Lynas chief regrets underestimating netizens

1:03PM Jul 2, 2012

Lynas Corp’s chief executive officer Nicholas Curtis has admitted that he had underestimated the power of social media in mounting resistance against the company’s controversial rare earth plant in Gebang, Kuantan.

In a report in Bloomberg today, Curtis (right) told the news agency that he should have dealt more strongly with the challenge on Facebook and Twitter, and earlier.

“I’d have dealt with the emerging community debate by the social media a little bit more intensely, a little bit earlier,” Bloomberg reported him saying.

“We probably didn’t recognise the power of the social media to create an issue,” he was quoted as saying in a phone interview.

Bloomberg reported that as a result, “Lynas is now counting the cost as thousands of tonnes of unprocessed raw materials pile up at its Mount Weld mine in Western Australia while it waits for a promised refining permit”.

Curtis said the delays in its permit was costing the company significantly and worrying its customers.

He added that the company has no other means to refine the ore outside Gebeng, nor has it a backup plan for such an eventuality.

Plans for new conditions submitted

Meanwhile, Lynas said it has submitted its plans to the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) over two new conditions that it had to satisfy to obtain its Temporary Operating Licence (TOL).

“Lynas has lodged plans with the AELB to satisfy two new conditions so that the Temporary Operating Licence can be issued,” it said it a posting on its Facebook page today.

The Ministry of Science and Technology (Mosti) had imposed two additional conditions for Lynas to fulfill for its TOL, as its response to anti-Lynas groups’ apeal to the ministry to halt the licence altogether.

The first condition is to come up with a mechanism to stop “radioactive elements in its waste to prevent these from spreading to the surrounding areas”.

The second is an “emergency response plan to contain dust created by radioactive residue disposal facilities from spreading into the atmosphere and surrounding areas”.

Lynas’ critics are however unimpressed with the new conditions, saying they posed no guarantee that the plans would be followed through.

And while the highly criticised parliamentary select committee (PSC) on the issue had requested AELB ensure that Lynas’ waste would be shipped out of the country, the board has only managed to reply that it “could not confirm” the matter.

“I cannot confirm yet because Lynas has not submitted (its disposal plans) actually, because they are not required to do so until the TOL has been issued,” said an AELB officer last week.

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