Fuziah Salleh: Lynas practising double standards in Malaysia and making use of “lax environmental laws” unlike those enforced in Australia
Fuziah’s concerns over Lynas’ safety compliance were over the latter’s first proposal to build the rare-earth refinery in Kemaman, Terengganu in 2007 where the company had quoted safety standards practised in China.
She suspects that the same proposal from 2007 was forwarded for Kuantan and it quoted a “limit of 74 Bq/g for the waste to be categorised as non radioactive waste”.
“We can compare and contrast here that the difference is 70 times. It goes further to strengthen my argument that Lynas is using different standards in Australia and different standards in Malaysia.
“Malaysians, especially the people of Kuantan, have a right to know whether the standards to be used are going to be China standards or Australian standards or IAEA standards?”
Lynas given approval in 3 weeks despite high risk
Fuziah cited several documents from the Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation which had given work approval to the Lynas Rare Earth Concentration Plant in Mount Weld.
According to the work approval document dated April 1, the Australian firm exceeded it’s “limit of 1 Bq/g set for non-radioactive tailings” or exceeded the limits allowed for non-significant radioactive waste.
“The environmental assessment report that accompanied the Amendment to the Work Approval also mentioned that Lynas needs to increase the impermeability of the lining of their storage facility and that Lynas has not complied to the original requirements as in the original Works Approval, thus Lynas has to make an additional lining in order to decrease the permeability of the tailing storage facility,” said Fuziah.
She regretted that despite the complexity of the LAMP project, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) had not considered a Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA) for the project.
Fuziah also reprimanded Kuantan’s Department of Environment for approving LAMP’s high-risk project within three weeks in 2008.
“This goes to strengthen my argument that the Malaysian government does not have the capacity to monitor the enforcement on the safety of the industry in which LAMP is involved,” said Fuziah.
IAEA’s responsibility to 700,000 citizens
“The (IAEA) panel members may be pro-nuclear in their personal capacity, however they must remember that their role is to be a regulator and not to be a promoter in this particular task in Kuantan,” she said, urging the panel to strictly adhere to IAEA safety codes.
“The Kuantan and Kemaman citizens, 700,000 in total, within the 30km radius of LAMP will be watching. They, the panel must also remember that they must first be answerable to the public, rather than to the government that appoints them,” she added.
Lynas has invested some RM700 million to build the plant in Kuantan, which they intend to complete and begin test runs by September this year.
The project, however, has met strong protests from locals and opposition politicians, who claim that the plant will turn Gebeng and nearby Kuantan into a second Bukit Merah.
The Bukit Merah fiasco in Perak took place in the 1980s and early 1990s, when Japanese company Mitsubishi Chemical ran its Asian Rare Earth (ARE) factory which processed tin tailings to extract rare earth compounds.
The company’s failure to manage the radioactive waste produced by ARE’s operations however created what is now arguably Asia’s largest radioactive waste clean-up.
The radiation from the factory’s operations is blamed for scores of deaths in nearby villages due to various illnesses, particularly leukaemia.