KUALA LUMPUR — June 14, 2019: Malaysia’s national standards and quality control outfit, Sirim Berhad, and Canadian engineering and environmental consultancy firm Golder Associates Inc. have categorised Lynas’s neutralisation underflow (NUF) residue as safe.
Their verdict was highlighted yesterday by Lynas Corporation Ltd. to refute critics’ long-standing claim that its rare-earth refining operations in Malaysia is hazardous.
“In Malaysia, Lynas’ NUF residue, a magnesium rich synthetic gypsum, is classified as a scheduled waste. However, studies by Sirim and Golder state that NUF residue is a non-hazardous, non-toxic material and does not show significant health impact to people or risk to the environment.
“In Australia, synthetic gypsum is not a scheduled waste,” read the statement jointly-signed by Lynas managing director Datuk Mashal Ahmad and the general manager for radiation safety, regulations and compliance, Professor Dr. Ismail Bahari.
Lynas’ operation at its plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, passed a review by a panel of experts and scientists appointed by the government last November but its fate is still uncertain due to clashing government directives over residue disposal issues.
The uncertainty remains despite a statement by Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad late last month that the government will allow the company to carry on with its operation despite several anti-Lynas Pakatan Harapan activists insisted on pursuing their campaign.
In its statement, Lynas also pointed out that the NUF has been shown to be able to replace kieserite, a magnesium-based fertiliser, widely used in the agricultural industry and that its commercialisation is awaiting approval by the Malaysian government.
The company also reiterated that its other residue, the water-leached purification contains very low-level radiation that the International Atomic Energy Agency had classified it as a waste that does not need a high level of containment and isolation.
Professor Datuk Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia in a letter to a newspaper today highlighted the strategic nature of rare earths given the on-going trade war between the United States and China.
“It has been reported that the waste from the Lynas plant contains significant amounts of phosphates, which we import every year for the plantations. Why not use these and save on the high import costs?
“The phosphate-rich Lynas waste would be suitable for rehabilitating the soil fertility of the land for oil palm cultivation that were mined for bauxite. At the moment, it is difficult to restart oil palm cultivation on these plots!,” wrote Ahmad.