Australian eco groups claim Lynas hid info on Kuantan plant

Posted on May 20, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Malaysian Insider-
By Debra Chong
May 20, 2011

Opposition to the Lynas plant is continuing both in Malaysia and Australia. — file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — Two Australian environmentalist groups have accused Lynas Corp of withholding critical information to push through its RM700 million refinery in Gebeng, touted to be the world’s biggest rare earth processing plant once built.

Australia’s leading grassroots environmentalist organisation, Friends of the Earth Australia (FoE Australia), and the Conservation Council of Western Australia waded into the controversy as pressure continues to build up in Malaysia that is threatening to delay — if not derail — the Lynas project.

“There are a number of issues that the company must answer including release of a full environmental assessment for the site,” FoE Australia spokesman Natalie Lowrey said in a joint statement.

“Lynas has not made this information publicly available before embarking on the construction of the Kuantan site which could indicate that they have something to hide,” she added.

Lowrey and her counterpart in the Conservation Council of Western Australia, Mia Pepper, urged the Sydney-based miner to stop work on its Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) until all details about the potentially hazardous waste management are known, especially the long-term effect of radioactive thorium on residents.

Pepper said “the secrecy is unacceptable and the dangers to health are all too familiar” in a pointed reminder of the Japanese-owned Asian Rare Earth (ARE) plant in Bukit Merah, Ipoh which was blamed for the rise in leukaemia cases in the late 1980s and was forced to fund a RM303 million site clean-up despite shutting down in 1992.

“We believe that the risks of this development could leave a toxic legacy for decades to come,” she said.

Pepper claimed the Lynas rare earth concentrate will also be transported through Fremantle in hessian bags, which she said was the same method used by Magellan Metals to transport its lead export. These bags had leaked and caused contamination, forcing the iron miner to shut down.

“It’s not good enough for WA and it’s not good enough for Malaysia,” she said, in a show of solidarity with the Kuantan residents’ movement.

Lynas expects to receive a preliminary operating licence from the Atomic Energy Licensing Board before September, which will be renewed as a full licence within three years should the plant comply with agreed standards.

The company hopes to earn RM8 billion in annual revenue from 2013 based on current refined metals prices, when it will supply one-third of the world’s demand outside of China

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