KUALA LUMPUR: The Pakatan Harapan government will hold two inquiries into environmental concerns over Lynas Corporation’s processing of rare earths, according to Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).
It quoted Bentong MP and environmental activist Wong Tack as saying one would be a parliamentary inquiry while the other would be done by the “executive branch”, and that these would begin in the “very near future”.
“The Pakatan Harapan government was voted in by an overwhelming mandate for reform. One of its manifesto promises is to balance economic growth with environmental well-being,” he told SBS News.
Wong Tack dismissed concerns that tougher regulations or actions against Lynas would deter foreign investments in Malaysia, saying all actions would be in accordance to the rule of law and respect international norms.
Lynas Corporation, an Australian mining company, runs the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant in Pahang. It has been processing rare earths — a type of metal used in high-tech products including computers and electric cars — since 2013.
Environmentalists have protested against its presence in Malaysia from the very start but the then Najib Razak government and Lynas assured that all safety precautions had been taken. Lynas said radioactive run-off was diluted to safe levels before being turned into other by-products, such as soil fertiliser.
The rare earths are dug up in Australia by Western Australian-based Lynas and shipped to markets around the world, including China, after processing in Malaysia, according to the SBS News report.
Its share price plummeted in May when the Barisan National lost to the PH in the general election.
Wong Tack said Malaysia would adhere to international laws while, at the same time, “protect its policy-making space and uphold the rights and aspirations of its people to environmentally-sound investments”.
In a statement to SBS News, Lynas Corporation said it had been operating safely in Malaysia for more than five years and had complied with all regulatory requirements.
“Lynas welcomes the strong sense of optimism and progress that the new government has brought to Malaysia and accepts they are reviewing many areas of the Malaysian economy.
“As a lawful and transparent business, we hold ourselves to a high standard on all aspects of our business and will co-operate with the government with confidence in our performance,” the statement said.
In July, Energy, Green Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said a committee had been formed, led by Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh and Wong Tack, to review the Lynas operation.
She said: “I think there are a lot of things we can do on Lynas. But now it is still premature, so let’s leave it to the committee to decide.”