Cabinet hasn't decided on Lynas waste; Yeo has to 'take responsibility' for her statement, says Mohd Redzuan

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KUALA LUMPUR (April 1): Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof said his colleague Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin has to take responsibility for her statement on the pre-condition set for Lynas Corp Ltd to ship out its harmful waste from Malaysia.

Mohd Redzuan revealed that the Cabinet has never decided collectively on the measures to manage waste out of Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng, Pahang.

Speaking to reporters at the Parliament lobby today, Mohd Redzuan said the investment from Lynas Corp Ltd in Malaysia is "too big to ignore", and that the Cabinet is not supposed to force the company to export its harmful waste back to Australia, unless they are "very unsafe".

"We have an independent high level committee. I would suggest the government to make the findings in the report public, so that people understand exactly how we are going to manage Lynas. But as it is now, it is too early to make a decision to compel people to take back the waste," he said.

"We are a government that is friendly to business, so we have to come out with measures to manage waste. Lynas investment is too big to ignore. In my view and we have discussed this in Cabinet, we should continue, but waste is a separate matter to be addressed. There are other alternatives to manage these wastes.

"You have an agreement to allow investors to come into this country previously, therefore we have to manage it, we cannot just simply force someone to take back the waste, that was not the condition in the contract. If the committee thinks that it (the waste) is unsafe, say it is very unsafe, then we have to shut it down. But as it is now there is no indication, as far as I know, that the plant is unsafe, other than a suggestion that the waste should be taken back," he added.

Therefore, Mohd Redzuan said the Cabinet's decision is "clear" — to allow Lynas to operate.

"Waste is a separate matter to be addressed. There is no decision collectively by the government to send back the waste to Australia, we have to have a bilateral understanding. We have still yet to make a firm decision collectively to send the waste to Australia, no! It is a suggestion, and there are many factors we have to consider, we have to manage the waste, rely on facts and reports.

"If the review committee report says we have to shut it down for the sake of safety, we will, that is the government's stance, and it has to be make known to the public, what is the real reason we have to shut it down," he said.

The Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change has set two pre-conditions to Lynas before the former will consider renewing the operating licence of the rare earth materials producer in Malaysia.

The two new pre-conditions set by the ministry are for the export of water leached purification (WLP) residue before Sept 2, 2019 and for the submission of an action plan on the disposal of its 1.11 million tonnes of neutralization underflow residue (NUF), for which the current approval is valid until Feb 15, 2019.

The waste has been accumulated since 2012, amid exemptions by related agencies. Yeo had explained before that the common practice for industrial waste dictates a maximum amount of 20 metric tonnes and a maximum period of six months.

In 2012, Lynas issued a letter of undertaking to the Atomic Energy Licensing Board, in which it agreed to remove from Malaysia all of its waste generated by LAMP during its temporary operating licence's period "if necessary".

On Dec 5 last year, Lynas argued that the executive review committee report on the operations of LAMP in Kuantan, Pahang, recommended it immediately identify and build a permanent disposal facility (PDF) for its WLP residue.

"Export should only be considered if a PDF is not possible," Lynas said in a statement on Dec 5.