By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH
The recent precondition that was laid on Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd’s future operations in the country will restore the conduct and practices accordingly at the firm’s processing plant in Kuantan.
Commenting on Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement over the weekend that the Australian-owned firm could continue its operations in Malaysia if it eliminates the radioactive component in raw materials before being brought into the country, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh reiterated that the radioactive waste should not be stored on-site.
She said even if it is at a low level, the material has a long life, with a half-life of 14 billion years.
“When the PM announced that the initial process of the breaking down of the ore will not be done in Malaysia, it is good news.
“It means that the process will be done downstream and will not generate radioactive waste, and the products coming into Malaysia are already free of radiation,” she said at the Sixth International Conference on Islamic Wealth Management and Financial Planning in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
However, Fuziah said Lynas should not delay the management of its existing radioactive waste and the contaminated groundwater beneath the processing plant.
“The effect on this radioactive waste is severe to the health (of the residents) and the environment, and it will be long term. This is why it should not be there in the first place.
“However, the issue right now is the waste that has been produced before and the contamination of groundwater. Lynas needs to address this first as Australia refuses to accept the waste at the moment,” she said.
Earlier this month, Australia’s Environment Minister Melissa Price confirmed Malaysia’s request to accept 450,000 metric tonnes of Lynas’ radioactive waste derived from the firm’s rare-earth processing plant in Gebeng, Kuantan.
In a news portal, the minister’s office said its government is unable to respond to the request until it has gone through a proper consideration, signalling uncertainties in Lynas’ future operation prospect in Malaysia.
The matter was placed under Dr Mahathir’s consideration which led to a final decision that required the firm to break and clean its raw materials into smaller portions to eliminate harmful components.
As a response to the decision, Lynas Corp Ltd said it is considering an initial ore processing facility close to its mining operation in Australia.
In a statement, Lynas said it has been developing detailed plans that would assist the firm to mitigate risk from any regulatory changes in Malaysia.
“We see value in operating alternative cracking and leaching processing close to our resource,” it said yesterday.
Lynas has been operating a processing plant in Gebeng, which refines rare earth ore from the company’s mine in Western Australia for the past six years.
Separately, Fuziah, who is also deputy minister in the PM’s department (religious affairs), said Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH) has been steered back on track by competent decision-makers who comprehend the fundamental roles of the pilgrim fund.
“TH now is back on track. It is very much at the hands of the capable board of directors and new management team who understand the Tabung Haji Act 1995 completely and the best practices of Islamic finance,” she said.
She added that TH has not been recording any bank run, suggesting contributors’ confidence in the pilgrim fund.
“We have been monitoring since December and the worst is over for TH. There is no concern from the depositors because if there is, it should be back in 2017, she said.