Archive for February, 2012

Residents have mixed feelings over Lynas safety

Posted on February 29, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

-Malaysiakini.com–

As rare earth mining giant Lynas clears it’s licence hurdle with the Atomic Energy Licensing Board, Kuantan residents will soon face the prospect of living near a hazardous waste processing plant, the first to be built outside of China in almost 30 years.

NONEKnown as the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp), the largest of its kind in the world, the RM700 million facility will be crucial in breaking China’s monopoly on the global rare earth supply.

While Malaysian leaders appear eager for the country to play host to a facility that will take on the ‘Asian Dragon’, the small coastal town of Gebeng, approximately 30km northeast of Kuantan and its surrounding townships are suddenly under the spotlight.

Lamp will produce three forms of by-products but locals and environmental activists are most concerned about possible leakages in the storage of the leech water purification waste containing radioactive thorium and uranium.

Lynas aims to fire up its facility by the second quarter of this year but opinions about the plant and how serious this will affect locals’ vote come the general election remain mixed.

A majority of people around Kuantan appear torn over the plant’s safety despite guarantees from the government and Lynas Malaysia, and some are even mulling to move out from the town.

Unconvinced over safety of facility

NONERestaurant operator Nor Azlina Ahmad Suid, who has been residing in Kuantan since 1997, is among those who want out.

“I will certainly go elsewhere, what is there to wait? There will be illness,” said the mother of three children.

Though admitting that she is unclear of Lamp’s impact, she is unconvinced by reassurances that the facility is safe.

“Even though the government gives its guarantee, but it can say anything it likes, we will never know what will happen in future,” she said.

She adds that she will hold the government responsible at the ballot box in the event of any fallout.

Meanwhile, pickled fruit seller Baharudin Salleh, who has lived in Kuantan for the last 45 years, questioned Lynas’ insistence to operate in Malaysia instead of in Australia.

“If it is safe then they should do it in their country, but they want to do it here, what is the reason?,” he asked, adding that he may consider moving out.

Asked for his view if Lynas would be a factor for locals come general election, he replied: “This will likely affect BN here.”

Meanwhile, Suzliana Mohd Ghazali, 33, who helps her mother in a grocery store is concerned that the plant will affect their business.

“When it (Lamp) is ready, tourists may be less keen to come to Kuantan, especially since the plant is near the coastal towns such as Cherating, Balok beach and Batu Hitam beach,” she said, while her 60-year-old mother silently watched on as she rocked Suzliana’s four-year-old son in the cradle.

Suzliana who resides in Kampung Pantai Batu Hitam, 15km south of Gebeng, has three other sons aged ten, eight and seven.

While she accepts the government’s explanation that the plant is safe, Suzliana said still worries about the long-term effects.

Nonetheless, she will remain in Kuantan because she has “no other choice” as her husband works here and they have already bought a house.

“But before my house was priced at about RM145,000, suddenly after the Lynas factory came up, people wanted to sell their houses and my house is now at about RM125,000. The market has fallen drastically,” she lamented.

There has not been empirical evidence to show that the fall in prices was a direct cause of Lamp.

Asked if she considers Lynas an important election issue, she replied: “Of course.”

Perception battle will hurt Kuantan

On the other hand, Asrul Zamani, 36, who operates a food stall does not see this as an election issue or that it will affect his business.

However, he is concerned that the back and forth safety argument between the government and activists will create negative perceptions and affect Kuantan’s economy.

“The government keeps saying it is safe, but I don’t know, there are others who say at a point in future it will become unsafe because it has radiation… so the rakyat are asking whether this is really safe or not,” he said.

Asrul currently lives in Kampung Cenderawasih, near the heart of Kuantan and is a father to three children, aged eight, three and one.

He adds that whatever happens he will remain in Kuantan, saying: “We’re just a small business, not a big tauke, like it or not we must remain here, what can we do?”

As for Joesmart Ali, 35, who resides in Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s constituency of Pekan but works in Kuantan as a security guard, says he is largely influenced by his friends.

“I asked many of my friends, is it true Lynas is harmful and I can see that they’re all fearful,” he said.

