Home Civil Society Voices Lynas must prioritise people’s safety and environment – NGOs

Lynas must prioritise people’s safety and environment – NGOs

File photo: A Himpunan Hijau protest in Kuantan against the Lynas rare earth refinery

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We [the undersigned] welcome the government’s move in not giving in to pressure by Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd to revoke the previous operating conditions imposed in 2020, most importantly regarding the shifting of the cracking and leaching process (which involves radioactive material) to outside of Malaysia.

First, we would like to remind Lynas, sovereignty is a fundamental principle of international relations that emphasises a state’s independence and ability to exercise its authority without external interference.

The Malaysian government has the right to regulate companies operating within its borders, including imposing conditions on their permit renewal. By imposing conditions on the permit renewal, Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation is asserting its jurisdiction over Lynas’s operations in Malaysia. This is important for protecting Malaysia’s interests, including its environment and the wellbeing of its citizens.

Moreover, under international law, there are several principles that Lynas should agree to. One of the most important principles is the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle is enshrined in various international environmental agreements and is aimed at preventing harm to the environment and human health.

In the case of Lynas, the potential risks associated with the company’s operations, such as the production of radioactive waste and its disposal, pose a potential threat to the environment and human health. Therefore, the government has a duty to ensure that Lynas operates in a way that minimises such risks.

Another principle that is relevant to the Lynas permit renewal issue is the “polluter-pay” principle. This principle requires that the entity responsible for creating pollution is held accountable for the cost of preventing and mitigating the pollution. In the case of Lynas, the company must take steps to reduce the risks associated with its operations and be responsible for any environmental damage or harm to human health caused by its activities.

READ MORE:  Lanjutan lesen operasi Lynas: SAM kecewa dengan kerajaan (Malay/English)

Besides, international law also recognises the principle of public participation in environmental decision-making. This principle requires that the public has access to information, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes that affect their environment and health.

Many experts and organisations have expressed concerns about the potential environmental and health risks associated with the Lynas rare earth processing plant in Malaysia, especially the cracking and leaching process.

In response to these concerns, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation has imposed strict conditions on the renewal of Lynas’ operating license, including requirements for the company to manage and dispose radioactive waste safely. These conditions are crucial to ensure that the operations of the Lynas plant do not harm the environment or the health of nearby communities. It is important for the ministry to prioritise the safety of the people and the environment over the financial interests of the company.

Lynas should understand that the government has a crucial obligation under [the UN] sustainable development goals [specificially] goals 11 and 12 to ensure sustainable and responsible management of hazardous waste, particularly in the case of Lynas’ operating license renewal. This includes upholding international standards and regulations for waste management, implementing effective monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, and promoting transparency and stakeholder engagement to ensure the safety and wellbeing of local communities and the environment.

It is imperative that the government takes these obligations seriously and prioritises the protection of public health and the environment over any economic considerations.

We would like Lynas to remember international guidelines too. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has guidelines for multinational enterprises, that Lynas should comply with applicable environmental laws and regulations and respect the rights of local communities. The EU is known for its high environmental and safety standards.

READ MORE:  Lanjutan lesen operasi Lynas: SAM kecewa dengan kerajaan (Malay/English)

The decision by the ministry to impose conditions on Lynas’ permit renewal can be seen as a move towards meeting EU standards. Lynas should know the EU has strict regulations on the production and disposal of hazardous waste, including rare earth elements。

Lynas should know that the UN is aware of and recognises the issue of exploitation of third world countries. The exploitation of third world countries is a significant global concern that affects the economic, social, and environmental wellbeing of these nations.

It is essential for governments [including Malaysia’s] to take steps to ensure that companies operating within their borders do not exploit the environment and people of these countries.

The conditions imposed on Lynas’ permit renewal by the ministry can be viewed as a positive step in this direction. The conditions can also serve to safeguard the interests of the local population and the environment.

It is essential to ensure that companies do not exploit third world countries. The conditions imposed by the ministry can be viewed as a positive step towards ensuring that Lynas operates safely and sustainably, while preventing exploitation of the country’s environment and people.

Therefore, it is reasonable and necessary for the ministry to impose conditions on Lynas’ permit renewal issue.

Initiated by: Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor, Kuala Lumpur dan Perak

Endorsed by:

  • Agora Society Malaysia
  • Aliran
  • Cerah Clear Skies Society
  • Engage Network
  • Johor Yellow Flame (JYF)
  • Kryss Network
  • Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet)
  • Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation (Maju)
  • Meriah JB
  • Payday Men’s Network (UK/US)
  • Persatuan Kebajiakan Gemilang JB
  • Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor, Kuala Lumpur dan Perak
  • Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
  • Progressive Charity Association, Kuantan
  • Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa)
  • Safety and Rights Society
  • Save Malaysia Stop Lynas
  • Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  • Student Progressive Front UUM
  • Suara Siswa UUM
  • Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  • Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  • Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
  • Treat Every Environment Special
  • Youth Era
The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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