PETALING JAYA: Officials from various government departments have concluded that the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) operations in Gebeng, Pahang, has fulfilled the criteria and safety requirements imposed.
Faizal Mohd Yusof, a senior official with the international trade and industry ministry (Miti), also justified the 12-year tax exemption given to Lynas, considering its benefits to the country.
He said Lynas had fulfilled 10 factors to receive its factory licence in early 2008, including those concerning the environment.
He said other factors included its technology, positive effect on the supply chain and amount of investment.
He said the company provided jobs to locals and gave them the opportunity to expand their skills and knowledge.
Faizal was among officials presenting their findings at a hearing held by an executive committee set up last October to review the LAMP operations, viewed via Facebook Live on the energy, science, technology, environment and climate change ministry page today.
The committee was set up to ensure that Malaysia does not become a toxic waste dumping ground for other countries.
The Australian-listed company’s CEO, Amanda Lacaze, had expressed confidence that Lynas would pass the environmental review ordered by the Pakatan Harapan government.
The plant’s main products, neodymium and praseodymium, are used in magnets for motors that drive automated seats and windows in cars, motors for hybrid vehicles and as magnets in electronic products, like DVDs and hard-disk drives.
During the Facebook Live feed, an Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) official said radioactive materials are found naturally in the environment.
He further explained that prior to giving out licences, AELB had a comprehensive mechanism to determine whether or not a chemical plant was qualified for the licence.
“The standards we have in Malaysia are not just any standards — we abide by international standards.
“On top of that, in the Lynas case, we also set up a public committee before giving them the licence in September 2012.”
The official said the temporary operating licence (TOL) was given to Lynas only after it was found to have fulfilled all the criteria needed by every level of authority.
These criteria included submitting a site plan, a US$50 million (RM209 million) nuclear security fee and allowing an independent consultant to examine the site during the duration of the TOL.
AELB had also asked Lynas for a letter of undertaking requesting all radioactive waste be dumped outside of Malaysia, which they received on Feb 27, 2012.
In 2013, AELB said Lynas had identified locations that could be used as a permanent disposal facility (PDF) for the radioactive waste when it is required.
Lynas had conducted a study that the PDF needed to be isolated from the public, situated far from water catchment areas and situated in a place with a rocky terrain to contain the waste in case of leakage, the official said.
The official reminded, however, that the on-site storage for radioactive waste that Lynas currently has is only temporary as their license required them to eventually transport all waste out of Malaysia.
An official from the Pahang State Environmental Department said staff conducted checks on environmental quality, as underlined in the plant’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The department found that Lynas had maintained all the standards.
In relation to concerns about heavy metal residue found in surrounding agricultural land, the official said the study looked at the heavy metal residue found in agricultural products such as palm oil and “found positive results”.
In response to the independent committee’s inquiries into the water quality as a result of chemical waste, the official said the presence of industrial sites along Sungai Balok had actually improved the water quality, due to high-technology waste treatment technology being utitlised.
“Lynas itself has a sophisticated treatment system. The volume of chemical waste has not even been an issue because it meets all limits set.”
An official from the health ministry said it was too early to tell if any pollution from the Lynas plant would cause any type of cancer.
‘Abided by criteria’
A Department of Occupational Safety and Hazard (DOSH) official also agreed that Lynas had met all its obligations.
“They have abided by all criteria for occupational safety.”
In terms of the treatment of hazardous chemicals, it found that despite the risks, adequate safety precautions were being taken.
In terms of pollution, dust and mineral oil mist produced as by-products by the plant’s activities, the official said it was found to be at a low level.
“The chemical hazards at the facility show possible negative effects on the respiratory system and skin. However, the same situation applies to any other factory.”
The DOSH official said there had been 10 cases of accidents on site over the past six years of the Lynas plant operations. In 2018, five cases of injuries were officially reported.
However, it gave an assurance that the injuries reported, which consisted of chemical splashes or falls, were also common in other factories and industrial plants.