‘Hazardous’ project continues to draw flak

Posted on March 10, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

Free Malaysia Today-  Tarani Palani | March 10, 2011

Kuantan MP Fauziah Salleh raises the red flag once again over a rare earth ore processing plant in her constituency.

KUALA LUMPUR: The opposition continues to pour scorn over the massive rare earth ore processing plant in Kuantan, Pahang, saying that the project was too much of a risk.

Speaking to FMT in Parliament today, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh said that she was puzzled why the government approved the project when there was highly questionable environmental and health concerns which have yet to be adequantly addressed.

The PKR leader’s main concern was the inadequent waste disposal system to deal with the radioactive material of the project.

“I have two concerns, the leech water and the actual waste,” she said.

Fuziah said that Australian mining company Lynas had said that a pool would be lined in order to contain waste water with radioactive sediments.

“The process uses thousands of gallons of water everyday. How long can you keep it (stagnant) there?” she asked.

She added that the water would definitely seep into the ground and reach the water bed, which would be dangerous as the Sungai Balok was nearby and this could affect water supply in the area.

“And Kuantan is a big fishing port, so this will affect the fishing industry,” she said.

Issue to be raised in Parliament

The New York Times (NYT) had reported on Tuesday that the plant would refine slightly radioactive ore which would be brought in from Australia by container ships.

Rare earth are minerals with chemically similar properties which are important in manufacturing a variety of electronic goods such as mobile phones and flat-screen televisions.

The NYT report also highlighted that Malaysia was no stranger to radioactive effects.

The Bukit Merah Asian Rare Earth plant was a case in point where there were eight cancer cases over five years. The plant was still quietly undergoing a US$100 million clean-up exercise despite having shut down in 1992.

Meanwhile, Fuziah said that the actual waste from the Bukit Merah plant was converted into manure and this reflected the danger the actual waste posed.

“We have a precedent case. We do not want a disaster to happen. Although the ministries have said that they have taken all the measures, the risk is stil very, very high,” she said.

According to a Malaysian Insider report today, Pahang lawmakers Chang Hong Seong and Pang Tsu Ming, who were invited to visit a Lynas mine in Australia two years ago, said that the trips had changed their initial worry about the waste disposal.

Fuziah questioned this by saying that the nature of the plant in Australia and Malaysia was different and that Malaysia’s plant would mirror a plant in China instead.

“They were not given the full picture,” she said.

Fuziah, who had raised the issue first in 2008, would bring it up again in Parliament next Monday.

Mere assurances not enough

In a related development, Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) president Haris Ibrahim slammed the project as another radioactive disaster waiting to happen.

“(Prime Minister) Najib Tun Razak has given the assurance that there are safeguards in place to ensure that there will not be radioactive leakages and that the waste will be disposed of properly.

“However, he fails to realise that radioactive waste poses an enormously difficult problem which to date, no country has solved. Even France, where at least 80% of its energy is nuclear energy, has problems with waste despite its engineering advancements,” he said in a statement.

Haris stressed that Malaysia had not yet proven itself in the area of radioactive waste management and reminded that the government had failed to prevent the radioactive disaster in Bukit Merah despite warnings of danger.

“What is there to prevent a repeat of the radioactive waste problem?” he asked. “Mere assurances by the prime minister are not enough.”

The new refinery would generate RM5 billion a year in exports starting late next year, which was equivalent to nearly 1% of the nation’s economy.

Haris, however, said that such a tempting prospect was of little significance when human lives and safety were at stake.

He also called on the Department of Environment to release the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for this project.

“We want to know why Malaysia is hosting dirty industries belonging to other countries and why the government is allowing the country to be used by foreign companies in such a manner.

“And we want to know what safeguard measures are in place to ensure there will be no radioactive disaster,” he added.

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One Response to “‘Hazardous’ project continues to draw flak”

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Untuk buktikan ianya selamat, Dalam kawasan kilang itu, elok sangat rumah CEO, atau tawkey LYNAS didirikan bersebelahan kilang. Kak Ji cuba cadang… tak hendak mereka buat.


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