KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — Australian miner Lynas Corporation has been awarded two key licences by Malaysia’s radiation regulator to import and store rare earths ore at its Gebeng refinery despite its temporary operating licence (TOL) being suspended, the Kuantan High Court was told yesterday.
The award of the import licence and the residue storage licence by
the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) stunned a group of Kuantan
residents and environmentalists who initiated legal proceedings to
challenge the authorities and put a permanent end to the Australian
giant’s plan to fire up its RM2.5 billion refinery in Gebeng, Pahang.
“We were shocked to learn about this. We were never aware of it.
“This contradicts what Raja Abdul Aziz said previously in a media
briefing on September 5 when AELB awarded Lynas the TOL,” said Tan Bun
Teet, president of the Kuantan-based grassroots movement Stop Lynas Save
Malaysia (SMSL), which is campaigning against the miner.
Tan said Raja Datuk Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan, the director-general of
AELB, had been reported telling reporters that Lynas may have been given
the TOL but would have to apply for the other two licences separately,
in what then seemed a bid to assure the public that the authority was
making sure all safeguards were in place before allowing the company to
The anti-Lynas lobbyist said the lawyer for the miner also demanded
to be reimbursed because his client had suffered “substantial losses”
from the TOL being put on hold.
Lynas had been issued the TOL last month and had been expecting to start operations this month.
“But this proves the AELB is working hand-in-glove with Lynas,” Tan told The Malaysian Insider when contacted yesterday.
Lawyer Hon Kai Ping, who was present at yesterday’s hearing, said he
was also stunned when the lawyer for Lynas, Tan Sri Cecil Abraham, had
casually informed the court of the three-licence approval while
submitting the company’s bid to be made an intervenor in the SMSL suit
against the government.
“He had said that the matter is academic because all three licences
have been issued,” Hon, who is representing SMSL in the judicial review,
told The Malaysian Insider.
September 5, Raja Abdul Aziz was reported as saying the “pre-operating
stage” of the plant, which will begin once Lynas fulfils several key
conditions of its TOL, was necessary to decide if a permanent waste
disposal facility (PDF) was needed.
“The permanent disposal site is only for the worst-case scenario if
Lynas cannot sell recycled waste... We will be able to determine if
their declaration is right or the worst-case scenario is right,” he said
But he stressed that Lynas will have to specify a site and submit
plans for the PDF even before it begins operations, or risk losing its
The TOL was given to Lynas after more than a year of sustained public protests.
The radiation regulator stressed, however, that Lynas will not be
allowed to fire up its controversial refinery until it fulfils the
conditions of the pre-operating licence within the next 10 months.
These include paying the first of five instalments on its US$50
million (RM155 million) deposit to the government and the appointment of
an independent third-party assessor by AELB, which Lynas will pay for.
It added that even once these conditions have been fulfilled, the
Australian mining company will have to obtain a separate permit to
import the raw material from Mount Weld, Australia.
Following that, the plant will be monitored for two years, during
which Lynas must meet safety requirements before AELB issues a full
licence to ramp up operations.
Lynas had said in April that delays in obtaining the licence for its
facility, which was initially approved in January, may have “very
serious consequences” for the RM80 billion worth of rare earth orders
already received as it is “sold out for the next 10 years.”
Unprecedented public anger against the Lynas plant has been
fertilising Malaysia’s green movement and could affect voter sentiment
ahead of key national polls that must be called soon.
Earlier this year, thousands of people gathered for a peaceful
demonstration in Kuantan calling on the government to stop the plant
from being fired up.
The rare earth plant — the biggest outside China — has been ready to
fire up since early May, but the company has been embroiled in
environmental and safety disputes with local residents since
construction began two years ago.
Plans to start operations in September last year were scuppered when
Putrajaya bowed to public pressure last April and put the project on ice
pending the review by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In July last year, the AELB adopted 11 recommendations set out by the
review of the refinery and said it would not allow Lynas to begin
operations or import rare earth ore until all conditions, which include a
comprehensive, long-term and detailed plan for managing radioactive
waste, were met.
Lynas Corp failed to meet any of the conditions in its first proposals, according to the regulator.
The Sydney-based company is looking to break China’s 90 per cent grip
on rare earth metals crucial to the manufacture of high technology
products such as smartphones, energy-efficient light bulbs and
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