Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Waste plans innovative but would you bet the public's safety on them?

Lynas' Waste Plans A Toxic Pipe Dream



Scientists and community leaders are concerned about radioactive waste from Lynas' Malaysian plant but the company representative who took Wendy Bacon's questions brushed off the criticism
This is the second of two articles about Lynas by Wendy Bacon. Read the first here.
Australian rare earth company Lynas has always known it had a waste problem. It plans to process rare earth concentrate, imported from its mine at Mount Weld in Western Australia, at its Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Malaysia. It will not only produce rare earths for export but also a huge amount of waste, including more than a million cubic metres of low level radioactive material.
Lynas was originally going to build its LAMP plant in China, which produces more than 90 per cent of global rare earths. But according to its 2007 annual report, it decided to move to Malaysia, because the Chinese government was increasing its control over production, including applying environmental standards more strictly. Lax regulation had led to what a Chinese government white paper described this year as extensive emissions of radioactive residues and heavy metals, clogged rivers, environmental pollution emergencies and accidents causing "great damage to people’s safety and health and the ecological environment".
Lynas was attracted to Malaysia because it was offered tax free status for 10 years. Its first choice was a site in the state of Terangganu where it quickly received necessary construction approvals. Then the Malaysian government asked Lynas to move south to the Gegang industrial estate which was built on a reclaimed swamp, 2.5 kilometres from the port of Kuantan in Pahang. Although the new land cost $30 million rather than $5 million, the company reported that it "had little choice but to accept this", and in any case the infrastructure at the new site was better as it was close to petrochemical plants. For its cooperation, Lynas’s tax holiday, which included all imports and dividends, was topped up to 12 years. The company told the sharemarket that it would start producing rare earths by June 2009.
New environmental approval documents were filed in January 2008. It took only five weeks for the state and local council environment departments and the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board to give the company a construction license. It is clear from the documentation that at this stage the company had only temporary plans for waste storage, had not addressed the possibility that future events including flooding could affect the safety of the site, or selected a permanent waste facility. Despite the delays, shareholders were told that production would still start in 2009. As 2012 ends, the plant — which will take months to become fully operational — received its first rare earth concentrate several weeks ago.
There is an emphasis in the the company’s glossy investor presentations and annual reports of the sustainability of its products, which are necessary for the operation of almost all electronics — from smart phones to missiles. However, there was little mention of the waste — or "residue", as Lynas prefers to call it.
Lynas and its supporters assert its operations are completely safe, but as NM reportedon Monday, others — including scientists — are less confident. Lynas relies on an IAEAreport that found it had complied with international standards in its construction phase, but needed to do more prior to operating. Lynas told New Matilda that since the IAEAreport, it has taken the "additional safety step" of placing "hydrated residues in safe, reliably engineered, elevated storage cells that are designed so that there is no possibility for any leakage of material into the environment". These storage cells will be monitored by Lynas and the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB).
The IAEA also recommended that Lynas proceed no further until it had filed comprehensive plans for the permanent disposal of waste, decommissioning of the plant and remediation of the site at the end of its life. The AELB and Lynas issued a joint statement mid-way through last year stating that this work would be done before any rare earths could be imported. But then, earlier this year, the AELB jumped the gun by granting a temporary operating license which gave the company 10 months to come up with these plans. This temporary operating license was then delayed as a result of court action until November.
Shutting Down the Critics
New Matilda asked to interview the Lynas Executive Chairperson Nick Curtis but he was not available. Instead we interviewed a Lynas spokesperson who insists that the waste products of the LAMP project are "not hazardous in any way". He refers to the safety record of Lynas which in "all of its constructions … has been achieved with zero lost time injury."
