Can’t ship waste to Australia? Buy an island and dump it there, activists tell Lynas Corp

A security guard keeps vigil at an under construction Lynas plant in Gebeng, some 270km east of Kuala Lumpur April 19, 2012. — AFP pic
A security guard keeps vigil at an under construction Lynas plant in Gebeng, some 270km east of Kuala Lumpur April 19, 2012. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — Lynas Corp should purchase an uninhabited island and ship out its waste there instead of building a permanent disposal facility (PDF) here, anti-Lynas lobby Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) said.

The group’s remarks come following a news report citing an unnamed official claiming that Putrajaya will likely drop its requirement for the Australian miner to send home its rare earth processing waste as a precondition for its licence renewal.

SMSL chairman Tan Bun Teet said that the government should hold Lynas Corp to its promise on shipping the waste out, and that it was never stated in writing that the destination had to be Western Australia.

“It was presumed that Lynas will ship out its waste to Western Australia, and now that Australia has said no, Lynas Corp is using this as a pretext to tell our government that their waste will not be accepted,” he told Malay Mail.

“The fact is that while Lynas Corp promised to ship out the waste, they didn’t mention the destination in the written undertaking. It doesn’t have to be Western Australia,” Tan added.

He said Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin should insist that Lynas Corp ship out its waste through other means.

“She could insist Lynas ship out its waste, and buy an island somewhere to keep the waste, and then get people to cultivate it,” Tan said, adding that there were “thousands” of islands neighbouring Malaysia in countries like Indonesia.

“For a few million, Lynas Corp can get an island,” he added.

Lynas Corp previously insisted that it won’t be able to export 450,000 tonnes of the water leach purification (WLP) residue, a by-product of their refinery operations, by September and offered to build the PDF as a compromise.

The firm agreed to build the facility last year following the recommendation from the executive review committee appointed by the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry.

However, Minister Yeo then insisted that Lynas Corp must export its waste to Australia as a prerequisite for licence renewal to operate its refinery in Gebeng, Pahang.

In May, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Lynas would be allowed to carry on with its operations, but Yeo later “clarified” his remarks as meaning the company must still send its waste back to Australia.

Following approaches by Yeo’s ministry, Australian authorities flatly rejected any possibility of accepting the Lynas waste in their country.

On July 9, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Deputy Minister Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis told Parliament that they were awaiting further input before deciding on Lynas.

On July 21, some 88 NGOs signed a strongly-worded petition urging the government to discontinue the rare earth miner’s licence. The petition was also critical of the government, claiming it favoured the Australian company and was reneging on its electoral promise.

Prior to the 14th general election last year, the Pakatan Harapan said it would cancel the licence for the Lynas rare earth refinery near Kuantan as a means to drum up public support.

This appeared to contribute to DAP’s Wong Tack — a strident opponent of Lynas — securing an upset victory over the MCA president at the time, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, in Bentong where the latter had been MP since 1999.

Since then, PH appears to have warmed to the idea of rare earth processing in the country, with the Entrepreneur Development Ministry defending the industry as potentially worth RM100 billion and the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry identifying other possible locations for rare earth mining and development.

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