Lynas given temporary reprieve with stiff conditions

Under the 6-month reprieve, the company must identify a site to build its permanent disposal facility and obtain a written approval


CONTROVERSIAL rare-earth miner Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd has been granted a six-month operation extension by Malaysia’s atomic energy agency, but the company must adhere to strict conditions, including removing health hazardous operations to another country.

The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) yesterday announced the extension after the Cabinet gave its nod for the Austalian-based company to continue operating its plant in Pahang.

Under the six-month reprieve, the company must build a cracking and leaching facility in another country and cease all experiments related to the recycling of waste into soil conditioner in Malaysia.

Lynas is also disallowed from producing radioactive residue over one becquerel per gramme in Kuantan once the overseas plant starts its operation, which is expected within four years from the validity of the licence.

The government had also imposed that Lynas must commit 0.5% of its annual gross sales as collateral until its cracking and leaching facility begins operation.

The government agency said the company must also identify an appropriate site to build its permanent disposal facility and obtain a written approval from the state for the project.

AELB expects a detailed plan on the facility, including payment for construction and operational costs.

The construction of the permanent disposal facility, the atomic agency said, should be accelerated to minimise risks from the 580,000 tonnes of accumulated radioactive residual which is vulnerable to natural disasters.

AELB said all aspects of the permanent disposal facility will meet international standards.

The Australian-listed company’s processing facility in Gebeng, Pahang, could meet up to 20% of global demand for rare-earth minerals which are used in military applications, computers, smartphones and electric vehicles. The company’s licence expires on Sept 2 this year.

Lynas, the biggest producer of rare earths outside China, has been facing widespread objections from people in the state since it began its operation in 2012. Protestors have voiced health concerns, especially radioactive-related risks due to the rising production and unsafe waste management.

The new temporary renewal terms came after federal authorities in Australia said they will not accept Lynas’ waste from Malaysia.

The conditions were also drawn out based on recommendations made by the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant operations evaluation executive committee in November 2018.

Detractors of the project continue to demand Lynas Corp Ltd to pull the shutter if it fails to ship its radioactive wastes back to Australia.

Proponents of the project are looking to balance between the financial fallout and benefits, especially as trade tensions between the US and China continue to escalate.

The Pakatan Harapan government was also divided as some leaders and members of the parties in the coalition had continued to object Lynas’ presence in the country.