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Lynas: A most important point appears forgotten

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Australian Quarantine Officers may even seize a traveller’s footwear if mud or earth is found on the sole or side of the footwear, but here we are on the verge of allowing tons of Australian rare earth concentrate to enter Malaysian territory, observes tctai.

A Lynas stockpile of rare earth at Mount Weld in Laverton, Western Australia - Photograph: theanchorsite.com

All the information and public protests with regard to the Lynas project in the last three or four months appear to focus on the dangers of radiation and radioactive waste.

Based on what I have read in the mass media, I am in full agreement with the concerns that have been raised and the protests that have taken place opposing the approval of the Lynas proposal.

But I suspect that the Australians must be laughing at us, in particular the Malaysian authorities, over a matter that has not yet been raised and discussed openly.

This concerns the danger of importing foreign soil and earth that contains not only radioactive material but also potentially infested insects and diseases into Malaysia! Am I being unnecessarily alarmist? Or is there another potential danger here?

Australia is one of the countries that apply strict rules and regulations to protect its multimillion-dollar agricultural industry. Visitors who attempt to import fresh fruits, plants and plant products, eggs or egg products, meat or meat products, live animals, etc into Australia are severely dealt with by Australian Quarantine Officers. These items are restricted and would be confiscated at the point of entry into the country.

The Australians are worried that, the importing of, among others, fruit-flies, fungi and spores from outside the country could ruin and destroy local farmland, orchards and the cattle industry. Such concern extends to the level where, at any entry point into Australia, Australian Quarantine Officers may even seize a traveller’s footwear if mud or earth is found on the sole or side of the shoes.

In this regard, have the experts and authorities from the Malaysian Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry, or for that matter from Lynas Corp itself, thought through how they are going to ensure that the millions of tons of rare earth concentrate that will be imported from Australia to Malaysia will not endanger the well-being of the local agricultural industry?

The imported earth may contain living organisms, insects, fungi, and spores which might be harmless to native Australian plants and livestock but might be very detrimental to local flora and fauna species, the millions of hectares of oil palm land, fruit plantations, paddy fields, and our jungles and forests. Worse, these Australian spores and fungi may even mutate under Malaysian conditions and then threaten or endanger our agricultural industry, our local wild-life and even the physical well-being of Malaysians.

I’m perplexed why the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry is keeping so silent on the Lynas issue and has not yet issued a statement about such potential danger. The public deserves a clarification from the Malaysian agricultural authorities too.

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