March 6, 2012
Lynas is the harbinger of death for those who live and for those to come.
The message was loud and clear: Lynas must go. Lynas must be buried. Lynas must never see the light of day. The proponents may say what they like but nothing will wash away the stark truth – there is danger stalking in the corner. The thousands of concerned citizens who gathered not long ago to show their displeasure over this reckless venture have made a point which cannot be ignored. The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) represents a clear and imminent danger to the residents on the frontline. It is imperative that the state act to protect its citizens and not leave them in harm’s way.
But the government is stubborn. It refuses to hear reason or accept sound argument. It treats all the people who turned up at the green rally as enemies of the state working in cahoots with the opposition. Elected by the people, the government does not want to work for the people. Instead, it prefers to ally itself with big business. Government and big business have always been the bane of the ordinary folk. They always work against the interest of the common good. Money is all they think and money is all they want.
In doggedly pursuing the Lynas rainbow, the government “experts” have made up their mind that the rare earth plant is safe. Don’t worry, call the prime minister. He will sing the same mantra: it is all harmless. If it is hazardous, the licence would not have been issued – as if this would allay public fears. The government relies on its own studies and only listens to the counsel of the few. This is a wrong approach. There are always two sides to a story. There are also the other experts who would say with conviction that refining the “radioactive ore” poses health hazards. Remember Bukit Merah? The rare earth mine there which was shut down in 1992 was linked to many cases of “infant deaths, congenital disease, leukemia and lead poisoning” There is certainly no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The fact that Australia has refused to accept the waste by-product – thorium – produced by the Lynas operation tells something of the risks hidden in the rare earth. Australia will only mine the ore and ship it to Malaysia. Australia is safe. Malaysia will refine it and has to take care of the waste. Malaysia is not safe. Where do you bury the waste? Call the prime minister and he will say the thorium will be dumped far from human settlements. Not a good answer. The waste can seep into the ground and eventually contaminate the water. Relocate the affected residents? Pointless. The radioactive gas called “radon” – which is released when the ore is crushed to remove thorium – will bring menacing clouds to the whole country on the wings of the winds. There is no place you can hide.
The rare earth plant is located only 2km away from a residential area (Gebeng) with a population of about 30,000 and some 25km from Kuantan. It is estimated that the combined population of the two towns – about 400,000 – will be put at risk from possible toxic leaks and emissions. Yet the government experts are cocksure that LAMP is totally safe. One minister even had the audacity to advance his perverted logic that the waste water can safely be discharged into drains. The call for him to resign is fitting. He does not have the foggiest idea about the Lynas operation or understand the horrors that await the people who live in the vicinity of the refinery. Every hour tonnes of waste water will be discharged into a nearby river and thousands of cubic metres of radon will be released into the atmosphere hourly. On earth and in the air, the angels of death are ever present.
The RM2.5-billion Lynas refinery is seen as a potential cash cow. When there is a cash cow, there will political vultures gather. The rare earth metals have useful industrial and military applications and they are worth their weight in gold. It is estimated that the plant can generate revenue of RM8 billion per year from 2013 onwards. This is big money. This is big business. This is the mine that can feed crooked politicians and keep them forever happy. It will be a ready source of instant cash for wasteful mega projects and a godsend for political warriors who need a war chest to stay in power. While the Lynas party goes on, the people who live under the ominous shadow will have misery as their constant companion. The billions minted from the rare earth are not theirs to enjoy. They can see the glitter but they cannot touch the pile. Lynas is the harbinger of death for those who live and for those to come.