When New Matilda suggested that problems are more likely to arise in the long term, even 20 or 30 years away, he replied: "I would be lying if I categorically tell you there is no risk in 20 or 30 years time from anything. What I can tell you is that the unanimous conclusion of all of the scientific experts from all of the different organisations that have investigated this material and everything else is that there will be no discernible risk for the public or anyone else from this facility."
But this is far from true.
For example, in April this year, the National Toxic Network (NTN), a community based network "working to ensure a toxic-free future for all", published a preliminary assessment of the waste steam of Lynas’s LAMP project. It was prepared by Lee Bell, a qualified environmental scientist with 20 years experience in analysis of industrial process plants, groundwater monitoring and contaminated sites. He co-chaired the Core Consultative Committee on Waste under the former Labor government in Western Australia, which reformed the state’s hazardous waste sector. Readers of his 29 pageNTN report (pdf), which was reviewed by another scientist, are likely to be concerned about the company’s environmental plans.
I asked Lynas’ spokesperson about the NTN report: "Whatever you think of it, it [the report] is a solid document. It appears to be academically referenced and it also appears to have had some form of review. If you read it, on a number of scores, you would be concerned?"
To which the Lynas spokesperson responded: "The relevant thing there is ‘appears to be’ that is a really interesting phrase … I take you to the disclaimer right at the end [of the report] — ‘Please note this information is provided as general information and comment should not be seen as professional advice’ — on the basis that it ‘appears to be well referenced’, that is a strange disclaimer to have." In response Bell explained the disclaimer is used to indicate the report is intended for public use. Most of Lynas’s reports on the other hand are not easily accessible.
The Lynas spokesman rejected an NTN claim that the LAMP’s location on a reclaimed swamp with a high rainfall is relevant to disposal of low level radioactive waste. Asked if he was aware it was a "marshy site", he said, "I have no idea". He explained that although there is a pristine fishing village and beach at Kuantan three and a half kilometres away on the coast, "if there is a risk there, it is much wider than just Lynas because the LAMP is in a petrochemical zone". In fact, the site is on a reclaimed peat swamp.
Bell doesn’t buy Lynas’ argument that their plant will be yet another structure in the petrochemical zone. "The area may well have been developed for petrochemical plants — but these do not have large tailings ponds full of low level radioactive material," he said. "Refineries usually dispose of their waste by on-site incineration or off-site disposal in stable geological areas. This is comparing chalk and cheese."
Discrediting sources is a familiar public relations tactic used by companies to protect themselves against journalists relying on their critics as sources. So NM asked if the company had prepared a response to the NTN report. The spokesperson said it had but it was "unfortunately contained material before a [Malaysian] court and I can’t share that with you".
The NTN report deals with LAMP waste steams which include non radioactive fluoride, dust particulates, gas, acidic waste water as well as more than 22,000 tonnes of low level Water Leach Purification (WLP) radioactive waste which a year. The most critical issue is the control and disposal of the WLP wastes — which for radioactive material may mean for many hundreds of years.
On the basis of specific criticisms, NTN has two main recommendations. First, that the temporary license issued by the AELB should be revoked until the issue of long term waste disposal is resolved and second, that the plant should not be allowed to operate until the release of mlliions of litres of effuent into the Balok River that runs past the site has been "further modelled and assessed".
"The lack of data on these issues (the impact on the river) means the Lynas EIA is well below international standards and insufficient for granting of operational licences," theNTN says; the LAMP temporary license would never have been granted in Australia.
Novel Solutions — But Will They Work?
Included among the documents filed for the January 2008 approval was a report prepared for Lynas by technical consultants Worley Parsons which revealed some innovative ideas for dealing with the permanent disposal problem.
Worley Parsons worked on the basis that there would more 800,000 cubic metres of the most radioactive WLP waste over 10 years. (The company has stated its mine will last for 20 years and more recently told New Matilda, 50 years). When other wastes were included, there would be 2.7 million cubic meters of waste that need permanent disposal over 10 years.
Lynas’s preferred option has always been to recycle as much of the waste as possible. If safe, recycling has environmental advantages but Worley Parson also noted that by-product production requires time and investment. It may also have little or no commercial value, although this may change over time. Neither Worley Parsons or Lynas have ever suggested that even if recycling options worked, they would account for all dangerous waste, which under a new Australian law for the disposal of radioactive waste cannot be imported back into Australia.
