KUALA LUMPUR – December 5, 2018: When it was first formed, the team tasked to review the operations of a controversial rare-earth refinery in Gebeng was touted to be an independent committee, so much so that even the staunchest critics of the refinery regarded so.
Which is why it was a complete shocker when a member of the committee told The Mole that they were given a gag order and that any media inquiry concerning the review needed to be directed to the appropriate ministry.
“We got a directive that we cannot talk about the report. Please direct your questions to Mestecc (Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change),” said a member of the committee comprising six experts with related expertise.
A closer inspection on the committee’s terms of reference as stated in its report –which was made public yesterday – seemed to suggest the gag order may not be entirely surprising, given its ambiguity.
According to the report, aside from thoroughly inspecting Lynas’ refinery, the committee was to prepare a list of recommendations to Mestecc within six weeks, starting from October 17 to November 27, and that was basically it.
An aide to the minister however denied that the ministry had ever doled out such a directive and that the committee’s decision to keep mum was merely a consensus decision so as to not utter anything that could impair the credibility of the report.
Common sense however dictates that the committee’s continued silence would only allow politicians to further concoct lies to score brownie points. A case in point was today’s claim at parliament that the stated Lynas’ residue had contaminated the ground water in Gebeng.
This was a blatant spin because nowhere in the report has the committee stated that the ground water was contaminated by Lynas’ residue. Which is why, it recommended the company to conduct a study to discern the cause of such contamination.
An officer with the Department of Environment has a theory on how such a contamination might have happened and according to him it could be due to the rampant mining of bauxite in 2015 to 2016.
“The report did not include the movement pattern of the ground water below Lynas’ site but mind you that the spike of heavy metals tainting the ground water happened throughout the bauxite mining controversy.
“For all we know, the heavy metals could seep into the ground water during heavy rain and the latter could meander its way below Lynas’ refinery because why Lynas had been operating since 2012 and that spike was only recorded in 2015 to 2016,” said the officer.