However, he said, it would make little difference in opposing the project, stating: “This is for the people above to decide because they have the power, we don’t have any power so we can only follow, if we were to die then so be it.”

Asked if this will influence him at the ballot box, Joesmart appeared uncertain, merely saying: “I don’t know, maybe it’s politics, people are saying it’s harmful but the government says otherwise, if anything bad happens they will have to be responsible.”

Meanwhile, Rozana Sali, 50 who runs a Malay traditional medicine shop is confident that Lamp is safe.

“During former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s time, many people questioned his mega projects such as the Penang Bridge, Cyberjaya and Proton, but today Malaysia has developed,” she said proudly, adding that she will continue to support BN.

Similarly, Rohmah Deraman who runs a pickled fruit stall said she is satisfied by the government’s guarantee, on top of explanations from her friends in the Pahang Malay Chambers of Commerce.

“BN’s vote will be unaffected come general election,” she said.

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Shut down or there’ll be another anti-Lynas rally, Govt told

Posted on February 28, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Star-

KUANTAN: Another anti-Lynas rally will be held if the Government does not shut down the rare earth refinery project in Gebeng, said the Himpunan Hijau committee which organised the first protest on Sunday.

Its chairman Wong Tack said he was disappointed with Prime Minis­ter Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s statement that the Go­­vernment had to look for a solution that would be acceptable to the people without affecting investments.

“We cannot accept his statement. Therefore, the Him­punan Hijau 3.0 rally is on – unless the project is cancelled,” Wong said at a press conference yesterday.

The organisers had called on the Government to respond within 24 hours after the Himpunan Hijau 2.0 rally ended two days ago.

Najib had said Lynas was looking for an uninhabited location to store the waste material from the plant, although it was scientifically safe.

Wong said the committee would discuss with Bersih chairman Da­­­tuk Ambiga Sreenevasan on the possibility of holding a joint rally soon.

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Adnan welcomes ‘demo-tourism’ in Pahang

Posted on February 27, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

–BERNAMA–

ANTI-LYNAS PROTEST: A woman spotting green paint protesting against the Lynas plant . — Bernama photo

KUANTAN: Pahang Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said the state government welcomes peaceful demonstrations in Pahang as they could help generate economic activities for various parties.

Refering to Himpunan Hijau 2.0’s rally held in Kuantan yesterday, Adnan said  ‘Demo-Tourism’ should be encouraged.

“The state government welcomes this peaceful demonstration because it generated economic activities especially for entrepreneurs and businessmen in Kuantan.

“I call this Demo-Tourism.   Demo-Tourism should be encouraged,” he said through SMS to Bernama here yesterday.

According to Adnan: “Himpunan Hijau has completed its demonstration. There are three things that can be seen here.

“First, there is healthy democracy in the country. Everyone can speak and assemble as long as they do not break the law.

“Secondly, the authorities, especially the police and the Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK) have acted fairly and professionally to ensure the rally ran smoothly.

“Thirdly, the Anti-Lynas movement under the name of Himpunan Hijau clearly is not significant. The people did not believe the opposition who are only good at lying,” he said.

The Himpunan Hijau 2.0 demonstration, which was held at the MPK 4 field here, failed to attract 20,000 people as targeted when only about 3,000 people turned up to protest Lynas’ rare earth plant operations here. — Bernama

 

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Najib: Lynas Corp would not be licensed if Govt was not convinced

Posted on February 27, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

–The Star—
SEKINCHAN: Lynas Corp‘s rare earth plant in Gebeng has been reviewed by the Government and found to be safe, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

He also said they were looking for an uninhabited location to place the waste material from the Lynas plant although it was scientifically safe.

“This move is to bring relief to the local community. Although it is safe scientifically, it may haunt the community psychologically and that must be taken into account,” he told reporters at the ground-breaking ceremony at SJK (C) Yoke Kuan here for the school’s new building block.

Najib said the plant would not have received an operating licence if the Government was not convinced that it was safe.

“But if there are people who object for political reasons, there is nothing we can do about it. Opposition parties will look for issues like this as capital to garner the support of the local community. But they are not finding a solution,” he said.

