Archive for May, 2011

Putrajaya won’t sell Bakun to Sarawak, only the power

Posted on May 31, 2011. Filed under: Energy |

-The Malaysian Insider-
By Jahabar Sadiq
May 31, 2011

The Bakun Dam under construction. — Picture courtesy of

KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — The Najib administration has decided not to sell the Bakun Dam to Sarawak but will sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the state on Hari Gawai tomorrow, giving Putrajaya an energy option for Peninsular Malaysia when costs rise further in the future.

The Malaysian Insider understands the decision was made after the April 16 Sarawak election when Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud swept to victory but did not give a date to step down as chief minister, much to the dismay of Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders across the South China Sea who feel new blood is needed in the Land of the Hornbills.

“Putrajaya has decided to keep Bakun but sell the power to Sarawak first before deciding other options,” a source told The Malaysian Insider.

The government announced yesterday a 7.12 per cent hike in electricity rates from June 1 by Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) in an effort to trim its burgeoning subsidy bill, but promised the hike will not affect some 75 per cent of domestic consumers. Power prices will now rise by as much as 2.3 sen per kilowatt hour.

Officials said natural gas prices would also rise by RM3 per mmBtu each six months until it reached market levels. The government said it will still spend some RM25 billion to subsidise the gas bill this year.

It is learnt the government is still eyeing the original plan to bring electricity via undersea cables from the Bakun Dam to the Malay peninsula but current costs and energy losses would not make it feasible at this point in time.

Taib (picture) announced last week that the state’s Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) will buy power at an attractive rate from Bakun owner Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, a unit of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated.

However, the state’s longest-serving chief minister did not disclose the cost and when asked whether the electricity generated by Bakun Dam would be sold at six sen per kilowatt hour, he replied: “You want me to say something before the ceremony?”

Public Utilities Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said the state government was imposing some amount as water levy on Sarawak Hidro annually.

“The levy for water to generate electricity has to be charged but I am not sure how much. It was in the licence before. That is one of the conditions when we issued the licence for Bakun,” he said, adding the levy would continue even after the Bakun Dam begins operation this July.

Last September, Taib said the state government had placed a bid of over RM6 billion to buy over the Bakun project from Putrajaya despite the dam’s entire bill rising above RM7.3 billion since the project began in 1994.

“The bid is flexible in the sense that if the method of payment can be made lighter we can increase a bit more, but there is limit to what we can pay,” he had said.

The Sarawak government wanted the dam due to its confidence of higher power uptake from the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score), which is initially projected at 500 MW in 2012, will rise to about 2,600 MW by 2015.

Currently, Sarawak’s capacity to generate electricity is at 1,300 MW, which exceeds the peak demand of 1,100 MW.

The Bakun Dam at the Balui River in the upper Rejang River basin and 37km upstream from Belaga and is the world’s second-tallest concrete rock-filled dam. When all the eight turbines become fully operational, it will be able to generate up to 2,400 megawatts of electricity.

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Pro-Lynas group bullies protestors as IAEA panel meets

Posted on May 31, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Malaysian Insider-

By Shannon Teoh
May 31, 2011

Protestors forcing the Beserah group to leave. — Pictures by Shannon Teoh

KUANTAN, May 31 — For the second day in a row, demonstrators supporting the controversial rare earth plant forced anti-Lynas protestors to leave the Hyatt Regency here.

The group of about 100 men confronted a group of residents from Beserah, where the plant is located, just as they finished their meeting with the International Atomic Energy Agency-led (IAEA) team that is here to meet local stakeholders.

After a scuffle, the Beserah group led by their assemblyman Syed Mohammad Lonnik and community leader Andansura Rabu had to be escorted by police light strike force officers to their car.

Earlier in the morning, protestors wearing “Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas” T-shirts were also chased away from the beach in front of the hotel by the pro-Lynas group.

Many of the pro-Lynas group were those here yesterday holding up banners supporting the IAEA and also Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob.

Two reporters from Chinese daily Nanyang Siang Pau were also confronted by men who demanded they stop taking pictures.

