Lynas can drive green tech industries, say scientists

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

-The Malaysianinsider-

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — The Lynas rare earth plant in Gebeng can be a catalyst for the development of green technology in Malaysia, the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) said today.

ASM chief spokesman Datuk Dr Lee Yee Cheong said rare earths were “vitamins” for environmentally friendly technology and Malaysia had an opportunity to build downstream industries around the plant.

“Malaysia is strategically placed in the (global) race for green technology competitiveness in the next five to 10 years,” he said when launching ASM’s “Rare Earth Industries: Moving Malaysia’s Green Economy Forward” report here.

Lee (picture) said greater focus in the high value-added green industries would help the country realise its high-income goal at a time when worldwide demand for such products was on the rise.

“Countries that do not invest in green energy and technology will live to regret the day when others are seen extracting the dividends of their investments,” he said.

But he warned this would not happen if Malaysia was content to only process rare earth ores without simultaneously promoting development of indigenous downstream industries.

ASM chief executive Dr Ahmad Ibrahim said the Lynas plant was a key test case on how Malaysia handled public perception of “high-risk technologies”.

“The government needs to have a different modus operandi, especially in engaging the public, because increasingly they are an important determinant of future high-risk business…

“Unless you get social acceptance, there will be problems,” he told reporters at a press conference afterwards, saying that the outcome of this public engagement would impact on investor sentiment in future.

The controversial RM1.5 billion Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) being built in Gebeng, Pahang is said to be 85 per cent complete and is expected to power up by early next year.

The rare earth refinery, touted to be the biggest in the world, aims to break China’s near-complete stranglehold of the minerals required to manufacture high-technology products like hybrid cars, smartphones to bombs.

But public protests by local residents and environmental groups over the radioactive hazard posed by the plant this year put the brakes on Lynas’ plans.

The outcry prompted a review by a nine-man panel of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who instructed the Sydney-based company to provide a better long-term waste management plan.

Putrajaya, which imposed tighter environmental safety standards on the proposed plant in June following the high-profile protests, has yet to issue a pre-operating licence for the plant.


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