Worley Parsons reported that the WLP residues contain relatively high levels of the nutrients phosphorus and magnesium, which have potential agricultural uses, particularly for palm oil plantations. However, it might be hard to find buyers for fertiliser based on the recycled waste. This option has not been mentioned recently. Instead, the current preferred option is to dilute the radioactive material from 6 becquerals (Bq) to 1Bq and bury it as roadfill and in other civil engineering works.
While Lynas says it is confident in the current by-product plans, they are yet to be tested. Dr Peter Karamoskas, who has been a nuclear radiologist for 13 years and represents the Australian public on the Radiation Safety Committee of Australia’s nuclear safety agency shares none of that confidence.
Speaking on his own behalf, Karamoskas said that to be safe more than a million tons ofWLP residue with a radioactive reading of 6Bq have to be mixed with five times the amount of aggregate to reduce its reading to 1Bq. While he said that a similar process had been used in the Netherlands, the waste was far less radioactive, sitting near 1Bq, which is the threshold for safety.
Karamoskas said it has never been used with material with the LAMP WLP reading of 6Bq. He says that it is extremely unlikely to be a long term solution from a safety or economic point of view: "If this was all ready to go they would be trumpeting it in the public arena … already it looks slippery. If this was possible wouldn’t most countries around the world be doing it?" He thinks it is extremely unlikely that the road mix could be imported, other than to a country with "lax standards" because it would breach international best practice standards.
Karamoskas and the NTN operate on the precautionary principle used in European environmental regulation (and increasingly elsewhere) — you don’t go ahead until you have evidence that processes are safe, which in the case of Lynas is for thousands of years.
Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, a medical doctor and well respected Opposition socialist MP, wrote a long piece explaining the LAMP risks in Malaysian independent outlet Malaysiakini, "Is the anti-Lynas movement being unreasonable?"
"It has always been my belief that I should speak up for or against policies based on facts and principles, and not because of political expediency. To espouse something which is not true or which you do not believe in, just to make you or your party popular amounts to misleading the public and reflects a lack of respect for the public! … We should practice the "precautionary principle". If there is a risk that a particular course of action might bring adverse effects, then one should consider not embarking on that action unless there are very compelling reasons for doing so.
Lynas badmouths its critics for exaggerating LAMP safety risks, while at the same time, its own supporters exaggerate the level of safety. This week, former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed was widely reported in the Malaysian media after he slammed the critics of the project, saying the nation needed to accept that it was not harmful.
"Rare earth is not dangerous like nuclear … rare earth is not yet known to cause diseases among users of its end product," he told a Chemical Industries Council of Malaysia (CICM) dinner. The former PM seems not to understand that it is the waste from the rare earth processing, not the rare earths themselves that are radioactive. Even in Malaysia itself, the dangers of rare earth waste are well known because of tragic environmental and health damage at Bukit Merah, the site of an old Mitsubishi plant.
In the commercial world, the precautionary principle is not playing. "Resolving the residue disposal is a risk down the track," Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Terry told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last week, adding that the company’s priority in the coming months should be on getting the plant up and running and completing its first sales. The WSJ reported that Lynas has already been forced to raise A$175 million in the past month to help fund the ramp-up of output. It is also entering a much softer rare earth market than what was seen globally 12 months ago.
As Karamoskas put it, the Malaysian public should not rely on Lynas staying in business for the long haul. It needs "credible long term plans" because if Lynas does not stay in business, "the Malaysian public will be left to deal with its problems for thousands of years".
Lynas has sued members of the Save Malaysia Stop Lynas campaign  for defaming the company. This case will be heard early next year along with an appeal against the lifting of the stay on the licence and another application for a judicial review of the granting of the license lodged yesterday.
Wendy Bacon is a Contributing Editor to New Matilda, a Professor with theAustralian Centre for Independent Journalism, an activist, media researcher and blogger at WendyBacon.com She is on the board of the Pacific Media Centre.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

