Lawsuit filed against PM, Cabinet, Lynas over licence renewal

The Lynas rare earths plant in Gebeng, Kuantan. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his Cabinet, Lynas Corp Ltd and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board have been named as respondents in a lawsuit challenging the decision to renew the rare earths miner’s operating licence.

On Aug 15, Putrajaya agreed to renew its licence to operate in the country for another six months subject to several conditions.

These included building a cracking and leaching facility outside Malaysia within four years of the renewal and identifying a permanent disposal facility with written approval from the relevant authorities.

The renewal of the licence drew criticism from activists.

According to Reuters, three individuals filed a court case today to challenge the local government’s decision to renew the licence, particularly questioning the processes followed by the government prior to its decision.

Dinesh Athinarayanan, the lawyer for the three individuals, said his clients are arguing that the powers to approve the extension lie solely with the energy minister, as stipulated in the Atomic Energy Licensing Act, and not with the Cabinet.

“To allow the Cabinet to make a decision or delegate powers to Cabinet is unlawful, as per the Act,” Reuters quoted Dinesh as saying.

The prime minister’s office, they said, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The court has set Jan 21 for case management.

Lynas had been embroiled in controversy for several years, with environmentalists and Pakatan Harapan politicians protesting against its plant in Kuantan, Pahang, on health grounds and calling for its closure.

Detractors had also in the past accused the rare earths plant of polluting its surroundings with its waste.