Lynas hopes for a fair review

by SHAZNI ONG / graphic by TMR

LYNAS Malaysia Sdn Bhd, the operator of rare-earth processing plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, is facing a review by a special evaluation committee on the safety of the company’s overall operation — anticipating a fair assessment as it pledges its full commitment towards the country.

Its CEO Amanda Lacaze said Lynas is also committed to continue its operation of a world-class material facility that is safe for the local communities.

“Lynas acknowledges the absolute right of the government to conduct a review.

“However, our expectation is that any review of our operations should be fair, scientific and adhere to proper process in keeping with other recent initiatives of the new government.

“We would be very disappointed if this is not the case,” she said in a statement last Friday.

Lacaze was commenting on recent reports that highlighted the establishment of the evaluation committee which is expected to be headed by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Fuziah Salleh, who is also Kuantan MP.

The 10-member committee is expected to review Lynas rare-earth plant from various angles, particularly on how it would affect local residents, employees and the environment.

Fuziah had confirmed the report and said she would serve the committee for three months effective Sept 24.

Share prices of Lynas, an Australian mining company, have been hit since reports on the committee were highlighted, especially when Fuziah, a fierce critic of Lynas, had been selected to probe the plant.

The company has also raised concerns among environmentalists who claimed that the plant produces high-risk radioactive waste.

The factory began processing rare earth from Australia in 2012, as part of the mining company’s aim to reduce the Chinese dominance in the market for rare earths, which are used in almost everything such as missiles and mobile phones.

According to Lacaze, independent monitoring and reporting have so far proven that Lynas is safe for the local residents, its employees and the environment.

“Lynas has complied with all the relevant regulatory requirements imposed under Malaysian law in investing in the construction and operation of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Malaysia.

“Through Lynas, Malaysia has become the major centre of excellence in rare earths outside China, supplying critical materials to automotive and high-tech manufacturers around the world,” she said.

Lacaze added that Lynas Malaysia is looking forward to receive formal notification of the proposed review, as well as engaging with the Malaysian government through an impartial and transparent manner.

She said the safety of the local communities and the environment will always be their first priority.

“We demonstrate this by ensuring compliance with licence conditions and international standards. Where these are different we adopt the more stringent requirement.

“Our performance in operating a world-class, safe chemical processing plant is proven by our international certifications including ISO Health, Safety and Environmental standards,” she said.

Lacaze said the company had earned the trust of the local communities since its six years of safe operation.

“There is naturally-occurring low level radioactivity in the material we process and we carefully manage its use and storage to protect the health and wellbeing of our people and the local communities.

“Since 2012, radiation measurements have been taken at sites 1km, 5km, 10km and 20km from the plant and there has been no observable change in the background radiation readings over that time, she said.

Lacaze said the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, an independent scientifically-based organisation, has also stated that Lynas’ operation are “intrinsically low risk”, Lacaze said.

She said the operating licences for the LAMP in Gebeng have consistently established that the order of priority in dealing with the residues is commercialisation, or if commercialisation fails, permanent storage, and if that fails, removal from Malaysia.

Lacaze also said the company made a significant contribution to the people and the economy of Kuantan, through providing a safe workplace for 631 employees at the LAMP in Gebeng, which 97% of whom are Malaysian.

“This include contractors and major suppliers, we have created or contributed to the creation of thousands of jobs in the local area.

“We spend over RM500 million in Malaysia each year, with most of that expenditure on the east coast of Malaysia,” she said.