The two reporters who were confronted by pro-Lynas demonstrators.

One of the reporters said a man threatened to punch her if she did not stop.

“You want to report good or bad, think properly first. The government has already brought in a panel of experts.

“I am from Balok. We are more concerned than these people who come from Ipoh, Seremban and KL. Why do we want to chase away investors?” said members of the group to reporters later.

The nine-man review panel is here on a four-day visit to hear concerns from local residents and lobby groups before compiling a report by the end of June.

The government had bowed to public pressure last month and put the project by Australian miner Lynas Corp on ice pending the review by the team of international experts.

Despite the government review, Lynas expects no delay to its plans to begin operations in September as it maintains the plant is safe.

It is anticipating a windfall of RM8 billion a year from 2013 onwards from the rare earth metals that are crucial to the manufacture of high-technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and bombs.

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Switch to alternative energy necessary

Posted on May 31, 2011. Filed under: Energy |

The Star

Our way of using energy is not sustainable. We need to change our lifestyle and use less energy.

HOURS before he was due to announce the power and gas tariff increase, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin was in Seremban to launch a new bio-diesel prototype project. He warned that our way of using energy was not sustainable.

“We have to find alternative sources for energy preferably green technology to power our daily needs.

“We have to turn to technology like bio-diesel because fossil fuel is not only a scarce resource, but one that is getting more and more expensive each day,” he said when launching Yayasan Alam Sekitar Tunku Syed Razman‘s prototype bio-diesel machine called Razak 1.

It efficiently turns used cooking oil into bio-diesel to power diesel engines.

At 4pm yesterday, Chin, together with fellow Minister Tan Sri Noh Mohamed Yakcop, announced the new tariffs for electricity and natural gas for the peninsula.

They explained that natural gas prices were just too high for the Government to continue to subsidise Petronas subsidised some RM27bil worth of natural gas and did not charge market prices.

Natural gas made up 54.2% of the fuel used to power the electricity turbines in the country compared with coal, which constituted 40.2%. In addition, coal prices have increased over the past few years.

On top of the increasing fuel price, the Government is allowing Tenaga Nasional to increase the base tariff by 2% to meet the rising cost. This is the first base rate increase since 2006.

Chin and Noh Mohamed described the increase as minimal and that more than 75% of consumers, particularly the lower income group, would not be affected.

All those paying RM77 or less will not see any increase but already we can hear the rumbling of protests by the usual suspects.

A local Facebook group called No Mega Tower (NMT) has started a campaign against any increase.

Instead, they have demanded a pay cut for ministers, top civil officers and extending the policy to government-linked companies, besides publicly disclosing details of major deals such as that with the independent power producers (IPP) and the controversial MyEmail project.

“We are not opposing economic reforms. We do understand that subsidies need to be cut eventually,” it said in a statement.

The NMT group was set up when it was announced that Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) was going to build a 100-storey tower in the vicinity of Merdeka Stadium last year.

Without doubt, the group, which has already more than 290,000 members, will get much support.

However, the reality is that this will not be the last of tariff increases because our dependence on fossil fuel and coal looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

It doesn’t matter who governs Malaysia, rising power prices are here to stay.

The authorities had been wary of this and were even toying with the idea of nuclear technology as a viable alternative to fossil fuels but after the disaster at Fukushima in Japan, such proposals are now placed in some KIV shelve away from view.

Therefore, we must turn to alternative technology to feed our thirst for energy.

Yayasan Alam Sekitar Tunku Syed Razman’s bio-diesel is one such way there is plenty of used cooking oil out there because we love our deep-fried foodstuff.

To power our electricity generators, we need more than just bio-diesel and, thus, have to turn to technology that taps nature’s resources like sunlight and wind.

Many European countries have set up sunlight and wind farms to harvest energy from nature.

Of course, the present wind and sun technologies may not be suitable for Malaysia but we need to improve on them so that we can use them locally. Local entrepreneurs should step forward and come up with the technologies to tap renewable power source.