He added that the Government wanted a solution, which would be acceptable to the people without affecting investments, particularly if the investment is not dangerous or harmful to the local community.

In Kuala Lumpur, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the party only supported facts and recommendations by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

He said it was not fair that Pakatan Rakyat had politicised the project and undermined the nation’s image.

In Kuantan, Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob, in a press statement, praised the anti-Lynas Himpunan Hijau 2.0 rally for “generating income” for the town’s businesses, calling it demo-tourism.

Adnan added that the rally was proof of the healthy practice of democracy in the country as anyone could assemble and voice their dissatisfaction as long as they do not break the law.

Meanwhile, Himpunan Hijau 2.0 chairman Wong Tack threatened to hold another anti-Lynas rally if the Government did not respond within 24 hours. Wong also brushed aside Kuantan OCPD ACP Mohd Jasmani Yusoff’s statement that the organisers had violated several conditions, saying it was irrelevant.

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Over 100 in city gather to support rally

Posted on February 27, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Borneo Post-

GREEN SUPPORTERS: Over 100 people turn up at the Malaysia-China Friendship Park despite a downpour.

KUCHING: More than 100 people from all walks of life supported Himpunan Hijau 2.0 at the Malaysia-China Friendship Park here yesterday despite a heavy downpour.

The effort was meant to show support for the people of Kuantan who are rejecting Lynas Corporation’s rare earth processing plant in Gebeng.

Assemblymen See Chee How (Batu Lintang), Baru Bian (Ba Kelalan) and Ali Biju (Krian) were said to have flown to Kuantan to help rally support for the people there.

Initiator of the gathering here, PKR Sarawak, had to conclude the gathering, which was scheduled to be held from 8.15am to 9.30am, 30 minutes earlier due to the bad weather.

Despite the heavy downpour, which started around 8.15am, the supporters stood their grounds with umbrellas to show their determination to help stop the rare earth processing plant from materialising.

Also there were Batu Kawah assemblywoman Christina Chiew and Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen’s special assistant Dr Tang Sie Hing — both from the DAP.

Several enforcement officers, including Rela personnel, were present to monitor the ‘green rally’, which also had the backing of DAP Sarawak.

As it continued to rain cats and dogs, PKR members and a couple of supporters later moved to a nearby coffeeshop and continued on with the rally to raise public awareness about the negative impact of the Lynas plant.

Green flyers bearing images and words such as ‘Why we must stop Lynas Corporation Ltd …’ and ‘Say ‘No’ to Lynas …’ were distributed at the coffeeshop.

A few patrons there even volunteered to hold up posters which read ‘Stop Lynas’, ‘Save Malaysia’ and ‘We are Sarawakians, and we reject rare earth’ to demonstrate their solidarity.

DAP Kuching later issued a media statement urging the federal government to withdraw the temporary operating licence for the RM700 million Lynas Advanced Material Plant in Gebeng.

“We urge the government of Malaysia to put the interest and safety of people in Kuantan and Malaysia first.”

According to the NGO Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL), the Lynas rare earth processing plant is expected to discharge tonnes of waste into the rivers and South China Sea.

It has claimed that rare earth processing is a polluting industry that would deter investment from clean technology and ethical companies, stressing: “Letting Lynas operate is not an option.”

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Guan Eng felt threatened during anti-Lynas rally

Posted on February 27, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

-The Sun-

GEORGE TOWN (Feb 27, 2012): For the first time in four years since taking over as Penang chief minister, Lim Guan Eng admitted he felt “his life was threatened” during a public rally on Sunday.

A rowdy crowd of around 50 people started heckling and hurling racial abuse at Lim when he spoke at the anti-Lynas rally at the Speaker’s Square in Esplanade.

“One of them was less than a metre away from me and his arm was stretched towards me,” he said.

“If this was done to the prime minister, ‘dia sudah habis’ (he would be finished),” Lim told a press conference today.

Sensing trouble, Lim decided to leave the rally but the group then blocked his official car.

