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FMT: Renewal of Lynas licence prompts questions from activist

The Lynas rare earths processing plant at the Gebeng industrial estate in Kuantan. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: An environmentalist has asked the government to explain what it will do if Lynas Corp fails to meet the conditions it has set for extending the company’s licence to operate its rare earths processing factory in Gebeng.

“How will Lynas be penalised?” said Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil in an interview with FMT.

The Atomic Energy Licensing Board announced yesterday it was renewing Lynas’ licence for six months on condition that it move its cracking and leaching process out of the country and that it identify a site on which to construct a permanent disposal facility.

Shariffa Sabrina also asked how the government would monitor Lynas to ensure compliance with the conditions and what would happen to the radioactive water leach purification residue currently stored at a temporary facility.

“And what happens after the six months have passed?”

She said the government’s insistence that Lynas move its cracking and leaching facility had “put to rest any argument that the waste materials generated are not harmful” to humans and the natural environment.

“Peka views this development as a vindication of what environmental groups and other objectors to Lynas have been highlighting. Lynas is detrimental to our environment and should cease operations in Malaysia.”

She said Lynas, if it was sincere about allaying environmental concerns, would not only comply with the conditions but would “go beyond the stated measures” to put the concerns to rest.

“Unfortunately, the company remains adamant that its operations are safe and do not harm the environment in any way.

“We therefore urge the government to step up its efforts to bring this environmental issue to a close by not issuing another renewal after the six-month period is up, and by terminating all activities by Lynas before an environmental disaster happens.”

Should anything go wrong with Lynas, she added, it would dwarf recent environmental disasters such as the pollution of Sungai Kim Kim in Johor.

“Its negative impact will be much more severe and longer lasting than any tragedy we have faced before and it is something Malaysians must avoid at all costs,” she said. “We must learn our lesson before it is too late.”

Another activist, Ecotourism and Conservation Society CEO Andrew Sebastian, denounced the government for reneging on its election promise to stop Lynas from operating in Malaysia.

He said it was now up to civic groups to take the government to task.

He proposed that NGOs insist on being involved in identifying a permanent disposal facility for Lynas’ waste and said they and anti-Lynas MPs should protest to get the government to agree to this.

“We must ensure no more leeway concessions are given to Lynas if it’s unable to follow through on the conditions that have been set,” he said.

“We cannot trust the government of the day anymore.”

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