Lynas quotes ministry report to defend waste operations

PETALING JAYA: The management of the controversial Lynas Malaysia rare-earth processing plant has countered critics by quoting a finding of a government committee that the plant cannot be compared to a nuclear power plant or one producing thorium or uranium.

A statement by the company’s managing director, Mashal Ahmad, and general manager, Ismail Bahari, said today that a scientific review of the environment ministry had held that Lynas’s operations were low-risk and had complied with regulations.

FMT is seeking confirmation from the ministry regarding the company’s assertions about the committee’s findings.

The Lynas plant has faced criticism from Pakatan Harapan politicians such as Fuziah Salleh, MP for Kuantan, and Wong Tak, MP for Bentong.

Last week, Fuziah, who is a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, accused others in the government of falling for Lynas’s claims of low levels of radiation contained in the waste produced at its raw-earth processing plant in Gebeng.

Fuziah said thorium, one of the waste by-products, had a half-life of 14 billion years, and accused Lynas of keeping silent on the matter.

Lynas said today that radiation risks were not compared by the half-life of a material but by the level of exposure, and said the plant in Gebeng fully complied with the standards of the International Commission for Radiological Protection.

The company said the ministry’s scientific committee had said Lynas’ operations were low risk, complied with relevant regulations, and had held that its residue storage facilities were operated in a proper manner.

Fuziah had claimed last week that there had been an increase in the concentration of heavy metals in groundwater. Lynas countered by saying the ministry’s committee had denied it was due to Lynas’ operations and had called for more research into the groundwater in the Gebeng industrial area.

Lynas said the radioactive residue produced was “not unique” and that radioactive residues were also produced by the oil and gas industry, tin mining and among processing industries which had been in operation for many years.