By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 — While Putrajaya and Lynas Corp say an international panel has found the Australian miner’s rare earth refinery safe, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh is insisting that the report has raised several questions over the RM700 million plant in Gebeng.
The PKR vice president said the panel led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) only stated it was “not able to identify any non-compliance” with international safety standards and also outlined “10 issues for which it considered that improvements were necessary.”
“All the data was submitted by Lynas so of course there is no non-compliance. If you read between the lines, the report contradicts itself, where it qualifies that there are many areas which are doubtful,” she told The Malaysian Insider today.
Fuziah (picture below), who has led the charge against the plant, said the report recommended that the Australian miner submit a plan for long term waste management before operations began, an issue that has been at the centre of protests by local residents and environmentalists.
She added that the report said that the government must ensure that local regulators Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) “has sufficient human, financial and technical resources, competence and independence.”
The opposition lawmaker also pointed out that the report recommended that AELB develop criteria to declare gasses from the refining process as non-radioactive, indicating that there was still no indication if the gasses were radioactive or not.
Lynas said today that it expects the 11 recommendations set out in the report to be met by the end of the year, allowing it to begin selling the rare earth metals by the beginning of 2012.
The Australian miner has said that its plant — which will extract rare earth metals crucial for high-technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and wind turbines — will create a RM4 billion multiplier effect annually and will hire 350 skilled workers, 99 per cent of whom will be Malaysians.
Although reports say the plant may earn RM8 billion for Lynas, more than one per cent of the Malaysian GDP, critics have questioned the real economic benefit of the project, pointing to the 12-year tax break the Australian company will enjoy due to its pioneer status.
The federal government defended the Lynas project as a “strategic industry” for Malaysia in spite of the fears of radiation pollution that it has raised among local residents and environmentalists.
It had previously estimated investment spinoffs of RM2.3 billion from the plant, including the RM300 million already poured into two factories in the Gebeng industrial zone that will produce hydrochloric and sulphuric acid needed to extract the rare earth metals.