Stephanie Sta Maria | March 7, 2012
An anti-Lynas group has also slammed the Pahang menteri besar for suggesting that Lynas’ waste be dumped in Sungai Lembing.
PETALING JAYA: A recent expose by an Australian NGO that Lynas Corporation Ltd’s rare earth plant was meant to be built in Western Australia and not Malaysia has received a nod of satisfaction from a leading anti-Lynas group.
But Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) has another bone to pick with Lynas.
According to its chairman, Tan Bun Teet, the Australian mining giant’s permit approvals are for the export of rare earth oxide and not rare earth ore.
The Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia (ANAWA) yesterday revealed that Lynas’ approvals are 14-years-old and that the company made numerous alterations to its blueprint over the years.
ANAWA submitted a referral to Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) urging a review of Lynas’ “outdated” approvals. The EPA is expected to revert with its decision on April 2.
“The EPA’s decision will take a while but we are more concerned about the exact nature of Lynas’ export permit,” Tan told FMT.
“Lynas was issued a permit by Australia to build a factory to extract rare earth oxide from rare earth ore. Its plan to export rare earth ore to Malaysia therefore contradicts the permit terms.”
“What we would like to know is under what conditions will the Atomic Energy Licencing Board (AELB) be approving Lynas’ import permit for it to apply for an export permit in Australia.”
AELB approved Lynas’ temporary operating licence (TOL) on Feb 1 but repeatedly said that Lynas will have to apply for a separate permit to import rare earth ore into Malaysia.
When approached, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) issued a brief statement to FMT over the impact of this latest development on the TOL.
“I would like to respond that we base our assessment of projects on the merits of each case and approvals are granted when conditions are met,” read the statement from the office of Miti’s secretary-general Rebecca Sta Maria.
MB comes under fire
Tan meanwhile criticised Pahang Menteri Besar Adnan Yaacob for suggesting that Lynas’ waste be stored in disused mine shafts in Sungai Lembing.
Sungai Lembing, which is just 40km from Kuantan, is in close proximity to the community living along the Balok River and is also a main water catchment.
Tan warned that Adnan’s suggestion will ruin Sungai Lembing and return it to its post mining doom just as it managed to turn itself around into a tourist destination.
“We are appalled by the MB’s ludicrous and damaging suggestion,” he said. “Australia will be getting RM55 million in taxes from Lynas each year and all we will get is Lynas’ toxic waste and pollution.”
“Adnan is not fit to be Pahang’s menteri besar if he puts the need of a foreign company who pays no tax over the health and welfare of the state.”
Lynas’ TOL is attached to five conditions, one of which states that Lynas has to provide a location and detailed plans for its proposed Permanent Disposal Facility. To date no location has been formally announced.
Miti’s Minister Mustapa Mohamed yesterday said that Lynas has given the government a letter of undertaking to send its rare earth residue abroad if it can’t find a suitable waste disposal site in Malaysia.
But Tan questioned why Miti is standing in the place of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) in issuing statements on the “nitty-gritty” details of licence.
“Miti’s main function is foreign direct investment and not details of a licence,” he pointed out. “These details fall under the purview of Mosti and AELB so why is the former keeping silent?”