Don’t have one law for us and one for others, says Lynas

KUALA LUMPUR: Lynas Malaysia today expressed confidence in its performance and track record amid reports that the new government will review its six-year operations in the country.

At a press conference today, Lynas chief executive Amanda Lacaze said she did not know what had motivated the review as the Lynas plant, the largest rare earths plant in the world, was neither an election issue nor part of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) manifesto.

However, she acknowledged the government’s right to review policies, asking only that any review be procedurally fair, scientific and transparent. She also asked that Lynas be given time to adapt to any new policies.

She called for the review committee to be independent, with the technical skills to make informed judgments and a clearly defined scope and terms of reference. All inquiries must be open and public, she added.

“We understand from media reports that the focus of the review is the solid residue produced in our operations,” she said, adding however that many other industries in Malaysia produced similar residue.

She said the government had clear regulations on the management of such residue to ensure the safety of the people and the environment.

She added that these regulations were professionally applied by government agencies, particularly the Department of Environment and the Atomic Energy Agency.

“We hope that the regulations are applied consistently to Lynas and that there isn’t one law for Lynas and one law for others.”

Lacaze also said Lynas’ plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, had been reviewed twice by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2011 and 2014.

In both reviews, she said, Lynas had implemented all of IAEA’s recommendations. She added that the independent body regarded Lynas’ operations as “intrinsically low risk”.

On the issue of solid residue, she said this was stored in purpose-built facilities which are completely contained and covered with heavy lining to protect those around it from radioactivity.

“We take measurements of radioactivity from 1km, 5km, 10km and 20km from the plant. There has been no change in background radiation,” she said, adding that commercial pilots were exposed to up to seven times more radiation in the air than workers at the plant who dealt directly with radioactive material.

Yesterday, the Malaysia Australia Business Council (MABC) said any review of Lynas’ rare earths plant must be public, transparent, objective and evidence-based in the interests of maintaining investor confidence.

Lynas shares took a hit after it was confirmed that Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Fuziah Salleh, a long-time critic of the plant, would head a government review of its operations.

The plant, which is located in Fuziah’s parliamentary constituency of Kuantan, has long been opposed by green groups over concerns that it produces dangerous radioactive waste.