Lynas boss Curtis says the rare earth plant will fulfil all IAEA requirements and be operational by the end of the year.
KUALA LUMPUR: Lynas Corporation today rejected allegations in the New York Times that its rare earth plant in Kuantan has construction problems and that its design is environmentally hazardous.
“There is no truth at all to the report,” said the company’s executive chairman, Nicholas Curtis, at a press conference here.
“There will of course be technical queries in the normal course of a large scale construction operation that engineers have to debate, but all engineers involved in this operation are now completely comfortable with the solutions put forward.”
He gave the example of the 90 kilometres of piping the plant would use.
The New York Times quoted engineers as saying that almost all of the pipes ordered were made from standard steel and unsuitable for the corrosive slurry they would carry.
According to the newspaper, rare earth refineries in other countries use costlier stainless steel or steel piping with ceramic or rubber liners.
“Every piece used is engineered for safety,” Curtis said. “To say that we’ve used poor materials is factually incorrect.”
He also said Lynas had accepted all recommendations put forward by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and was prepared to work with regulatory authorities to implement them.
The recommendations include strengthening Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board so that it has sufficient “human, financial, and technical resources, competence and independence” to do its job.
Curtis said Lynas would be able to fulfil all IAEA requirements be operational by the end of 2011.
But he agreed that the company had not done enough to engage the Kuantan community.
“We will correct that, starting now,” he said. “We will increase our commitment to the community with a long-term conversation with residents that will continue for the life of our plant.”
He commended the Malaysian government for calling in the IAEA to conduct an investigation, saying it did so with “clarity and speed”, reinforcing his confidence as a foreign investor.
He rejected claims that he had denied Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh a meeting due to a reluctance to speak, saying he was more than happy to hold a private meeting with her.
“However, it is not my position as a foreign guest to meet in public debate with an elected representative of Parliament,” he said. “It is my duty to find out what the community’s concerns are, which is best built in a private meeting between us, so there will be a free and open exchange of concepts and ideas.”
Lynas, an Australian company, plans to ship rare earth ore mined from Western Australia’s Mount Weld to the plant in Gebeng.
Rare earth metals are crucial to high technology products such as Boeing planes, smart bombs, Apple’s iPhone and the Toyota Prius.
Currently, China has a chokehold on rare earth, refining at least 95% of the global supply.