KUALA LUMPUR — December 27, 2018: A member of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) has suggested that the country could bolster its waste-processing technologies if Lynas Corporation Ltd.’s rare-earth wastes were to be kept in the country.
Instead of returning the wastes to its country of origin, Professor Datuk Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim of UCSI University contended that the government should focus on recycling the wastes now that the committee tasked to review Lynas’ operations has vindicated the company regarding the wastes.
“With the development of advanced processing technology, most developed economies earn their income through the conversion of low value imported crude products into higher value consumer and commercial items for export.
“Developing the right waste treatment technologies would also bring handsome returns because many agree that wastes will become resources of the future as we witness continued depletion of natural resources.
“There is no need to ask Lynas to send back the wastes. I urge experts from the Institution of Engineers and my colleagues from ASM to share their views on this,” wrote Ahmad, a specialist in environmental management, in a letter published by The Star newspaper today.
The contentious directive for Lynas to ship its wastes back to Australia was issued by Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Yeo Bee Yin, earlier this month, which coincided with the day the committee’s report went public.
In a statement, Yeo said she gave the directive because she feared the wastes stored at Lynas’ temporary storage facility could endanger nearby residents if natural disasters such as flooding occurred.
Yeo’s view however, did not tally with the committee’s findings, which stated that the company’s storage facility were perfectly managed.
In fact, the directive also contradicted the committee’s recommendations, in which Lynas must first build a permanent depository facility for its wastes and that it should only export the wastes if there is no storage.
Lynas CEO Amanda Lacaze described Yeo’s directive as policies based on politics, not science, which was not surprising given the latter’s unsavoury view on Lynas before the ruling coalition in which she is a member formed the government.
The ongoing feud between Lynas and the Malaysian government had also caught the interest of the Japanese government as Japan receives one third of its rare-earth needs from Lynas, which is also the only rare-earth producer outside of China.
“We want Lynas’ operations to continue and it’s important that they comply with rules and regulations in Malaysia,” said Hideto Nakajima, the economic counsellor at the Japanese embassy in Kuala Lumpur. “The embassy would like to support in any way it can,” said Nakajima.