What sort of waste plan would you want if Lynas LAMP was coming to your community?

The Toxic Waste That's Not In Our Back Yard

Australian-owned company Lynas is quietly shipping rare earth to a processing plant in Malaysia - without a firm plan in place to dispose of dangerous radioactive waste. Wendy Bacon reports
If a manufacturing plant involving radioactive materials moved into your community, one of the first things you would ask is, "what’s going to happen to the waste?"
This is exactly how residents of Kuantan on Malaysia’s east coast reacted when the Australian company Lynas announced plans to build LAMP, the world’s biggest rare earth processing plant in their area.
Several years later, they have no clear answer. Indeed last week, while the plant that will use concentrate imported from Lynas’s rare earth mine at Mount Weld in Western Australia was finally ramping up for production, the Malaysian Government and the company were in direct conflict about what would happen to the waste.
On 8 November, after two years of delays caused by court challenges and inquiries, a halt on a temporary licence granted to protesting citizens in September was lifted. Five days later, Lynas secretly moved 100 containers of rare earth concentrate from a depot at Bilbra Lake and quietly shipped them through Fremantle Port. The containers were unloaded and delivered under police escort to the $800 million plant on 22 November.
But last week, four Malaysian government ministers backed by the entire cabinet declared that Lynas’s temporary licence will be cancelled if it does not fulfill a condition to export all radioactive waste from Malaysia. Lynas was forced to call a share trading halt claiming that there is no such condition in its licence, which at this stage is not public. By the end of last week, Lynas’s share price fell further to 55 cents, down from $1.21 this time last year.
The 17 rare earth elements are used in many products including mobile phones, flatscreens, missiles and wind turbines. All environmental experts agree that mining, refining and recycling rare earths can have serious, long term consequences if not carefully managed, specifically because the elements are found with thorium, which is mildly radioactive. Ninety-six per cent of global production currently occurs in China, where mines and plants have caused serious environmental degradation.
Lynas continually asserts that their plant is "absolutely safe," but confusion and insufficient planning for waste disposal has sparked local opposition. The campaign includes grassroots campaigning group Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL), local members of parliament, the Malaysian Green party, Australian Greens MPs and members and Friends of the Earth Australia. Even the Malaysian bar council hosted an event at which an engineering professor and lawyers opposing to the plant spoke. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has pledged the opposition would scrap the plant if it wins national polls next year.
For two years in a row, SMSL delegations from Kuantan have protested outside Lynas’s annual general meeting, spoiling executive chairman Nick Curtis’s attempts to soothe his anxious shareholders. The delegation’s leader, Tan Bun Teet, recently spoke at a NSWparliamentary reception hosted by Greens MP Jamie Parker held after the 20 November meeting. He lives near the plant and told attendees he was angry Curtis had led shareholders to believe the campaign against the plant was small.
Any misunderstandings about the strength of opposition to the plant were resolved when the delegation arrived home to join the last day of a 300 kilometre protest walk from Kuantan to Kuala Lumpar, which by the time it reached the capital had swelled to 20,000 people. When SMSL discovered Lynas had successfully smuggled the concentrate into the plant while they were gone, they issued an angry press statement, saying:
"Lynas must be desperately worried to be doing this secretly. At its AGM on Tuesday in Sydney I was there just to hear its executive chairman Nick Curtis [tell] its shareholders that the Stop Lynas campaign in Malaysia consist of just 10 people! If we are so weak and ineffective, why try to gag us through a defamation action, why ship its ore concentrate in such secrecy and at night using police escort?" (The company, which has already settled two defamation writs with Malaysian media outlets, is suing members of the SMSL campaing.)
Lynas managing director Nick Curtis was not available for interview, but a company spokesperson told New Matilda that the arrival of the containers was kept secret because of threats by green groups to blockade the shipment. Local authorities organised the police escort without a request from Lynas, the spokesperson said.
In asserting the safety of its operations, Lynas continually relies on a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, commissioned by the Malaysian Government in 2011. The report confirmed that the plant had complied with Malaysian regulations, which meet international standards. But a closer examination of the report’s findings is not reassuring. The agency found that the Malaysian Government — which had allowed the company to begin construction without long term, permanent plans for its waste — needed to be strengthened so that it could effectively regulate the industry.
It recommended that the company lodge its intended plans for long term storage of waste, waste disposal and for decommissioning the plant at end of its life. This crucial information had been omitted from previous company Radiation Impact Assessments compiled in 2008 and 2010. As the plant’s opponents were quick to point out, no company would have been allowed to begin construction before this information was lodged and independently assessed in Australia.
