By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — Residents living near Lynas Corp’s controversial rare earth plant have accused the Australian miner of disrespecting local regulations by signing a deal to complete a second phase of the refinery despite not having met prior safety requirements.
Beserah residents, who live as close as 2km from the Kuantan plant, told reporters today that the mining giant’s RM630 million deal with a Thai engineering firm was “arrogant and unreasonable.”“How is it that they are so confident they will meet the regulations? This shows our enforcement is loose. It only makes us less confident,” said Andansura Rabu, chairman of Badan Bertindak Anti-Rare Earth Refinery (Badar), a group of Beserah residents opposed to the plant.
Local residents around Kuantan and environmentalists have strongly opposed the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) due to fears of radiation poisoning and forced the government to order a month-long review that concluded on June 28.
The review led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) put forward 11 recommendations for Lynas to meet before beginning operations which have been adopted by Putrajaya.
But Lynas has denied reports that the new conditions set by the government will delay the plant by up to two years, insisting that it remains on track to begin operations and complete phase one of the plant by the end of 2011.
It then announced on July 13 that a deal with Toyo-Thai Corporation has been struck to complete phase two of the plant by the last quarter of 2012 subject to approval from local authorities.
“This shows great disrespect to our regulations and is an unreasonable and arrogant move,” Andansura added.
The Australian mining giant has said that its plant — which will extract rare earth metals crucial for high-technology products like smartphones, hybrid cars and wind turbines — will create a RM4 billion multiplier effect annually and 350 jobs for skilled workers.
Although reports say the plant may earn RM8 billion for Lynas, critics have questioned the real economic benefit of the project, pointing to the 12-year tax break Lynas will enjoy due to its pioneer status.