As part of the tariff increase yesterday, Chin announced that 1% of the hike would be set aside to develop green technology to provide clean and renewable energy.

All said, the best way to combat the increase is to change our lifestyle and use less. We should all become environment warriors and re-educate ourselves on how we should use electricity.

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Malaysia rare earths plant provokes radiation fears

Posted on May 30, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

The China Post

KUALA LUMPUR–In the quiet town of Gebeng in Malaysia’s central state of Pahang, a new rare earths plant has evoked fears of radiation contamination as residents desperately seek to stop the construction of the world’s largest such refinery.

The plant is expected to meet up to 30 percent of the world’s demand for rare earths outside China.

Rare earth elements, a group of 15 metals, are used in electronic devices for the defense, alternative energy and communications industries.

The 700-million-ringgit (US$233 million) refinery is being constructed by Australia’s Lynas Corp., which plans to ship rare earth ore mined from Western Australia’s Mount Weld to the Gebeng plant by September.

News of negotiations between the Malaysian government and Lynas began surfacing in 2008, but it was only earlier this year that public outcry peaked after it was discovered that construction had already begun on the 20-hectare plant.

The main concern is the possibility of contamination from low-level radioactive waste from the rare earth refining process.

Gebeng is an industrial town of 10,000 people located 265 kilometers from Pahang’s capital of Kuantan.

While the Malaysian government and Lynas have stressed that the facility will have state-of-the-art technology for contamination control, opponents claim crucial questions remain unanswered especially regarding the safe disposal of radioactive waste.

“We have read the facts, we know about the risks, and we have simply decided that this is not what the people of Pahang want in our backyards,” said Jonathan Wong, the spokesman for the Stop Lynas citizen’s movement.

“Lynas itself has not seen the people, they have not even come up with a solid plan to manage the waste, and they expect us to just accept that they know best,” Wong told the German Press Agency dpa.

Those opposing the Gebeng plant have pointed to the Asian Rare Earth plant built in the northern state of Perak in the 1980s by Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp as an example of the refinery being a “disaster in the making.”

That facility was blamed for the unusually high number of birth defects and leukemia cases among the 11,000-strong population living nearby. It ceased operation in 1992 after protests from locals and environmentalists.

The owners were never sued and no compensation has been paid to the plant’s alleged victims.

Almost a decade later, Mitsubishi is still cleaning up the radioactive waste from the area in a project estimated to cost at least 300 million ringgit.

Lynas has been quick to distance itself from that disaster by stating that different ores of lower radioactivity would be used in Gebeng, but critics complained of the apparent lack of transparency in the mining company’s dealings with Malaysian authorities.

“There has been no full public disclosure of this proposed project,” said SM Mohamed Idris, president of the Friends of Nature environmental group.

“A detailed environmental impact assessment was not required due to a loophole in our law,” he said.

The government is keen to continue with the Lynas project as the refinery is expected to generate up to 5 billion ringgit (US$1.67 billion) a year in exports as well as hundreds of jobs.

Protesters insist that radiation contamination is too high a price to pay for any economic gain.

“If the government failed to regulate the Asian Rare Earth plant, what makes us believe it will be different now?” said Wong.

“They are asking us to take a gamble with our lives and those of our children.”

Authorities eager to allay public fears said last month that the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was assessing the threat of contamination from the planned plant.

The government assured the public it would only approve the operation based on the findings of the agency’s nine-member panel scheduled to visit the proposed site on Sunday for six days.

But the move has failed to win over the critics, who claim that officials from the nuclear watchdog would be pro-nuclear and therefore fail to produce a fair assessment of the Lynas plant.

Calls for local and environmental groups to be represented in the monitoring team have also gone unheeded, critics said.

“While it is agreed that IAEA scientists are experts in many fields, we believe their findings will be a biased report and on that ground, we reject it,” Wong said.

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UN investigation into Malaysia rare-earth plant safety Rare earths being exported from China back in September China produces more than 90% of the world’s supply of rare-earth minerals

Posted on May 30, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

BBC News

UN nuclear energy experts are in Malaysia to investigate whether a planned rare-earth refinery may pose a risk of radioactive pollution.

