedback.
AELB director-general, Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan, later clarified that the Board had begun studying the feedback from the the first day of the three-week public viewing of Lynas’ documents.
“Most of it was easily read as they were emotional and not technical,” he told the media in a briefing last week.
While Aziz acknowledged that only one of the comments was in favour of Lynas, he added that the public concerns were reflected in the five conditions attached to the TOL. But this has brought little comfort to Zakaria and the rest of the eight applicants represented in his affidavit.
“Our homes are in the neighbourhood, vicinity or proximity of the LAMP site,” he said. “We are in the frontline insofar as health and safety issues are concerned.”
“Lynas owes a duty of care to us. It is foreseeable if any discharge or escape occurs, we would be the first to suffer.”
According to Fuziah, a date for the hearing is expected to be known by next week.