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Public hearing of Lynas review on November 11

Workers of Lynas Malaysia saying thanksgiving at the vicinity of the  Kuantan High Court on Nov 17 2012, after the court rejected an injunction application to stop the company's operations.

Workers of Lynas Malaysia saying thanksgiving at the vicinity of the Kuantan High Court on Nov 17 2012, after the court rejected an injunction application to stop the company's operations.

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR — October 30, 2018: The committee tasked with reviewing the operations of Lynas Corporation Ltd’s rare-earth refinery in Kuantan will hold its first public hearing at Universiti Malaysia Pahang on November 11, according to a statement from the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry today.

Apart from the public, some other stakeholders have also been invited, said an officer. The stakeholders include environmental groups, government agencies and experts in environmental management, public health and radioactive safety.

Lynas, accused by critics of stockpiling dangerous radioactive residue, is currently undergoing its third review since it started operations in Malaysia in 2012.

Lynas’ 2018 review committee

Name

Designation/Area of Expertise

Professor Datuk Dr Mazlin Mokhtar

Research Fellow for Institute for Environment and Development

Prof Dr Jamal Hisham Hashim

Visiting Lecturer at the International Institute for Global Health, United Nations University

Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed

Unit Director of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Occupational Safety, Health and Environment

Associate Prof Dr Anita Abdul Rahman

Department of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia

Assoc Prof Dr Muzamir Hasan

Director of Universiti Malaysia Pahang’s Earth Resources and Sustainability Centre

Datin Paduka Che Asmah Ibrahim

Former director of the Department of Environment Malaysia’s Hazardous Subtances Division.

The plant, the only rare-earth producer outside of China, was previously reviewed twice by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2011 and 2014, with the agency rating it as intrinsically low-risk.

Critics, however, continued to harp on the purported dangers of its waste-water and solid residue.

The critics’ animosity towards Lynas stemmed from a radioactive poisoning incident in Bukit Merah, Perak, in the 1990s which was blamed on a rare-earth mining and refining company.

However, a parliamentary select committee in 2012 disclosed that Lynas’ rare-earths concentrates — mined from Australia — are 44 times lower in radioactivity compared to those mined in Bukit Merah.

Balancing China’s rare-earth stranglehold

Rare-earth oxides are the crucial compound for the production of high-tech items such as smartphones and car engines, be it combustion or hybrid.

Almost 85 per cent of global rare-earth production comes from China and the country had in 2011 threatened to cut its exports, causing the price of the material to skyrocket.

The strategic significance of rare-earths metals was further highlighted last month when the United States excluded them from a round of import tariffs against China despite the ongoing trade-war between the two countries.

“If you have a geographical monopoly on the production of these materials it’s going to affect us all ultimately,” said Lynas CEO Amanda Lacaze during a recent interview.

Currently, about 15 per cent of global rare-earth production comes from the plant in Gebeng, outside Kuantan town.

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]