PUTRAJAYA (April 5): While Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad acknowledged that the new Government has imposed a precondition for Lynas Corp Ltd to ship out its wastes, he noted the reality that the Australia-based rare-earth processor may have problems finding a destination which would accept the radioactive water leached purification (WLP) solid wastes residue.
“We have imposed extra conditions on Lynas, saying that they must take away their wastes. But where would they take it to?
“Australia? Australia will not accept it so they can’t do that,” said Dr Mahathir at a press conference this afternoon.
Besides, Mahathir commented that rare-earth processors, which want to operate in the country, will have to process the input before bringing it into Malaysia — a move to reduce the solid wastes.
“We have opened up the business to other people and there are other companies willing to buy out or somehow acquire Lynas. They have given us a promise that in the future, before sending the raw material to Malaysia, they will clean it up first.
“They will crack it and decontaminate it in regard to radioactivity, so that when the raw material comes here, the waste is not dangerous.
“These companies, or even Lynas, can continue operations if they promise that the raw material only comes here after the cracking and cleaning up,” said Mahathir.
Lynas, which operates a mine in Western Australia and a US$800 million processing plant in Malaysia, is facing issues regarding its licence renewals for the plant in Gebeng, Pahang, due to concerns over its waste storage.
The Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (Mesecc) has set a precondition for the renewal of Lynas’ three-year temporary storage licence for the WLP solid wastes residue, which is up for renewal in September.
In a surprising turn of event, Malaysian Ministers are divided on the issue, with some suggesting that Lynas should ship out its wastes, while others said the company should be allowed to operate in the country, given the significant amount of investment in Malaysia.
Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof yesterday lambasted his colleague Yeo Bee Yin, who is the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister, for compelling Lynas to ship out its wastes from the country, saying her stand was not one that was endorsed by the Cabinet.
He said Yeo has to “take responsibility” for her statement — issued in December last year — on the matter, saying the Cabinet had never decided on any measure to manage the wastes produced by the Australian rare earth miner’s Lynas Advanced Materials Plant.