Shortly after the agency’s report came out, the New York Times reported that documents supplied to them by Lynas engineers showed structural cracks, air pockets and leaks in concrete shells for 70 containment tanks that would hold toxic plant materials. They were also critical of the materials used to construct the tanks.
The Lynas spokesman dismissed the engineers’ complaints in the New York Times article, saying: "The reality is that any concrete construction will quite often have cracks when concrete dries, it’s normal and those cracks will subsequently get filled in when concrete dried. Any pockets would have been filled in before the leak proof lining that is put into the concrete … These are guaranteed by an independent contractor."
Lynas company documents show that three weeks after the agency’s report came out it had filed the recommended plans with Malaysian authorities. But it is unclear how detailed these plans were and what exactly the company promised to do. Lynas told New Matilda that it has filed a Permanent Disposal Facility plan but that it is "commercially in confidence". New Matilda asked for a copy but did not receive one. Patersons Securities analyst Andrew Harrington was reported in The Australian last week to have told his investor clients that the licence did require a permanent disposal facility to be agreed between Lynas and the government but that this was still being discussed.
Lynas’s spokesperson says the residue contains naturally occurring radiation but this is much lower than minimum level occurring naturally in environment, and should not be described as hazardous
The company says it plans to transform the residue into synthetic gypsum for road building and other projects, a process being used successfully in the oil and gas industries, but yet to be done in the rare earth industry. "Lots of work has been done by a whole bunch of academic and commercial organisations as to whether this residual material is capable of being used in this work," the spokesperson said. "They are all very confident it will work." He said they have already had expressions of interest but he could not "say one way or the other … everything these guys say or do is blown up and is capable of being taken out of context".
The company had planned to sell at least some of the gypsum in Malaysia, if the government gives permission. Failing this, Lynas will pursue customers in Indonesia, the United States and Australia, but the company’s spokesperson declined to give further details on this matter. In any case, nothing more can be done until there is enough residue for pilot production.
Asked whether there are plans for safely decommissioning the plant, the spokesperson said this was really "academic" because there is enough raw material to keep the plant operating for 50 years. But the company has previously talked about a life of 20 years; if the plant operates for longer than that, the amount of radioactive waste, which can last for hundreds of years, will be much greater. Even if the plan to process the waste into secondary products is successful, there is no guarantee an export market for synthetic gypsum will be stable.
Given the company’s optimistic plans to produce gypsum, it is hard to understand why in March this year it applied to the South Australian government to import waste from the plant back into Australia. In answer to a question by Greens Senator Scott Ludlum on 30 October this year, senator Joe Ludwig, speaking on behalf of the Minister for Health, said that an application from Lynas was currently under consideration by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). "ARPANSA requested more information from Lynas Corporation on 2 April 2012," Ludwig said. "Lynas Corporation has yet to respond and the application cannot progress until the requested information is received."
The South Australian government would also have to approve the import of the waste. New Matilda has asked the company about this application and will report its answer tomorrow.
The International Atomic Energy Agency report also found that the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board should improve the transparency, visibility and public understanding of its approach to regulation and that Lynas should improve communication with residents and stakeholders. The company admitted that it had fallen down in that area and since the report was published, has done 15,000 community consultations and improved its information and monitoring plans.
Eighteen months later, as Malaysia’s burgeoning environmental movement gains confidence and the country heads towards its national elections in 2013, it is unlikely to win over its angry opponents. They remain unsatisfied that an untested recycling process should replace firm plans for safe permanent storage of waste for the life of the plant and afterwards. Even if Lynas makes all its plans and contingencies public it may be too late.
Lynas will be in court in Malaysia on 19 December. The SMSL campaigners will be appealing against the Kuantan High Court decision to lift its stay on the company being able to exercise its rights to proceed under the temporary licence.
Wendy Bacon is a Contributing Editor to New Matilda, a Professor with theAustralian Centre for Independent Journalism, an activist, media researcher and blogger at WendyBacon.com She is on the board of the Pacific Media Centre.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Kuantan MP: Lynas sets the tone, while BN dances to its tune

