Lynas rare earths plant is safe, assures Dr M

The Lynas rare earths plant operates at the Gebeng industrial estate in Kuantan.

SEPANG: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today defended Putrajaya’s decision to renew the licence for the Lynas rare earths plant in Kuantan by six months.

He reiterated that investigators had already declared that the rare earths facility is safe but gave an assurance that Putrajaya will look into people’s concerns.

“Of course, the people there still feel they should get rid of this, okay, we will look into that,” he told a press conference.

He acknowledged the sentiments of some that the facility should be permanently closed.

Putrajaya yesterday agreed to renew Lynas Corp’s licence, imposing several conditions.

When asked on the government’s action should Lynas fail to fulfil the requirements, Mahathir said they will take Lynas’ reasons into consideration.

He added that the government is hoping for the facility to fulfil all these requirements quickly.

In its statement yesterday, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB), which comes under the energy, science, technology, environment and climate change ministry, said it was giving a six-month renewal of the licence to Lynas.

Among others, it said the company must build its “cracking and leaching” facility outside Malaysia within four years of the renewal, after which it would not be allowed to produce radioactive residue exceeding one becquerel per gramme at its plant.

It also said the company must identify a permanent disposal facility (PDF), with written approval from the relevant state government, or get official permission from the authorities of any country to transfer its residue there.

The renewal of the licence has drawn criticism from environmentalist groups as well as Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh and Bentong MP Wong Tack.

Fuziah lamented that Kuantan citizens will be exposed to radioactive waste for another four years while Wong described it as “a shameful and sad day for Malaysia”.