PETALING JAYA: Members of the public vented their frustration against the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng, Pahang, today.
They appeared before an executive committee set up by the Pakatan Harapan government to study the operations of the Australian-listed company to see whether the plant posed a radioactive danger to the people.
Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, a vocal opponent of LAMP who was earlier chosen to head the review panel, told the committee today that when Lynas first set foot in Malaysia in 2012, the law did not require a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA).
“If Lynas had come now, they would need to go through a process of having a detailed EIA.
“Therefore, at that time, we were forced to accept just an EIA.”
A DEIA is required by the Department of Environment for projects with significant effects on the environment.
The process allows the general public an opportunity to review and provide feedback on environmental implications.
It also ensures that stringent monitoring programmes are in order throughout the pre-construction, construction and operational stages of the project.
“I represent the Kuantan people and today I also represent the Pakatan Harapan government,” the MP said.
Fuziah cited article 39 of the Pakatan Harapan manifesto stating that the government will balance economic growth with environmental protection. She asked the committee how it was planning to abide by the sustainable development goals.
Another frustrated participant asked why LAMP was allowed to dump its waste in Malaysia.
But not everyone was against the plant. A woman supported Lynas saying they would not have dared make any statements on the safety of the plant without having strong evidence.
But she applauded the Pakatan Harapan government for listening to the community and setting up the committee.
A medical doctor said that the government should err on the side of caution when it came to the various health concerns raised by LAMP.
Lynas Malaysia CEO Amanda Lacaze spoke to the audience, thanking them for their support but was momentarily interrupted by shouts. She passed the discussion to Malaysian Lynas officials.
Ismail Bahari, general manager of radiation safety at Lynas Malaysia, said the scheduled waste produced at the plant was “not necessarily hazardous material”.
He stressed that NUF, a magnesium-rich gypsum released as one of the two by-products of LAMP’s activities, is not hazardous, despite being classified as “scheduled waste”.
LAMP’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.
The production of these materials releases two forms of gypsum, which is a soft sulfate mineral, as by-products. Besides NUF, which is non-radioactive, an iron phosphogypsum known as WLP, contains very low-level of naturally-occurring radioactivity.
One of the executive committee members disagreed and said that Lynas cannot generalise all scheduled waste as non-hazardous waste.
“It is all hazardous waste but at different levels,” the committee official said.
The Department of Environment (DOE) defines scheduled waste as any waste with hazardous characteristics and with the potential to adversely affect public health and the environment.
Any waste falling within the categories of waste listed in the First Schedule of the Environmental Quality (Scheduled Waste) Regulations 2005, is considered as scheduled waste. There are 77 categories of scheduled waste listed under the regulation.
The Lynas radioactivity expert also argued that reusing radioactive waste is the best way to dispose of it and the permanent disposal facility (PDF) should only be implemented if all else fails.
Earlier, officials from various ministries told the committee that Lynas had met all the criteria needed under the law.