Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Malaysian Insider - Kuantan MP: Putrajaya selling out people for Lynas funds

Kuantan MP: Putrajaya selling out people for Lynas funds

May 28, 2011
Fuziah said the waste disposal research was putting the cart before the horse. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 — Putrajaya has committed “an act of treason on the rakyat” by asking Lynas Corp to set aside earnings from its Gebeng rare earth plant to fund research into waste disposal, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh said today.

She claimed the existence of the condition, imposed on the Australian mining giant by the Najib administration in exchange for a manufacturing licence, showed that the government had doubts about the controversial plant’s safety.

“Why should we be doing research on waste management now? Should not Miti (Ministry of International Trade) have gathered all the facts prior to awarding them the strategic pioneer status?” Fuziah said in a statement.

The Malaysian Insider reported today that Lynas was asked to pay the government a “certain percentage” from its annual gross profit to undertake research and development on the management and disposal of radioactive waste or pay financial security.

Currently, rare earth waste products can only be buried, recycled or transmuted into non-radioactive material, although many small operations in China release toxic waste into the general water supply.

A government source said the requirement was mooted as a condition of Lynas’s manufacturing licence by the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) during a meeting that also included representatives from the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (Mida) and Miti.

While the source stressed that AELB — and not Mida or Miti — had asked for the security, he insisted that the payments should not construed as indemnity against potentially hazardous waste that may result from processing rare earths at the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng, Pahang.

Fuziah said today it was “immoral” for Lynas to pay what she described as a surety fund given its assurance that the plant will be safe, and claimed this was proof the company was ready to sacrifice fundamental principles just to obtain a local manufacturing licence.

She added that the government should make every doubt about LAMP a reason to nix the project as people’s lives and safety was non-negotiable and too priceless to trade.

Mida and Miti successfully pulled Lynas to set up shop here after China — the world’s biggest rare earths producer — closed its doors to foreign firms to maintain its 97 per cent chokehold on the global rare earths market.

Green groups here and in Australia have lobbied their respective governments to scupper the project ahead of LAMP’s September start date, citing the company’s opaque plans on waste storage and transport management between the Mount Weld mine in Western Australia and the Gebeng refinery.

Lynas is among the world’s biggest suppliers of rare earths, a group of minerals vital in the manufacture of high technology goods that are ecologically friendly but create toxic by-products in the process.

The RM700 million LAMP is expected to be the world’s largest and most sophisticated upon completion.

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