The group kicked and spat at the car as Lim was driven away.

Another car belonging to state executive councillor Lydia Ong Kok Fooi was also damaged in the melee.

Lim said some 2,000 people were at the Speaker’s Corner for a rally organised by Suaram Penang in solidarity with the Himpunan Hijau 2.0 gathering in Kuantan to protest the construction of the Lynas rare earth plant.

“It is your right if you want the (Lynas) project, but it is also the right of the others to reject it,” he said, adding that the rowdy group was rude and only came to provoke the anti-Lynas supporters.

On whether any police report or legal action will be taken, Datuk Keramat assemblyman Jagdeep Singh Deo said they would look into the matter first.

“I call on Penang police chief Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakob to personally look into this matter. This is a threat to the Penang chief minister,” he added.

Jagdeep, who is Lim’s legal adviser, said the case should be investigated for attempted assault and criminal intimidation.

Ayub in a statement said the organisers should have informed and discussed with the district police on security precautions to be taken as provided for under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2011.

Ayub said the organiser should have arranged safety measures because of the presence of a VVIP like the Penang chief minister.

“Why only blame the police when something like this happened when (the safety measure) was not mentioned during the planning stage?” he added.

Ayub said in handling gatherings and riots, the police have methods to break the tension, which takes into consideration the safety and lives of innocent people.

“We have made recordings of the incident and will investigate based on the law,” he added.

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Himpunan Hijau threatens even bigger anti-Lynas rally

Posted on February 26, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

–Themalaysianinsider.com —
By Yow Hong Chieh
February 26, 2012

Thousands participate in today’s Himpunan Hijau in Kuantan today. – Picture by Jack Ooi

KUANTAN, Feb 26 — Putrajaya must axe Lynas Corp’s rare earth plant or face an even larger demonstration in the near future, organisers of today’s anti-Lynas rally have said.Himpunan Hijau 2.0 chairman Wong Tack said the coalition would give authorities one day to respond to the demand, after which the green group will start planning its next mammoth protest.

“The whole nation has risen up. We cannot accept this kind of destruction to our country. It is very clear. How much louder do you want us to scream? When are you going to care about the people’s concerns?” he told reporters after the rally at Padang MPK 4 here.

“We want a decision to be made in 24 hours, or else our committee will start immediately on a bigger demonstration… to make sure either we bring down Lynas or bring down this government. You change your decision or we change you.”

Wong said while the Najib administration may be in power now, the radioactive waste that will be produced at the Lynas Corp plant in nearby Gebeng will persist for much, much longer.

“You may be in government today, but the waste is not going to be finished while you’re in government.

“While you may be out in a few months, we have to handle it for millions of years. How can we accept that?” he said.

The Himpunan Hijau 2.0 anti-Lynas rally today attracted thousands in what was the first major protest since the Public Assembly Bill was made into law last month.

The mammoth rally, which received a green light from city police, went off without a hitch.

The protests came hot on the heels of the Atomic Energy Licensing Board’s (AELB) decision on January 20 to grant Lynas a temporary operating licence (TOL), which will let it embark on a trial run.

Critics have alleged that the Australian miner has not given enough assurances on how it will handle the low-level radioactive waste that will be produced at the refinery.

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Malaysians protest against rare earth refinery

Posted on February 26, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Guardian-

Opponents of plant, which will process radioactive ore from Australia, say it poses health and environmental risks.

Malaysia protest

Protesters say the rare earth plant being built in eastern Malaysia poses a hazard from radioactive waste. Photograph: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters

About 3,000 Malaysians have staged a protest against a refinery for rare earth elements being built by the Australian mining company Lynas over fears of radioactive contamination.

It was the largest rally so far against the £146m plant in a central state of the Malaysian peninsula, and could pose a headache for the government with national elections widely expected this year.

Authorities recently granted Lynas a licence to operate the rare earth plant in Pahang state, the first outside China in years, and it has been the subject of heated protests over health and environmental risks posed by potential leaks of radioactive waste.

Lynas says its plant, which will refine radioactive ore from Australia, has state-of-the-art pollution controls and plans to start operations by June.

