SYDNEY MORNING HERALD: Malaysia terms for Lynas
Philip WenJuly 1, 2011
Backlash: there will be environmental and safety conditions that the Lynas Corporation's refinery will have to meet before it can operate. Photo: Reuters
THE fierce political and community backlash against Lynas Corporation's plans to build a rare earths refinery in Malaysia has led to the government to impose environmental and safety conditions before the plant is allowed to operate.
Acting on advice from a panel of International Atomic Energy Agency experts, the Malaysian government yesterday said Lynas must adhere to 11 recommendations - including conditions on dealing with radioactive waste - before it would get licences for the plant. That came despite the agency finding no breaches of international standards.
''We will follow the IAEA recommendations to the T,'' Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, secretary-general of Malaysia's International Trade Ministry, said yesterday.
The $230 million plant in Malaysia's east has been the target of impassioned, politically charged and violent protests since March over fears it could leak radioactive material into the water supply.
The Malaysian government, under pressure to reassure residents of the safety of the plant, commissioned the IAEA review despite having formerly approved the project.
''In line with meeting the technical requirements of the IAEA report, they would also have to do a big sell job locally,'' one analyst said. ''The problem there is that if this is just a political football that the local member is using to embarrass the government, she's hardly likely to stop.''
Lynas chief executive Nicholas Curtis, who was in Kuala Lumpur yesterday for the government's announcement, bristled at the suggestion.
''I'm not here to comment on the political situation in Malaysia,'' he said. ''We've been very clear that we believe we will be commissioning the plant by the end of 2011.''
Mr Curtis said he was taken aback by the extent of the public backlash against the project, and admitted ''error'' in not consulting with the local community more before construction.
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