Ninth time’s the charm, Lynas invites Yeo to visit Kuantan plant

Over 100 Lynas employees held a demonstration outside the Parliament building on Tuesday urging the government to save their jobs.

PETALING JAYA: A top Lynas Malaysia official has urged Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin to visit the plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, saying invitations were issued on eight separate occasions before but received no response.

Mimi Afzan Afza, who is deputy president of Lynas Malaysia, said this would allow Yeo to see for herself how the company had complied with and gone beyond the stipulated safety requirements.

“The Lynas management wrote to her eight times to engage her and invite her to the plant, but there was no response.

“This is why after the sixth time, we decided to write an open letter to the government and people of Malaysia which we published as advertorials in various media,” she told FMT.

She was commenting on Yeo’s social media post yesterday in which the minister apologised for not being present at Parliament to receive a memorandum from 130 Lynas employees.

Yeo said she was overseas and had not expected the workers to come to Parliament on a working day. If she had known, she said, she would have arranged for her ministry’s officers to receive them.

She also accused the Lynas management of trying to stage a drama through “the myriads of paid advertorials in all major newspapers, the press conferences that paint a bad picture of the ministry and so on”.

Mimi said Yeo’s social media post was the first response the company had received from the minister, speculating that it was because the Lynas employees had gone to Parliament.

She said every day, the employees would ask her for updates on their fate.

“Our staff members are worried and I can’t give them an answer. I’d be lying if I told them not to worry,” she said, adding that she could only reassure the staff that they were doing the right thing, especially where safety was concerned.

She said the measures taken by Lynas were audited by Malaysian authorities and international bodies like the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

She added that Lynas and its employees were not asking for any special treatment. All they wanted was to be treated fairly, she said, which was why Yeo had been invited to visit the rare-earth processing plant.

“We want her to see the mitigation measures that have been implemented in case of floods. The temporary storage facility and residue storage facility were built in accordance with the requirements of a Permanent Deposit Facility; this was confirmed by the IAEA in its audit.

“We don’t have to do it but we did it.”

About 130 workers held a demonstration outside the Parliament building on Tuesday. They urged the government to save the 1,000 direct and 4,000 indirect jobs that would be impacted if the facility’s licence was not renewed.

This came after the ministry told Lynas to remove its waste from the Kuantan plant or risk not having its operating permit renewed.

The company has repeatedly defended the safety of its plant, pointing to audits by both local and international bodies. It has also dismissed allegations that the company is using Malaysia as a dumping ground for radioactive waste, saying the claims are “not rooted in science” and aim only at scaring the public.