Lynas must abide by the law, says vocal critic Wong Tack

Bentong MP Wong Tack.

PETALING JAYA: Barely 48 hours after DAP’s Wong Tack, a vocal critic of Lynas Corp, said the Australian rare earths producer “blatantly violated our country’s laws”, the Bentong MP today said there was nothing wrong if the licence was to be renewed if it abides by the law.

This follows Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad remarks in Tokyo earlier today that Lynas will be allowed to continue operating its US$800 million (RM3.36 billion) processing plant in Gebeng, Pahang.

“We think we’ll have to renew the licence,” the prime minister told reporters at a press conference there, adding Malaysia did not want to lose such a large investment.

The operating licence for Lynas’ processing plant in the country, due for renewal in September, is under threat following concerns over waste disposal.

“Dr Mahathir has mentioned this before. Lynas now will be allowed to operate but has to fulfil and comply with our law,” Wong Tack told FMT, adding that this applied to businesses in any industry.

“Damaging and polluting our environment and harming our children and our land will not be accepted,” he added.

FMT is trying to contact Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin and Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh for comments.

Both have been harsh critics of Lynas.

Wong Tack yesterday said Lynas was allowed to get away with complying with a black-and-white agreement subjecting Lynas to remove all of its waste from Malaysia.

“However, the regulators and the previous corrupt government, for reasons only they themselves know, have allowed Lynas to get away with complying with this agreement over the past six years.

“They have not only failed to comply with this condition but have blatantly violated our country’s laws, international best practices and their own commitments.”

He claimed more than one million tonnes of waste had piled up in the open in Lynas’ backyard. According to local law, this waste cannot exceed 20 tonnes and also has to be disposed of after 180 days, he added.

Mahathir, in April, said that Lynas or any other company will need to clean raw materials coming into Malaysia in order to operate in the country.

Lynas maintains that it has always complied with the government’s storage regulations and that its residue storage facilities are operated in a proper manner.

In an immediate response to Mahathir’s comments today, Lynas managing director and vice-president Mashal Ahmad said Lynas welcomes the prime minister’s comments.

“We will provide an update when there are further developments,” he said.

Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Andrew Goledzinowski said Australia looks forward to receiving further details of the licence renewal decision in due course of time.

“We welcome the comments made in Tokyo today by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir that it is his government’s intention to renew the operating licence of Lynas Malaysia,” he said.

Lynas is the only major producer outside China of rare earths, which are crucial for making products such as computers and mobile phones.

Its importance has increased following the trade dispute between the US and China, which produces most of the world’s supply.

Lynas mines ore in Australia and ships it to its processing plant in Pahang.

Earlier this month, Australia rejected a proposal for it to accept waste from the plant in Pahang, with Western Australian Mines Minister Bill Johnston saying it is illegal under the country’s laws to import waste from overseas.