Minister sidesteps Lynas, wants controversy downplayed

Posted on May 26, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Malaysian Insider-
By Lee Wei Lian
May 26, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 — Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed declined today to directly address questions on the storage of waste by-products from the Lynas rare earth refinery, saying that the issue should not be played up.

This comes as the review panel for the proposed Lynas plant in Gebeng is set to start work on May 29 until June 3.

“Don’t play up anything,” he replied at a press conference today when asked if there was any deal between Lynas and Putrajaya for the storage of radioactive waste from the rare earth refinery. “You can submit your views to us in writing or online.”

Mustapa (picture) also defended the independence of the nine-member review panel, which includes four members from the International Atomic Energy Agency, from allegations of conflict of interest, saying that they comprised global experts with no vested interests.

He said the government was committed to public safety, hoping the issue will not be politicised.

“We are not going to hide anything,” he said.

Asked about a statement issued by Lynas on May 21 that it had placed funds with the government for the “safe management” of rare earth residues, Mustapa said he had no information on the matter.

He urged the public to allow the review panel to conduct its investigation, saying that the outcome should not be speculated upon.

“Don’t be emotional, politicise and pre-judge,” he said.

The minister said there will not be an open forum with the review panel but said that relevant stake holders such as the Bar Council and resident associations will be invited to the public engagements in KL and Kuantan.

He noted that the ministry had also put in advertorials in mainstream newspapers yesterday to seek public feedback to be forwarded to the review panel.

Environmentalists and Kuantan residents have raised questions over radioactive waste being produced and stored at the Gebeng plant, fearing a repeat of the last rare earth factory in Bukit Merah, Perak, which has been linked to eight cases of leukaemia, seven resulting in death.

Lynas had expected to receive a preliminary operating licence from the AELB by September, which was to be renewed as a full licence within three years should the plant comply with agreed standards.

It is anticipating profits 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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