No decision on waste, says minister as crack in Cabinet widens over Lynas

Entrepreneur Development Minister Redzuan Yusof says an independent high-level review committee will make its recommendations on the disposal of Lynas’ waste to the government. (Bloomberg pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya has yet to make a decision requiring rare earths company Lynas Malaysia to send back its waste to Australia, Entrepreneur Development Minister Redzuan Yusof said, as a debate on the future of the Australian firm reveals a crack among Cabinet members.

Redzuan said while the government was clear that it would allow Lynas to continue operating, the issue of waste was a separate matter which needed to be addressed.

“There is no decision collectively by the government to send the waste back to Australia,” he said.

Redzuan Yusof.

This is despite the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change saying the government has formed a task force to facilitate the sending back of Lynas’ waste to Australia.

Its minister Yeo Bee Yin also said that Lynas needs to ship out its waste as a pre-condition for the renewal of its licence.

But Redzuan suggested that Yeo’s view could be her personal opinion, adding that she should take responsibility for her statement.

“But we still have yet to make a firm decision collectively to send the waste back to Australia. It is a suggestion and many factors need to be considered,” he said.

Redzuan said Putrajaya’s decision on Lynas was driven by facts.

He said an independent high-level review committee would make its recommendations to the government.

Yeo Bee Yin

“If it is necessary (for the waste) to be sent back to Australia because of some facts or findings that we have made, then so be it.

“As it is now, we cannot paint a picture to the investing public that we are not friendly to investors.”

Redzuan said Lynas was a strategic industry serving markets in the United States, Australia, Japan and China.

Before Lynas, he said, China dominated the rare earths market, supplying over 90% of the material, but now Malaysia was on the world map.

“I think it is not quite correct just to label it as unsafe,” he said, adding that the government was still discussing the best way to manage Lynas’ waste and wanted to avoid affecting bilateral trade.

“You have an agreement to allow investors to come into this country previously. Therefore, we have to manage it. We cannot just simply force someone to take back the waste, that is not the condition of the contract.”