Four years on, Lynas still seeking to allay rare earth fears

The photograph published by Lynas in a Sin Chew Daily full-page advertisement.
The photograph published by Lynas in a Sin Chew Daily full-page advertisement.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — Rare earth refining firm Lynas Corporation today published a full-page advertisement seeking to reassure Malaysians about the safety of its operations in Kuantan.

Having previously fended off environmental and health concerns regarding its rare earth refinery there, the mining firm took to reaffirming its long-held stand that its operations that started four years ago were safe.

In the full-colour advertisement in Sin Chew Daily, Lynas Corporation published a photo taken on July 30 that depicted three men in a boat catching a fish.

Along with the photo was a caption that said fishing remained a key income source and recreation activity in Kuantan and Sungai Balok, adding that no computer-generated image (CGI) technology was used for the picture.

“Lynas has already presented an accurate and transparent business policy, to preserve the interests of the society and environment,” it wrote in the advertisement in Mandarin in the Chinese-language paper.

Among the six bullet points listed was: “Lynas has already safely operated for four years.”

The company also said it has provided online operational readings in real-time to the relevant authorities, which it said could be obtained by the public.

It said independent tests showed that readings of background radiation levels within a 1km, 5km, 10km and 20km radius of its rare-earth plant in Kuantan have not gone up.

The firm also said that the quality of the plant's water discharge complied with regulations and is safe, further asserting that it has independent entities' validation that the plant's operations was safe.

“The Lynas plant does not adversely affect Kuantan's nearby residents or the surrounding villages,” it said.

In the advertisement that also carried the tagline "Advancing Hand In Hand With You", Lynas said it was a company that is sincere towards Malaysia and close to its people, denying that it is a firm that was aloof.

It ended the advertisement by saying that it believed true progress is only achieved by advancing jointly with Malaysians to enjoy prosperity together.

Earlier this month, Lynas Corporation said Malaysian authorities had renewed its Lynas Advanced Materials Plant's full operating stage licence (FOSL) for another three years until September 2019.

But anti-Lynas group Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas (SMSL) responded to the licence renewal by alleging that Lynas did not fulfil its previous commitments and written undertakings on the management of the radioactive water leach purification wastes and identifying a location for the permanent disposal facility.

SMSL claimed that the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) has, since the first issuance of the Temporary Operating Licence in 2011, not responded to public requests on the data of wastes they promised to collect in order to check if these data tally with that submitted by Lynas in their TOL application documents.

“This is important because Lynas did not build any pilot plant prior to setting up LAMP and all data on wastes were based on hypothetical calculations,” SMSL had said, adding that no other regulating authorities such as the Department of Environment (Doe) had done so.

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