KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reiterated his stand on Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd today, warning that attempts to cast out the firm like a “pariah” would harm Malaysia’s standing among international investors.
He said forcing the firm to cease operating here after previously approving of its investment and presence would dissuade potential investors, adding that the “problem” was not with Lynas but rather concerns about the waste produced in its refinery.
The prime minister added that the government’s experts have also concluded that the by-products of the Lynas refinery were “not dangerous”.
“But the people who are against Lynas, they still want to get rid of Lynas.
“It is a big investment, RM1.7 billion, it creates 700 jobs. High quality, high paying jobs. It is necessary for our investments, and if we treat Lynas like a pariah, and ask them to leave this country, we will not get other people to come to this country and invest,” he told reporters here, after opening the World Tourism Conference (WTC) 2019.
When asked if his views on Lynas were influenced by its ties with Japan, Dr Mahathir said no.
Australian miner Lynas recently obtained a six-month extension on its licence to operate its rare earth refinery in Pahang, sparking controversy as it has yet to remove waste containing low levels of radioactive elements from Malaysia as previously demanded by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.
Lynas Malaysia had in March 2012 provided a letter of undertaking that it would return the waste produced back to Australia if necessary, while Lynas Corporation Australia had in February 2012 similarly gave an undertaking to remove the waste from Malaysia if necessary.
The Malaysian government administered by the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition then granted Lynas a two-year full stage operating licence for its Pahang plant in 2014, before renewing it in 2016 for a three-year period, which means the current licence will expire on September 2, 2019.
Mid-way through its current licence period, the PH coalition came into power and initiated a review of the Lynas rare earth plant’s operations and waste management.
But after initially demanding that Lynas ship its waste with radioactive elements out from Malaysia in order to have its licence renewed, the Malaysian government dropped the condition after Australia refused to accept the waste.
The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) on August 15 announced a six-month extension of Lynas’ licence starting from September 3.
The rare earth mining company was also slapped with four conditions as a prerequisite for its business here, including an order to build a “cracking and leaching” facility overseas, to transfer said process from its current base in Gebeng, Kuantan, out of Malaysia.