The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) were initially gravely concerned over reports in the media today that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that Malaysia will allow Australian rare earths producer, Lynas Corp to keep operating its rare earths processing plant in Gebeng, Pahang.
We are now appeased after YB Yeo Bee Yin, Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) clarified that Australian rare earth refiner Lynas Corp will still have to resolve the issue of radioactive waste produced at its plant in Pahang before it is allowed to continue operations.
CAP and SAM calls on the Malaysian Government to be steadfast in its earlier decision not to renew the licence of the Lynas plant which expires in September this year, if the radioactive wastes are not removed from the country and that any future imports of the rare-earth material is free from radioactive material.
The Malaysian Government must not give in to the pressures of the industry at the expense of the health and safety of the people and the environment.
As we have stressed many times, the radioactive elements in the wastes from rare-earth processing involves thorium and uranium, which are radioactive and remain so in the environment for thousands and billions of years are very difficult to store safely.
In December 2018, in a reply to Lynas workers, YB Yeo Bee Yin, Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), said that Lynas Corporation Ltd., Australia (Lynas Australia) and Lynas Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. (Lynas Malaysia) had twice (through 2 letters in February and March 2012) undertaken to remove Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) residue from Malaysia.
We are glad that the Cabinet had decided to let YB Yeo to go personally to Australiato seek a solution to this grave issues. The dialogue with the Australian government should also include matter of taking back the current Lynas waste which is radioactive and in ensuring that any materials which come from the Lynas operations in Mount Weld in future are not radioactive if they are to be sent to Malaysia for further processing.
The health and safety of the Malaysian public and the environment must not be sacrificed for the sake of the rare-earth industry and other industries which depend on rare-earths.
Since rare-earth processing cannot be done safely without compromising the safety and health of communities who live nearby and the environment, it is best that they are not processed at all and alternative substitutes are sought.
Any investment in the country must be safe and environmentally sound. Malaysia cannot be a dumping ground for dangerous, hazardous and toxic technologies and industries.
We call on the Malaysian Government to be transparent on any decision over the Lynas plant operations. Allowing the operations to continue will be disastrous as it is detrimental to public safety and health, and the environment.
Mohideen Abdul Kader,
Acting President, CAP and