Malaysia has put the project in eastern Pahang state on hold temporarily.

China produces more than 90% of the world’s rare earths supply; the plant, being built by Australian miner Lynas, could break China’s domination.

The metals are essential for making many hi-tech products and some are used by the US weapons industry.

The nine-member team, led by a senior official from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is expected to hold talks with government officials, local residents and activists, before inspecting the construction site near the town of Kuantan.

It follows public concern that radioactive waste produced by the plant would not be disposed of properly and could endanger local residents and the environment.

Lynas has said the plant will have state-of-the-art contamination controls.

The proposed plant was scheduled to begin processing rare earths in late 2011.

The Malaysian authorities are expected to decide whether to allow the plant to proceed with refining imports of raw materials from Australia after the panel submits its report at the end of June.

Rare earth metals are used in goods such as mobile phones, hybrid-car batteries, wind turbines and weapons guidance systems.

The Chinese government says it needs to limit rare-earth exports to protect the environment and Chinese industry, which is producing increasingly sophisticated products.

However the move has angered countries such as Japan which depend on the imports and have seen the cost of the goods they produce rise.

Mines in the US and Australia have been reopened in order to increase supply outside China. Canada and Brazil are also looking to increase their production.

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Anwar: Review nuclear plans

Posted on May 30, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Malaysian Insider-

PETALING JAYA, May 29 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today reiterated the call of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) for the government to renew its nuclear plans, and said that exploring nuclear power should not be done at the risk of the safety of Malaysians.

He said this today in reference to Lynas Corp’s planned construction of a rare earth plant in Gebeng.

“No matter what the necessity, we cannot take the risk . . . look at what happened in Chernobyl, Japan,” Anwar told 200 young professionals during a dialogue here.

“At least review it before going ahead with it . . . they (the government) has to be careful, they cannot risk the safety of people.

“Don’t process if no proper study has been completed yet,” the PKR de facto leader said.

Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said yesterday that concerns over Lynas Corp’s Gebeng refinery were exaggerated, saying the public had more to fear from cell phones than the rare earth to be processed there.

Green groups here and in Australia have lobbied their respective governments to scupper the project ahead of the September start date of Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP), citing the company’s opaque plans on waste storage and management of transport between the Mount Weld mine in Western Australia and the Gebeng refinery.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has expressed “grave concern” that waste products could wreak harm on those living nearby.

The association, representing the country’s 13,000 doctors, said the possible health risks presented by radiation from “extremely toxic” thorium outweighed the economic benefits from the project.

Lynas is among the world’s biggest suppliers of rare earth metals, a group of minerals vital in the manufacture of high-technology goods that are ecologically friendly but create toxic by-products in the process.

The RM700 million LAMP is expected to be the world’s largest and most sophisticated on completion.

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Developers shy away as Lynas plant looms

Posted on May 30, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Malaysian Insider-

KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 — The controversial RM700 million rare earth plant in the Gebeng industrial zone is threatening to sink the local property market in Kuantan.

Developers are holding off on new projects, fearing a collapse in prices if Australian miner Lynas Corp is given the green light to begin operations in as little as three months.

The refinery has faced mounting opposition over the past few months due to fears of radiation pollution, giving pause to both developers and buyers.

“A few developers here are holding back from starting new projects. Some who have not committed too much money have totally backed out of their current developments,” said property valuer Liom Hong Sang.

Kuantan Chinese Chamber of Commerce chairman Pang Woon Ping said that some real estate companies had experienced a 50 per cent drop in sales since March.

Although developers have managed to hold out without slashing prices, Pang told The Malaysian Insider that “if the plant goes ahead, there will be a sure drop.”

Homes along the Kuantan-Gebeng stretch are currently priced about 20 per cent lower than in the city of Kuantan itself, with single-storey terrace units going for about RM100,000 to RM120,000.

The government was forced to put the refinery on ice last month pending a review by international experts that will be completed at the end of June.