Protesters, including opposition MPs, pledged on Sunday to put pressure on the government to scrap the project. Many wore green T-shirts with the words “Stop Lynas” and some shouted “Destroy Lynas” during the two-hour rally in the Pahang state capital, Kuantan.

The opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, said his alliance would seek an emergency motion in parliament to urge the government to cancel the project. He also pledged that the opposition would scrap the plant if it won national polls expected by June.

“We don’t want [this project] to sacrifice our culture and the safety of the children,” he told the crowd.

Lynas says its refinery could meet nearly a third of world demand for rare earths, excluding China. It also may curtail China’s stranglehold on the global supply of 17 rare earths essential for making hi-tech goods, including flat-screen TVs, mobile phones, hybrid cars and weapons.

Malaysian activists and Pahang residents have sought a court order to halt the Lynas plant.

An International Atomic Energy Agency team, which assessed the Lynas project last year, found it lacked a comprehensive long-term waste management programme and a plan to dismantle the plant once it is no longer operating.

Malaysia‘s last rare earth refinery, operated by Mitsubishi of Japan, in northern Perak state, was closed in 1992 after protests and claims that it caused birth defects and leukaemia among residents. It is one of Asia’s largest radioactive waste cleanup sites.

• This article was clarified on 27 February 2012 because it located the planned Lynas plant in “eastern Malaysia”. The east comprises major island states and regions.

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Malaysian protest over rare earths refinery plan

Posted on February 26, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

Protesters in Kuantan. 26 Feb 2012 Many of the  protesters in Kuantan were dressed in green
– BBC-

People living near a planned refinery for rare earth elements in Malaysia have held a demonstration to try to halt its construction.

The protesters in the eastern city of Kuantan say there is a risk of dangerous radiation from the plant.

The refinery will process precious metals used in the production of mobile phones and flat-screen TVs.

Regulators insist that the plant will pose no health risk to people living in the area, in Pahang state.

However the BBC’s Jennifer Pak in Pahang says few people believe the Malaysian government could handle a radioactive disaster.

The protest – dubbed Green Gathering 2.0 – began in a carnival atmosphere with people dressed in green and beating drums. More than 2,000 people took part.

Last month shares in Lynas surged after Malaysian authorities granted it a licence to operate the refinery.

Once it is completed, the plant is expected to be one of the biggest sources of rare earth elements outside China.

China is currently the biggest producer, with more than 95% share of the global market.

Global demand for rare earth metals has tripled over the past decade.

However, China has imposed a production cap and said it will cut exports of the materials, prompting accusations that it is trying to manipulate prices.

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Pahang MCA Forms Committee To Monitor Lynas

Posted on February 11, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

(Bernama) — The Pahang MCA will form a special committee to monitor operations of the Lynas Advance Material Plants (LAMP) which has been issued with a temporary operating licence (TOL).

State MCA chairman Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the committee, to be formed together with several Chinese associations in Pahang, would see that LAMP met the conditions stipulated in the TOL.

“We want to ascertain Lynas abide by the stipulated regulations so that its operations will not adversely affect the safety and health of the people in Kuantan,” he told reporters after chairing the Pahang MCA committee meeting here today.

Liow, who is Health Minister, said the committee would complement the special committee formed by the ministry a few months ago for the same purpose.

“The committee (formed by the ministry) has a panel comprising health experts, and if it is found that the plant’s operation endangers the residents’ health, we will propose to the authorities to take action,” he added.

Construction of the rare earth refinery plant became an issue after certain parties objected to it claiming that it will result in radiation.

Apart from that, the Pahang MCA also wants the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to provide feedbacks on suggestions and ideas submitted by the public on Lynas Corporation’s application for the TOL last January.

“AELB should also explain on other conditions given to Lynas when the TOL was approved to the company last week.

“Although we know that there are four conditions, the people want to know whether the authorities will monitor and ensure that Lynas abide by them,” he added.

They include the requirement for Lynas to deposit USD50 million (RM152 million) guarantee with the government which can be paid in instalments and the provision of a permanent disposal facility (PDF).

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