We can’t drive out Lynas because foreign investors are watching, says Dr M

Dr Mahathir Mohamad says there is no point asking experts to make studies on Lynas but rejecting the results. (Bernama pic)

FUKUOKA: Malaysia cannot force Lynas Corp to leave Malaysia after having invited the Australian rare earths mining company to invest in the country, just because some people do not want to accept the studies done by experts, said Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The prime minister said Lynas had invested more than RM1 billion on its operations in Malaysia but the processing of the rare earths is said to produce radioactive waste.

He said expert studies indicate that this is “a very low-level” radioactive waste and not hazardous to health.

He believed there is a way to further reduce this low-level radioactivity.

“We invited them to invest. If we then kicked them out, others will then say the country made a promise but, when there was a problem, we kicked them out.

“We cannot do that,” he told Malaysian reporters when concluding his two-day visit to Fukuoka on Thursday.

Mahathir said foreign investors were watching the government’s action on Lynas.

“If we chase out the Lynas foreign investor, others will not come to Malaysia,” he said, adding that investors looked for certainty when pumping in their money into the country.

Mahathir said if the radioactive waste was dangerous, the workers in Lynas Malaysia, made up of about 600 local engineering staff, would have fallen sick.

“The report was made by experts but there are quarters who do not accept the experts’ decision. This poses a problem.

“If we ask the experts to make the study, but we reject it, what is the purpose of asking these experts to do such studies?”

In addition to losing the investment, 600 local workers would also lose their jobs if Lynas is closed, he said.

“The 600 workers there are our people. They are not afraid (to work there). They want Lynas’ operations to be continued,” he said.