Despite the review, Lynas expects no delay to its plans to begin operations in September as it maintains the plant is safe.

But until a decision is reached, the market is expected to move at snail’s pace.

“The average housing development here has 40 to 50 units, with sales of two or three a month. Over the past few months, some developers have made no sales at all,” Liom told The Malaysian Insider.

Pang, who is also managing director of property developer Perumahan Satelit Jaya, said some banks were now reluctant to offer loans, fearing negative equity should panic set in if the government approves the plant.

Environmentalists and local residents fear a repeat of the radiation pollution from a similar plant in Bukit Merah, Ipoh which has been linked to birth defects and at least eight cases of leukaemia in the past five years, seven of which were fatal.

Nearly two decades after it was shuttered, the plant is still the subject of a massive RM300 million cleanup exercise.

In recent weeks, green groups here and in Australia have been calling for the project to be nixed, citing Lynas’ opaque plans on waste storage and transport management across 3,000km from the Mount Weld mine in Western Australia to the refinery in the Gebeng industrial zone.

Lynas is anticipating a windfall of RM8 billion a year from 2013 onwards from the rare earth metals that are crucial to the manufacture of high-technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and bombs.

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Lynas perlukan kajian antarabangsa

Posted on May 30, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Malaysian Insider-

30 MEI — Kerja membangunkan projek Lynas yang sedang berjalan di Gebeng, Kuantan atas bantan penduduk tempatan terpaksa dihentikan dulu.

Kerajaan pun bersetuju membentuk satu badan antarabangsa terdiri dari pakar atom. Tentulah ia akan diselia oleh suruhanjaya atom antarabangsa di bawah Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu.

Tiada orang dalam negeri dalam pasukan kajian itu bagi memastikan pandangannya bebas dan tidak dipengaruhi oleh kerajaan.

Ikut kata Menteri Perdagangan AntaraBangsa, Datuk Mustapa Mohamad, tiada orang Melayu, orang Cina dan orang India dalam badan itu.

Apa perlunya kajian itu dibuat oleh orang antarabangsa? Apakah kita tidak percaya kepada orang dalam negeri sendiri? Atau tidak adakah orang dalam negeri yang layak dari segi kelulusan akadamiknya dan berwibawa untuk membuat kajian itu?

Orang Malaysia yang ada pengetahuan itu ada seperti Dr Che Rosli Che Mat, Anggota Parlimen Pakatan Rakyat Hulu Langat, tetapi kerajaan BN tidak yakin akan kebebasannya.

Dan kita juga ada badan menguasai atom malah pernah mewarwarkan untuk mengeluarkan tenaga neuklear sendiri. Tidak bolehkan mereka dipercayai?

Agaknya kerajaan juga tidak yakin badan yang dikuasai kerajaan dan pakarnya dipercayai oleh orang ramai seperti tidak yakin setengah orang tentang wibawa Peguam Negara, Ketua Polis Negara, Ketua Hakim Negara, Ketua SPR Ketua SPRM dan lain-lain.

Semua mereka ada kelulusan, ada pengalaman, ada latihan seperti latihan tokoh-tokoh negara asing, tetapi kerana mereka adalah pegawai yang berkhidmat dengan kerajaan Malaysia, maka wibawa dan integriti dipersoal oleh orang banyak bahkan setengah pemimpin dan penyokong Umno pun totok orang makan gaji, bukan sungguh-sungguh berkhidmat untuk profesion masing-masing.

Antara mereka jujur dengan profesionnya tetapi kerana politik Malaysia benar-benar menghidupkan sifat haiwan politiknya, yang jujur pun diborong sebagai hamba Umno belaka.

Lynas dibangkitkan oleh pembangkang sebagai projek melambakkan sisa dan hampas yang tidak berguna yang dikatakan membahayakan alam sekitar dan makhluk bernyawa. Australia telah menolaknya, maka ia dilambakkan pula di Pahang.