Lynas sets the tone, while BN dances to its tune ― Fuziah Salleh

DEC 12 ― When the four ministers issued a joint statement that Lynas’s waste must be exported out of Malaysia, Lynas was hit hard and had to halt its shares trading.

Some desperate politicians from the ruling government thought that they could salvage dwindling support for the government by reiterating that Lynas has to ship its waste back. The reason given that the government is not prepared to compromise on the health of its citizens was an opportunity not to be missed for some BN ministers who are desperate to win votes.

AELB knew very well that the export of radioactive waste is not allowed according to international law. Yet AELB put down a letter of undertaking from Lynas to remove its waste from Malaysia as a requirement of the temporary operating licence (TOL).

Knowing full well that this cannot happen, since Australia has made it very clear that they will not accept Lynas’s toxic radioactive waste, apart from the terms laid down by international law. However it was still put down as a requirement of the TOL. Certainly this clause is none other than an effort to hoodwink the anti-Lynas groups.

Interestingly, soon after the joint ministerial statement on December 10, which brought Lynas shares trading to a halt, Maximus Ongkili, the minister science, technology and innovation, came to Lynas’s rescue.

Even when Ongkili said yesterday that Lynas’s radioactive and toxic waste will have to be exported out of the country, he knew that technically it cannot happen. That is why Ongkili was quick to add that if the waste is commercialized, it can then be exported since it is no longer classified as hazardous materials.

Ongkili continued to say that Lynas can export waste materials that has been turned into commercial items termed co-products, provided that the radioactivity is reduced to less than 1 Bq|g. In doing so he openly admitted the fact (which I have stated all these while) about the plan by Lynas to dilute their radioactive waste. The process of dilution allows for the waste to be declassified from being labelled as radioactive.

In his haste the MOSTI minister must have forgotten the ‘plot’ that the letter of undertaking by Lynas to remove the waste out of the country was just a spin to pull the wool over the eyes of anti-Lynas groups.

When Mashal of Lynas openly admitted that international law does not allow for exportation of radioactive waste, he incidentally had called the bluff of the four ministers.

The guideline in the “Radioactive Waste Management Plan” put together by AELB in 2011, which is three years after Lynas was given licence to construct, was written in hindsight with the realization that our country indeed does NOT have a guideline for radioactive waste management, and some clause can be interpreted as facilitating Lynas in getting rid of its radioactive waste.

The guideline allows for dilution of the radioactive waste so that once it is declassified, from being labelled as radioactive, it can then be processed as commercial items.

Let us remind ourselves that if Lynas were to operate their plant in Australia, they will have to return their toxic and radioactive waste back to the mine in Mt Weld. Other rare earth refinery such as Molycorps is subjected to the same requirements ― to send back their radioactive waste to the mine.

But in Malaysia, not only does Lynas enjoy 12 years’ tax break, they get their electricity, water and gas at a subsidised rate, too, courtesy of the rakyat.

Lynas has had things going their way for so long ― since the beginning, in fact. Thus Lynas will not allow anything to come in its way now. The rakyat is waiting and watching on what the government will do next.

* Fuziah Salleh is the member of parliament for Kuantan.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

Ministers: Lynas must remove waste from Malaysia or risk license

Lynas must remove waste from Malaysia or risk license-ministers

(Reporting By Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah; Editing by Stuart Grudgings)

Dec 10 (Reuters) - Australia's Lynas Corp must export waste material created by operations at its controversial rare earths plant in Malaysia or risk having its operating license revoked, four Malaysian ministers said in a joint statement on Monday.

The statement followed local media reports citing Lynas Malaysia's managing director Mashal Ahmad as saying the company would not export residue from the plant, which began operations in late November after a series of legal hurdles.

"Should Lynas fail to comply with this condition, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board is empowered to suspend or revoke the license, and order Lynas to immediately cease operation," said the statement released by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

"The government will not compromise the health and safety of the people and the environment, in dealing with the issue of Lynas," the ministers said.

The ministers said they were responding to "recent inaccurate media reports regarding the removal of the residues."

Mashal was reported by the Guang Ming Daily as saying that Lynas needed to abide by international conventions which prohibit the export of hazardous wastes. Mashal declined to comment when contacted by Reuters late on Monday.

Senior opposition politician Lim Guan Eng said Mashal's reported comments meant the government should revoke Lynas' license for breach of its contract.

