We welcome the decision taken by the science, technology and innovation minister to maintain the four conditions attached to the operating licence issued to Lynas on 3 March 2020.
We call upon the “unity government” to remain firm on the decisions announced on 15 February by Minister Chang Lih Kang.
Lynas has been operating in Kuantan since September 2012 with a tax exemption of 12 years.
The operation of the “Lynas Advanced Materials Plant” (LAMP) uses large quantities of water in its extraction processes.
Local Kuantan residents have since complained about frequent cuts and interruptions to their water supply.
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What worried them even more is the direct discharge of waste water from the plant into their waterway, the Balok River.
Experiments with plans to recycle the solid wastes, including the radioactive water leached purification residues, have drawn criticisms and objections from well-informed local communities.
The review by an executive review committee reported instances of underground water pollution and the inadequacy of data to justify the recycling proposal. The real motive behind the proposal and its implementation remained questionable.
Lynas’s presence in Malaysia has drawn strong protests and objections from the local communities.
Their deep concern is further magnified by the lack of transparency in radioactive waste management, effective engagement and communication with stakeholders – measures recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Each year, LAMP produces rare earth oxides of over 11,000 tonnes for export. The recent spike in demand for rare earth has enabled Lynas to pull through a critical financial crisis, as they have been exempted from paying any tax to the Malaysian government.
In the press conference today, Minister Chang revealed that LAMP has generated 1.1 million tonnes of radioactive waste to date, and they are still waiting to be safely disposed of.
Lynas is a reminder of the Asia Rare Earth saga, which happened 30 years ago in Perak. After the factory closed their operations, it left behind an environmental mess.
The Bukit Merah rare earth metal processing site clean-up has been the largest radiation clean-up so far in the world’s rare earth industry.
The instances above show clearly that drastic measures need to be taken to ensure that local communities’ interests and their health are safeguarded.
The toxic waste left behind in Malaysia will last for thousands of years. We must not bargain away the wellbeing of future generations for short-term financial gains today.
We reiterate our firm support for the government to ensure that Lynas complies with and upholds the terms and conditions for its continued operation in Malaysia. – GBM
Stanley Yong Yew Wei is chairperson of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM), a multi-ethnic and multi-religious coalition of civil society groups. This statement was issued on behalf of the GBM executive council