Dikatakan projek itu boleh memberi banyak peluang pekerjaan dan menguntungkan. Tetapi mengapa pula Australia menolak tuah yang baik?

Negeri itu adalah negeri Perdana Menteri Najib. Kalau Australia yang rakyatnya peka pada sebarang ancaman kesihatan, mengapa Perdana Menteri Malaysia mudah mengimpotnya ke negeri tok neneknya?

Jarang kerajaan Barisan Nasional prihatin tentang isu yang dibangkitkan oleh pembangkang. Tetapi Lynas ini memaksa ia menangguhkan kerja yang sudah berjalan bagi memberi laluan kepada kajian pakar antarabangsa.

Pertama bisa-bisa atom itu amat sensitif bagi masyarakat di dunia, dan kedua kita adalah di ambang pilihan raya. Isu yang dibawa pembangkang ini laris untuk pilihan raya.

Boleh dipuji atas prihatin kerajaan itu. Tetapi mengapa diserah bulat kepada pakar antarabangsa saja? Mengapa tidak disertakan denan tenaga pakar dalam negeri sama?

Suka sangat orang negara ini menyerahkan kepercayaan bulat kepada pakar asing. Menjelang kemerdekaan itu kerajaan pimpinan bersama Tunku Abdul Rahman dan Tun Razak menyerah bulat kepada Suruhanjaya Reid yang terdiri dari pakar undang-undang Komenwel untuk merangka perlembagaan negara merdeka.

Begitu ramai ahli undang-undang dalam negeri. Mereka tidak dihargai dan tidak diperlukan. Tanggungjawab dan prihatin orang luar negeri tidaklah sama dengan orang dalam negeri. Sekali pun kita mahukan ia tidak dipengaruhi oleh unsur dalaman, tetapi pandangan dalaman tetap diperlukan.

Rakyat tidak seronok urusan merangka perlembagaan itu diserak bulat kepada geng Orang Putih. Kerana tiada orang dalam negeri dalam lembaga itu, banyaklah yang rakyat rasa perlu diberi perhatian dibiarkan saja. Perlembagaan itu akan lebih indah jika pakar dalam negeri disertakan.

Bukan kita tidak yakin sepenuhnya kepada pakar luar tetapi pakar luar juga ada kalanya mengarut juga. PBB pernah menghantar pakarnya untuk memantau senjata memusnahkan yang dikatakan dimajukan oleh kerajaan Iraq di bawa Saddam Hussein.

Laporannya dipalsukan kononnya senjata itu ada disorokkan. Tetapi setelah Iraq terbuka kepada tentera Amerika dan Nato ternyata senjata itu tidak ada, malah ada pula yang memecahkan rahsia bahawa laporan awal dulu memang dipalsukan.

Ketika orang tahu isu senjata pemusnah itu hanya satu rekaan, Iraq sudah pun jadi padang jarak padang tekukur — Iraq sudah musnah.

Pandangan pakar asing adalah penting, tetapi memberi hak kepada pakar asing saja menentukan sesuatu yang kita ada kepentingan adalah satu penyakit jiwa. Jangan jadikan Malaysia dikenali sebagai bangsa yang sakit jiwa!

* Haji Abdul Subky Latif seorang penulis bebas dan tinggal di Kuala Lumpur. Seorang pendiam, dia gemar meneliti perangai manusia dan berita politik di Malaysia.

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In Gebeng, a worker leads grassroots fight against Lynas

Posted on May 30, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Malaysian Insider-

KUANTAN, May 30 — Andansura Rabu has taken the same route to work the past 18 years from his home in Balok Perdana.

But since 2009, it has not been a happy commute to work.

Andansura has watched Lynas Corp’s rare earth plant slowly take shape each day, bringing what he sees as the threat of radiation pollution ever closer.

“What can I do? I have lived here all this while,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

The residential area, where the health and safety manager lives with his wife and five children, was developed specifically to house workers for the Gebeng industrial zone.

When Australian miner Lynas began construction of its RM700 million rare earth plant two years ago, the residents of Balok were among the first to protest.