Lynas has been embroiled in lengthy environmental and safety disputes with local residents since construction began two years ago. Its $800 million plant, which opponents say is environmentally hazardous, began operations late last month after long delays caused by legal challenges and safety disputes.

Located in the east coast city of Kuantan, it had been ready to kickstart since May.

The Malaysian high court will hear an application for judicial reviews to block operations of the plant on Feb. 5 next year.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Lynas has NO safe solution to tackle its toxic waste

The latest feature program on Al-Jazeera -The Stream "Is Malaysia risking it all for rare earths?"

SUNDAY 09 December 2012 
Lynas has NO safe solution to tackle its
toxic waste

The latest gimmick by Lynas to demonstrate that its rare earth ore is safe whilst it has finally conceded that the toxic radioactive waste cannot be shipped out of Malaysia is just a typical Lynas way to try to deceive Malaysians and a poor attempt to salvage its tarnished reputation.

SMSL spokesperson Mr Tan Bun Teet says, “It goes to show how desperate Lynas is now – having to convince the market that it will not face further protest and court actions in Malaysia on the one hand and having to deal with the outrage of Malaysians over its massive waste problems on the other.”

Mr Tan is one of the Kuantan residents who has filed judicial reviews cases through the court to revoke the Lynas temporary operating licence (TOL). Both cases have been accepted by the Kuantan high court waiting for the hearing to begin. SMSL has also applied through the court of appeal to reinstate the stay on the TOL. The hearing for this appeal is scheduled for 19th December.

Lynas was once a favourite of the top 100 companies of the Australian Stock Exchange; it is now one of the worst performers. The market has progressively lost patience and confidence in Lynas. Daiwa Capital Markets was the first to sound the warning bell - as early as January when it wrote a report based on a field investigation on Lynas http://asiaresearch.daiwacm.com/eg/cgi-bin/files/Lost&Found120117.pdf. More recently, Deutche Bank, Forster and UBS[1] have all downgraded their assessment of Lynas. Foster has given the “sell” call on Lynas stock. Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan have warned of possible cash flow problems for Lynas if the plant is further delayed.[2] Lynas shares are trading at an all-time low closing at just 61c on Friday.

“It is irresponsible for Lynas to try to fool us that rare earth is harmless. Lynas is playing with fire in Malaysia. By doing this Lynas has showed itself up to be a rouge company taking advantage of Malaysia’s lax environmental law and poor enforcement standard. This is why we have to do everything possible to stop this toxic project.” Ram Ponusamy another Kuantan resident who has challenged the government on the TOL says.

Whilst radioactive materials are known carcinogens recent research has found exposure to rare earth to have adverse health impacts. Rare earth exposure has been linked to lower IQ in children and damages to lung, bone and liver. Whilst the Malaysian Government is facilitating Lynas to use its citizens as guinea pigs, the world’s largest food company Unilever cancelled an entire batch of China tea when it was found to contain an unacceptable high level of rare earth. China has recently introduced tougher legal requirements on the rare earth industry with legal limits set for a wide range of hazardous substances linked to its processing.

Malaysian environmental law is over 20 years out of date with no reference or limits for many of the toxic substances soon to be produced by the Lynas plant despite the bitter and tragic lessons from the now closed Mitsubishi rare earth plant in Bukit Merah. The Atomic Energy Licensing Board has failed the Bukit Merah people and it is now failing the people of Kuantan by issuing Lynas its TOL.

Lynas has no safe solution for its millions of tonnes of toxic radioactive waste and yet it is charging ahead with its refinery. Once operational, Lynas will be dumping hazardous waste in Malaysia, a practice in stark contrast to its highly promoted ‘zero harm’ claim!

Lynas is still claiming that it will recycle the toxic waste into commercial products. This kind of practice is illegal in many advanced industrialised nations due to the presence of radioactive substances, heavy metals and hazardous chemical compounds in the waste. Commercialising this kind of by-products if it is at all possible legally, is risky and hazardous as it will spread the hazards further to more people and to more places – another anti-thesis to Lynas’ ‘zero harm’ motto!

