Why import when you can use our by-product, Lynas asks govt

The Lynas plant in Kuantan, Pahang.

PETALING JAYA: Lynas says Putrajaya could save millions in import costs every year if it re-uses a by-product of the rare earth miner’s operations instead of importing it.

In a statement, Lynas said Malaysia imports over one million tonnes of gypsum each year for use in the making of cement, plaster and fertiliser.

“According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, in 2018, Malaysia imported over 1,000,000 tonnes of gypsum material at a cost of US$31,061,000, approximately RM128 million,” it said in the joint statement by Ismail Bahari, Lynas’ general manager for radiation safety, regulations, and compliance, and Lynas Malaysia managing director Mashal Ahmad.

It added that one of Lynas Malaysia’s by-products is neutralisation underflow residue (NUF), a magnesium-rich synthetic gypsum.

It said the NUF, which is non-radioactive, non-toxic and non-hazardous, is chemically equivalent to the gypsum imported into Malaysia.

Lynas added that it has agreed to a NUF action plan with the government and regulators which includes options for commercialisation.

“Research and development has identified various applications for NUF, and Lynas has been approached by companies in Malaysia regarding commercial use of the NUF material.”

This, it said, is consistent with the 11th Malaysia Plan 2016-2020 which looks at how waste can be managed holistically and productively.

Lynas also cited comments by agricultural expert Professor Shamsuddin Jusop from Universiti Putra Malaysia, who said the NUF can be used to improve the fertility of soil and enhance crop productivity.

“NUF can also be used commercially as a gypsum replacement in the construction industry. Using Lynas’ material would allow the Malaysian government to save millions in import costs.

“By utilising gypsum produced locally by Lynas, the Malaysian government would be able to deliver economic value to the country, in line with the 11th Malaysia Plan 2016-2020, and reduce the dependency on other countries for importing the material,” it quoted Shamsuddin as saying.

Meanwhile, at the Parliament building today, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said Putrajaya needed more information on Australia’s refusal to accept Lynas’ waste.

This, after Western Australian mines minister Bill Johnston said importing waste from overseas is illegal under the country’s laws.

It was previously reported that Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin had sent a letter to Australia, asking for its cooperation in ensuring that Lynas’ waste is returned to the country.