Lynas Not Off The Hook Yet



Putrajaya is expected to extend the current operation permit for Lynas Corp's rare-earth refinery for a provisional period of six months
According to sources, this was decided by the cabinet on Wednesday. The plant’s current three-year permit will expire on Sept 2
In the interim, Lynas Corp is expected to inform the government of a comprehensive plan to deal with its water leach purification (WLP) residue
WLP residue contains thorium, a radioactive substance that could cause cancer, among other health issues, when exposed to humans.Thorium was the main reason why the federal government shut down the controversial Asian Rare Earth Sdn Bhd's (ARE) plant in Perak in the 1980s
According to sources, the cabinet meeting over Lynas' permit saw at least three ministers in favour of the permit renewal
However, it was learnt that all ministers, who were against Lynas' operations when they were in the opposition, remained consistent in their stand
It was also learnt that although the cabinet arrived at a decision to scuttle environment minister Yeo Bee Yin's condition for Lynas to ship its toxic waste out of the country, it was not unanimous
A compromise on whether to renew Lynas' license was eventually reached - by deferring the decision for six months, said a source
"After six months, they will evaluate the situation again," said a source
Major setbackThe cabinet's decision to drop Yeo's condition of not keeping the plant’s radioactive wastes on Malaysian soil will be a major setback for the anti-Lynas campaign within Harapan
Although the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry's executive review committee on the refinery had recommended for a permanent disposal facility (PDF) within Malaysian borders, Yeo was adamant that the material is shipped abroad
According to a statement from Lynas yesterday, the company was still in the process of hunting for a waste disposal site within Pahang, where the plant is based
Lynas' permit renewal is a political hot potato because it has economic benefits – as well as political benefits as it is the world's only major producer of rare earths outside China - but it is sensitive due to its associated health risks and lingering scars from the ARE fiasco
China has an almost complete monopoly in producing rare earth elements, which are used in a wide gamut of consumer products, from mobile photos to electric car motors, as well as military jet engines, satellites and lasers
Sources said cabinet had been deliberating on the matter for months
Although Pakatan Harapan's manifesto is silent about the rare earth refinery, which began operation in 2012, some Harapan MPs have long campaigned against it, citing health risks
Putrajaya is expected to make a formal announcement on the six-month extension, with further details, within two weeks. - Mkini

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