Haji Ismail Abu Bakar another case applicant asks “Who will buy Lynas’ by-products? Any company which dares to buy Lynas’ hazardous by-products will risk financial ruin through its bad reputation. Lynas is simply saying this to fool the ill-informed and the unsuspected. We do not want this kind of company operating in our backyard. We are no fools!”

By issuing Lynas its temporary operating licence, the Government has failed in its duty of care to regulate Lynas and to protect the rakyat and Malaysia’s natural resources from dangerous hazards and pollution.

“SMSL has the mandate from our many supporters to fight until the end to shut down the Lynas plant. We will pursue every single legal avenue available out there and campaign in every possible way to vote this irresponsible and incompetent government out. Our future is too precious to be ruined by a profit-seeking foreign company that pays no tax.” Mr Tan reiterates the stance of SMSL.

[2] http://www.thebull.com.au/articles/a/33008-lynas-to-raise-funds.html

Monday, 26 November 2012

The PM has lost his way

SMSL is appalled by the Prime Minister’s apparent ignorance of the scientific and engineering facts related to the Lynas rare earth refinery project in Gebeng, near Kuantan.

Mr Tan Bun Teet, SMSL spokesperson say, “We noted with extreme regret that until this day the Prime Minister has either not been officially informed of all the facts that we Save MALAYSIA Stop Lynas(SMSL) has submitted through ministerial hearings and publications on our website findings by various institutions like CAP, MMA and the Bar Council or he is practicing selective denial. Is the PM following the footstep of the President of MCA - we sent the latter volumes of scientific facts and evidences on harms that a rare earth plant can cause to the environment and the people living nearby?”

We are not opposed to the economic development that foreign investments can bring to our nation. To allow Lynas Advance material Plants (LAMP) to proceed when Lynas has NOT presented a safe plan as yet on how its radioactive waste will be dealt with in the long term and it has only done a sketchy preliminary environmental impact assessment will certainly confirm that Malaysia has a third world industrial safety and environmental standard.

“For the PM to dismisse concerns of thousands of tax paying rakyat right after over 20,000 people braved themselves to say “NO” to the Lynas project at Dataran merdeka yesterday is a slap in the face of democracy and an insult to the PM’s much promoted motto of “Rakyat didahulukan!”. This Government has lost its credibility and citizens will organized to vote BN OUT.” Remarks Haji Ismail Abu Bakar

SMSL has received quality advice from different experts based on science and sound engineering practices. There are serious concerns with regard to Lynas’ management of its waste and radiation safety of its workers.

An independent assessment by the reputable and renowned Oeko Institute (http://www.oeko.de/the_institute/dok/594.php) in Germany is near completion. Preliminary findings have found Lynas not to adhere to safe international practices and that no licence should have been approved for its construction given the design fault let alone the issuing of a temporary operating licence which the Malaysian Government has so carelessly done.

A Kuantan resident Ram Ponusamy comments, “We the rakyat were made to believe that Malaysia could be a developed nation by 2020. We have seen now how our government has FAILED us in this important development goal by reducing our industrial safety and environmental standard to that of a dysfunctional third world country. We are ashamed of this government and we have only one choice – that is to VOTE IT OUT!!”

“Has the PM done the proper thing by getting an independent engineering audit following the New York Times revelation that there were serious structural problems with the plant? Why wasn’t a detailed EIA been ordered by the government in light of the LAMP being the world’s largest rare earth plant outside of China and there has not been any best practice rare earth plant available to date? Where is the government’s duty of care to its own tax payers and rakyat??” asks Mr Tan.

SMSL vowed to continue to campaign to oppose the plant and to VOTE OUT a government that is deaf and blind to the wishes of its people!

“Enough said and we will continue to fight this plant till the end to safeguard our basic rights to live in a hazard-free environment for our family and the future generations. The government can ignore the rakyat’s wish at its own perils!” Warns Mr Tan, Haji Ismail and Ram on behalf of SMSL

The number of men, women, and children supporting the cross-country 300km (Kuantan to Kuala Lumpur) Green Walk had swollen tremendously on the 13th day, with estimates putting the crowd at more than 20,000 on Nov 25, joined in with the core group of roughly 70 led by Himpunan Hijau chairperson Wong Tack.