Bentong MP tells Khairy to honour vow to yank Lynas permit if waste facility not in works by March this year

Wong reminded Khairy of the latter's remark that Lynas must begin construction of its Permanent Disposal Facility by March 2021, or risk having its licence revoked. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Wong reminded Khairy of the latter's remark that Lynas must begin construction of its Permanent Disposal Facility by March 2021, or risk having its licence revoked. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Bentong MP Wong Tack pressed Khairy Jamaluddin today to withdraw Lynas Corp’s operating permit as the latter said he would if the rare-earths firm did not start building a permanent waste facility by the previous quarter.

The lawmaker reminded the science, technology and innovation minister of remarks the latter gave in the Dewan Rakyat that Lynas must begin construction of its Permanent Disposal Facility (PDF) by March 2021, adding that its failure to do so would result in its licence being revoked.

“The rejection of Lynas’ Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the proposal to build their PDF in Bukit Ketam confirms that Lynas has failed to comply with this condition.

“It also means that until today, there is no solution to safely dispose close to a billion kilograms of toxic radioactive wastes already piled up in Lynas’ backyard,” he said in a statement.

He added that more waste would continue to pile up on this disposal site if Khairy fails to take action against Lynas.

“He must also realise that the people of Kuantan have gone through a decade of living in anxiety,” he said.

Yesterday, the Department of Environment (DoE) rejected Lynas’ application to build a PDF for its radioactive waste in Pahang, which comes about three months after Lynas submitted its report on January 26.

Earlier today, Lynas said that it is working to provide more information requested by Malaysian authorities to resume an assessment of its application to build a facility for its low-level radioactive waste.

Lynas, the largest rare earths producer outside China, said the DoE has requested further information and the company is working together with the relevant Malaysian federal and state governments to submit the information.

Lynas was granted a three-year licence renewal from Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board in February last year to operate its US$800 million (RM3.2 billion) plant in the east-coast town of Kuantan.

The license renewal came with conditions for Lynas to meet, including building a cracking and leaching facility outside Malaysia before July 2023, after which the company will not be allowed to import raw materials containing naturally occurring radioactive material.

The company would also have to begin developing a permanent disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste from rare-earths processing within the first year from the date of approval of the licence.

Malaysia approved a site in the state of Pahang for the facility last year.

The waste has been a contentious issue as activists have protested for years against Lynas’ operations in the country, citing health concerns.

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