KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 – Local grassroots movements remain unconvinced by Lynas Corp and Putrajaya’s vow to manage waste from the Australian miner’s controversial rare earth plant in Kuantan, demanding today that the firm reveal a detailed disposal plan or face a “fight to the end”.
Two weeks ago, Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) issued a temporary operating licence (TOL) to Lynas despite widespread protests, but added that the Australian miner was legally bound to remove radioactive waste from its plant and return the residue to Australia.
Lynas had applied to Australia to “import material” from the plant although Canberra’s policy is to reject radioactive waste, an Australian diplomat reportedly said last Friday.
Wong Tack, chairman of local environment group Himpunan Hijau, gave a stern warning to Lynas, saying that: “Unless you have very clear plans, we will not allow you to have anything coming in.”
“People have decided we don’t want this industry in our country.”
“Pack and go or we’ll fight to the end,” Wong said, despite another anti-Lynas group’s recent unsuccessful bid at the Court of Appeal for permission for a judicial review of the TOL decision.
He also said there were a number of unresolved questions over the proposed export of Lynas’s waste.
“Which port are you going through? How are you going to pack it? How are you going to transport it? How long are they going to store before they ship it back?”
Tan Bun Teet, the chairman of Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL), agreed. “It is ludicrous that government of Malaysia issued the TOL to Lynas when we don’t even know how Lynas is going to manage the solid waste and there are many outstanding issues.”
“It’s very risky for Malaysia to allow plans that will produce so much waste in our country when we don’t how Lynas is going to deal with them safely and in a practical way,” Tan said.
“SMSL would like to know every detail because the public has the right to know and we would like to scrutinise every proposal that Lynas is putting out to make sure they are viable and safe.”
Tan said that SMSL will take all possible legal actions to contest the TOL and to exert political pressure to stop this project.
Stop Lynas Coalition’s (SLC) chairman Andansura Rabu echoed Wong’s views, saying that it similarly wanted to learn of Lynas’s actual plans.
“We would like to see detailed plans of what they are going to do before they are allowed to process and operate,” Andansura said.
He said that the coalition is “sceptical” of Lynas’s “implementation” of its plans, whether it would involve turning waste into commercial products or sending waste back to Australia.
Although SLC is agreeable to both ideas, Andansura said they remain unconvinced of Lynas’s assurance.
“It’s a huge amount of waste… messy to handle the waste and export,” he pointed out.
The TOL Lynas received two weeks ago from Malaysian authorities has paved the way for its rare earth plant to begin operations despite widespread public protests over safety and environmental concerns.
Lynas said that it would begin transporting and completing all steps to prepare enriching the rare earth ore mined in Australia by October.
The TOL allows Lynas to operate for a period of two years beginning September 3.
The AELB had emphasised that Lynas must adhere to all requirements and conditions imposed by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation through the Atomic Energy Licensing Act.
Two weeks ago, five Kuantan residents were given the Kuantan High Court’s nod to challenge the science, technology and innovation minister’s decision to award a TOL to the Australian miner.
Last week, SLC had failed in its bid to get leave from the Court of Appeal for a separate judicial review of AELB’s decision to grant a TOL to Lynas.