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Malaysia must not renew Lynas' licence to generate more toxic radioactive waste

As of 21 July 2019, 88 NGOs from all over Malaysia had signed onto a strongly-worded petition demanding that the Cabinet of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Government not to renew the operating licence of the 100% Australian-owned Lynas Advanced Materials Plant in Gebeng, near Kuantan in Pahang. More are expected to endorse the petition.

Save Malaysia Stop Lynas! said: "We challenge any Minister and public servant wanting Lynas to continue operating in Malaysia to first fill their own backyard, then go and fill up Putrajaya and Pulau Langkawi with Lynas' waste! Lynas has misled Malaysia by giving two undertakings to remove its toxic radioactive waste from Malaysia even though Western Australia (WA) had made it clear back in 2011 that its waste would not be accepted into WA, where its Mount Weld mine is located. Now there are nearly half a million tonnes of waste sitting in inadequate storage dams that leak and overflow to contaminate our groundwater and the surrounding environment with nowhere to go."

The waste stream, known as water-leached purification (WLP), contains long living low-level radioactive thorium which is a known cancer-causing substance. This waste is also contaminated with radioactive uranium, a range of toxic heavy metals, arsenic and a cocktail of chemicals.

Lynas' own 2011 Safety Case Analysis report by Environ Consulting stipulated that the WLP waste would be isolated from the biosphere in a permanent disposal facility away from the current site. Under the temporary licence conditions, a site for the permanent disposal facility was to be found within 10 months. In addition, about 1.2 million tonnes of Lynas' scheduled waste has been stored on site against Malaysian regulations.

Save Malaysia Stop Lynas! said:

"Lynas has flaunted its licence conditions and its own undertakings including those in its Radioactive Waste Management Plan. Why have our regulators been so lenient with Lynas when the company enjoys a 12-year tax holiday for leaving us its toxic waste.?"

"We, the Rakyat, have work hard and pay our taxes to the Government. We expect a safe living environment and a hazard-free future for our family and future generations of Malaysians. We do not accept this raw toxic exploitation from Lynas."

"Cabinet should take heed that Lynas' financial position has always been precarious although it pays its executive staff fat salaries. Its ore consists mostly of light rare earth that is not worth much. Lynas could not even afford to pay Malaysia the US$50 million deposit in cash. Lynas has no intention to build a leak-proof permanent disposal facility that can last at least 1,000 years appropriate for its thorium waste because it could not afford to do so."

"We do not want Lynas' WLP waste to remain in Malaysia. Why should Malaysia sacrifice productive land to build Lynas' mega-tomb for its toxic waste? Besides, the high risk of landslides and erosion in a wet tropical country like Malaysia makes it unsafe to house any toxic waste dump."

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad made a surprise announcement while he was visiting Japan in late May that Malaysia would renew Lynas' licence and that the radioactive waste should perhaps be spread out.

Save Malaysia Stop Lynas! said:

"Spreading out radioactive waste will expose more people to its hazards. Is Tun so obsessed with Lynas and its toxic investment that our health and our environment no longer matter to him?"

"We are appalled by the Flying Car Minister Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof advocating for Lynas to keep the toxic waste in Malaysia and more recently, the Bauxite Minister Xavier Jayakumar on rare earth heat wanting to exploit the country's projected RM700 billion rare earth resources."

"That RM700billion price tag is more like what Malaysia would have to pay to clean up Lynas' mega toxic waste and spread-out contamination in 10 years' time; to pay for the healthcare costs of rising cancer cases to be treated in our hospitals and the losses sustained by fishery and tourism industries due to Lynas' piles of toxic wastes that have completely ruined the local economy."

"We are alarmed by these ministers championing Lynas' corporate profit at the expense of Malaysia's environment and public health. We voted for Pakatan Harapan on May 9 last year because we wanted a clean and sustainable Malaysia."

"We welcome other groups to join us in our petition to demand Tun and his Cabinet to prioritised Malaysia and Malaysians FIRST instead of Lynas to keep Malaysia clean and green. Any group yet to sign onto our petition can contact Save Malaysia Stop Lynas!, Greenpeace or any of the groups in the list to add onto our list. We will present the petition to Cabinet Ministers and MPs in the Parliament Caucus."

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Published in Chain Reaction #136, August 2019. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia.


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