Saturday, 7 April 2012

Lynas Malaysia rare earth refinery will drive away investors

April 07, 2012
Lynas Malaysia managing director Dato' Mash'al Ahmad
KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — Himpunan Hijau today dismissed the need for a temporary operating licence (TOL) for the Lynas refinery, saying that its very construction would scare away local and foreign investors.
Lynas Corp said yesterday that delays to a temporary operating licence (TOL) for its controversial rare earth refinery would hurt its suppliers, 90 per cent of whom are Malaysian.
The firm’s local managing director Datuk Mashal Ahmad told The Star the temporary licence, for up to two years, will allow it to prove that its operations are safe despite raising fears of radiation pollution among residents living near its Kuantan plant.
“The TOL is comparatively irrelevant. There first must be a conducive atmosphere for both local and foreign investors.
“The government is trying to lure investors from overseas, but the plant is driving them away,” Stanley Yong told reporters here.
Yong, who is Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall secretary-general is also part of Himpunan Hijau’s committee taking part in the April 28 rally.
“(Local) suppliers would run away if they knew detailed consequences of what the refinery will do,” added Yong.
Regulators Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) said  it will not issue the permit for the RM2.3 billion plant until an outstanding appeal to the science, technology and innovation minister has been completed.
The Australian miner has said its plant will bring a A$1.1 billion (RM4 billion) multiplier effect annually to the local economy with an ongoing annual operating expenditure of A$130 million.
In January, the AELB approved the TOL for Lynas’ Gebeng rare earth plant but has said it will not issue the permit until the Australian miner complies with extra safety conditions imposed.
But Kuantan residents have filed an appeal to the minister under section 32 of the AELB Act.
It is scheduled to be heard at the Malaysian Nuclear Agency in Bangi on April 17, where Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili will hear submissions from Save Malaysia Stop Lynas chairman Tan Bun Teet and five others.
Thousands of anti-Lynas protestors thronged an opposition-backed rally in February to protest the rare earth plant, which has stoked fears of environmental pollution.
Critics allege that Lynas Corp has failed to give enough assurances on how it will handle the low-level radioactive waste that will be produced at the plant, which is expected to fire up later this year.
But the Australian miner maintains that waste from the Gebeng plant will not be hazardous and can be easily recycled for commercial applications.
Parliament approved a select committee on Lynas on March 20 amid opposition furore over its terms of reference and suspicion that the nine-man panel will be used to “whitewash” the issue.
Government lawyers have already told the High Court here the parliamentary panel negates the need for an ongoing legal review of the provisional TOL.

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