Home Civil Society Voices 2011 Civil Society Voices Lynas, a recalcitrant corporation

Lynas, a recalcitrant corporation

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How long is the Government prepared to tolerate Lynas Corporation’s recalcitrant behaviour, wonders the Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) team.

Earlier this month, International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed slammed Lynas Corporation for “jumping the gun” by repeatedly pre-empting the government approval through giving unrealistically early start dates for the controversial Lynas Advance Materials Plant (Lamp) near Kuantan.

Mustapa’s statement was clear. He said “They have no business to pre-empt the (Atomic Energy Licensing) board. No business at all to issue these kind of statements and we have reprimanded them.”

Not only has Lynas not shown any remorse or restraint, it has once again spit on our government’s face through its latest media stunt. In its attempt to boost its investors’ and shareholders’ confidence leading up to its 30 November 2011 AGM in Sydney, Lynas yet again pre-empted the issuing of the pre-operating licence and projected an early production date for Lamp.

“This is an affront to the Malaysian Government,” said Dr Phua, the acting chairman for SMSL. “Clearly, we have just witnessed how blatantly arrogant Lynas is. It has no respect for our government and the people of Malaysia. How can we risk our future with this company?”

SMSL has the following critical questions for the government:

  • How can our government tolerate this kind of behaviour and disrespect?
  • If Lynas disregards our Government’s warning now, how can we trust that it will not be even more defiant and arrogant once the operating licence is issued?
  • Is MB Adnan Yaakob trying to race the Pahang economy to be on par with the Greek financial crisis by agreeing to use state funds to purchase houses from residents worried about the rare earth project?

“By continuing to tolerate Lynas’ defiance, Malaysians are showing up our own weakness and compromising our sovereign rights to enforce law and order. The people of Malaysia have genuine concerns about the Lynas project. The government needs to act with prudence and exercise its duty of care for its citizens by going hard on Lynas, not to tolerate insults from a foreign company.”

“The government should show Lynas we mean business and that we have the means to determine if the plant is up to scratch to operate. The government must halt the construction of Lamp whilst facilitating an independent team of engineers and experts with the relevant skills and experience to audit Lamp. Only that will help us restore some confidence in our government.”

Last week, Lynas pressed the government to issue a two-year pre-operating licence despite not having presented a safe and effective long-term management plan acceptable to all. To date, the public has not been consulted even though this is one of the conditions Lynas needs to fulfil to get its licence.

So far, Lynas has not come up with a satisfactory long-term waste management plan as recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency and agreed to by the Malaysian Government. Issuing a pre-operating licence now will mean the government has turned its back on the IAEA, rendering the already weak safeguard ineffective in protecting the nation’s own future and safety.

Lynas by asking for a pre-operating licence when all it has built are three open ponds to store the radioactive hazardous waste is an insult to our intelligence and safety standards.

In Australia, Lynas would not have been allowed to build the plant without an approved waste management plan.

In Australia, Lamp as it is would have been closed down and any approval issued previously withdrawn by the government for breaches of state and federal laws!

Is our life in Malaysian worth less than the Australians for Lynas to behave so badly and so arrogantly in Malaysia?

Shonky construction of Lamp

Further, the public has no way of knowing if the plant is safe since the revelation in the late June New York Times article that a rushed deadline has resulted in shonky construction and serious structural defects.

“Given the corrosive substances involved in rare earth processing, any construction defect will lead to serious leaks and contamination problems.

“The Government must carry out a full independent engineering audit of the plant before even attempting to consider the licensing issue.

“We simply cannot trust Lynas to do the right thing,” concluded Phua.

The revelation and expose by Lynas’ own insiders to the New York Times are serious problems which would affect the reliability and safety of Lamp.

Only a full independent engineering audit will be able to uncover all of the problems. We fear that Lynas will continue to flaunt basic engineering procedure and lower safety standards in its race to produce rare earth oxides to capture its market share.

“What we have in our backyard is the world’s largest rare earth plant with a massive waste problem to tackle and pollution risks. This is not to be overlooked by either the authorities or the people.

“Two of our country’s most esteemed professional bodies – the MMA and the Bar Council – have both publicly issued warnings to the government on this project. They do not do this lightly as they have a duty of care for the people and for our country, just like us ordinary citizens who also have our duty of care for our country and our family and ourselves.”

Supporters of the Stop Lynas campaign will be staging a peaceful action at the Lynas AGM in Sydney on 30 November from 10.00am to noon.

We hope to use this platform to explain to shareholders of Lynas why we are so strongly opposed to this rare earth plant in our backyard.

We will urge shareholders of Lynas Corporation to re-assess their investment risks and divest from Lynas.

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