They are also the closest residents to the plant, some living just 2km from the refinery that will be ready to begin operations in September.

They formed the Badan Bertindak Anti-Rare Earth (Badar) which 45-year-old Andansura chairs, but their efforts came to nought.

“We had no expertise and we couldn’t argue on technical aspects. We nearly gave up by the end of the year,” he said.

Andansura said he and several other residents were ready to move from Gebeng and take up jobs in the Kemaman industrial area instead.

But the issue was reignited earlier this year after The New York Times highlighted the environmental gamble being taken in his backyard.

In recent weeks, green groups here and in Australia have been calling for the project to be nixed ahead of a scheduled September start, citing Lynas’ opaque plans on waste storage and transport management across 3,000km from the Mount Weld mine in Western Australia to the refinery in Gebeng.

The government bowed to public pressure last month and put on ice the plant being built by Lynas pending a month-long review by international experts.

Andansura will meet the nine-man panel with PAS’s Beserah assemblyman Syed Mohammed Tuan Lonnik tomorrow morning.

But with most Balok residents earning a living from other industrial activities, Badar is not going as an environmental group.

“Most of us work in petrochemical companies. We know the economic benefits of industrial projects versus the environmental costs. But this is radiation,” Andansura said.

Like others living in and around Kuantan, they fear a repeat of the radiation pollution from a similar plant in Bukit Merah, Ipoh.

Despite being shuttered nearly 20 years ago it is still linked to birth defects and at least eight cases of leukaemia in the past five years, seven of which were fatal.

Those opposed to the plant see the series of meetings with the review panel as the best chance to scupper Lynas’ plans.

For Andansura, it is his last throw of the dice for his hopes of staying put in Gebeng.

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Lynas opponents gears up for IAEA meet

Posted on May 29, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

Opponents to the rare earth processing plant in Gebeng, Pahang will be raising five main issues during a public hearing by the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Kuantan tomorrow.

During a meeting of about 200 stakeholders in Kuantan today, it was decided that five groups will be speaking to the IAEA on issues involving: Law, health, environment, local issues and politics.

According to Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, each group would be given just 30 minutes to state their case during the hearing, which is part of a review on the safety of the plant, officially called the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp).

The Pahang Bar Council will be heading the legal team which would argue about the lack of public consultation and request for a detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) to be performed by an independent body.

“They will highlight the lack of transparency in the details of the project as the people in the constituency and other affected areas were left out of the loop,” said Fuziah.

Petition to submitted

On the topic of health, the Pahang chapter of the Malaysian Medical Association would be presenting its case on potential exposure to radiation and how this has yet to be addressed by the government.

On the environment, Sahabat Alam Malaysia and the Malaysian Nature Society would be speaking on the dangers of the plant on the surrounding flora and fauna.

Local resident group Badan Bertindak Anti-Lynas Rare Earth (BBAR) will be speaking about how the plant would be cause problems for the livelihood of about 10,000 residents who live within a 2km radius of the plant.

Meanwhile, Fuziah will be submitting a petition with 50,000 signatures collected since the project was unveiled last year.

Lamp was scheduled to begin producing rare earth, which are crucial in the production of high-tech goods from fibre-optic cables to smartphones and electric cars, beginning September.

But critics are concerned over exposure to radioactive material present in the ore containing rare earth and are questioning why the ore is processed in Malaysia instead of its source Australia.

Closed door hearing

Opponents are also worried that the plant would cause harm associated with the now defunct Bukit Merah rare earth refinery in Perak which was decommissioned in the 1990s after locals within the vicinity reported birth defects and suffered radiation related illnesses.

In a bid to quell growing public discontent, the government announced that it will not issue a pre-operating licence to Lynas and has barred imports of the ore until the panel completes its review.

In all, the IAEA panel will be hearing two closed-door hearings and might conduct a site visit during their stay in Kuantan from Monday to Wednesday.

The panel will be holding separate hearings in Putrajaya on Thursday and Friday, where their visit would come to an end. They are expected to submit their report to the government by late June.

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