SMSL/PSHK : Press statement
It is High Time Our Regulators Get Referred to the MACC
16th December 2018
Many people, especially those from responsible industries and businesses might have half guessed why and how Lynas could get away with accumulating huge amount of contaminated wastes by its Gebeng plant for over six years. No other industry or business anywhere in Malaysia could get away with so much waste left to contaminate our environment and let its hazards spread amidst claims of ‘zero-harm’ and ‘compliance’.
Mr Hon Kai Ping, legal advisor for SMSL said, “The two regulatory agencies overseeing the Lynas’ radiological and environmental management are Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) and Department of Environment or Jabatan Alam Sekitar (DoE/JAS) respectively. They are required through their respective mandated roles and responsibilities under the Atomic Energy Licensing Act 1984 and Environmental Quality Act 1974 to uphold the law and to enforce regulations stated under these Acts of Parliament.”
Since Lynas commenced its operations, SMSL has been assisted by a team of high calibre professionals, both locally and from abroad, to monitor Lynas closely. One of the researchers, Alan Chan explained, “As an engineer with decades of experience in the industry, I could not understand how Lynas has been permitted to store so much scheduled and radionuclides contaminated wastes in open space. So, I checked up on the relevant Acts and regulations. I am shocked by how far DoE had bent its own rules to allow those rising piles of contaminated wastes to be stored for years next to the Lynas plant!”
SMSL has identified numerous areas where our regulators have failed to act to prevent contamination of our environment by Lynas’ radionuclides and toxic substances. SMSL is documenting these violations and breaches with the aim to lodge a complaint with the MACC.
Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Act 1984 is more than 30 years out of date and out of step with international regulatory framework. IAEA in its 2011 Mission report identified this gap and through its recommendation 7 urged AELB to update its regulations in accordance with the most recent international standards, and to have specific regulations on the management of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) relevant to the Lynas operations. Additionally, IAEA also recommended that AELB provided publicly accessible information on its inspection and enforcement; and to involve members of the public in its decision-making processes through recommendations 8 and 9.[https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/lynas-report-20052015.pdf p. 5] Although AELB showed the IAEA its updated AELA draft in the 2014 IAEA Mission, the 2011 AELA updates/amendments were never enacted into the law.[ https://www.nst.com.my/news/2017/02/212312/aelb-government-amend-act-304]
“Malaysia must be the only country in the world that has fast tracked a rare earth refinery plant construction with just a preliminary environmental impact assessment; then issue a temporary operating licence followed by a full licence which was subsequently renewed, in the absence of full compliance to licence conditions by Lynas.” Mr Hon lamented.
“When Lynas claimed that it has complied with the law, it is the law which AELB and DoE/JAS have bent for Lynas. As an Australian corporate entity, Lynas should adhere to the ASX Corporate Governance Principles – especially Principle 3 which requires that it acts ‘ethically and responsibly’ which goes ‘well beyond mere compliance with legal obligations and involves acting with honesty, integrity’ and ‘includes being, and being seen to be, a good corporate citizen, acting responsibly towards the environment.’”[ https://www.asx.com.au/documents/asx-compliance/cgc-principles-and-recommendations-3rd-edn.pdf] He added.
Rare earth processing has long been avoided by most advanced industrialised countries because of its association with environmental pollution and its massive amount of long-living thorium and hazardous waste. This type of waste needs to be isolated from the biosphere in high standard costly engineered facility. Lynas’ RSF is not adequate as its own ground water monitoring data in 2015-2016 already indicated serious contaminations have occurred.
Mr Tan Bun Teet, chairman of SMSL said, “The contamination data on nickel, chromium, lead and mercury we have seen in p.80 and 81 of the report by the Executive Review Committee (ERC) on Lynas are only a glimpse of the full extent of the contamination problems.”
To date, Lynas has produced 451,564 metric tonnes of waste from the water leached purification stream – the most hazardous waste stream that is contaminated with an estimated 880 metric tonnes of long live thorium and 7.7 metric tonnes of uranium – both are radionuclides that are sources of cancer-causing ionising radiation. This stream of waste is also contaminated with heavy metals and arsenic – see the attached summary for details of these elements and their associated health hazards.
“Lynas has claimed that these are naturally occurring elements and are found everywhere in our environment. This is only half of the story. When Lynas mined, milled and chemically processed its lanthanide ore bearing hazardous elements and radionuclides, they are released from their natural shields which have protected them from getting into contact with us and our environment.” Explained Dr. Ir. Tan Ka Kheng, an Environmental researcher and semi-retired professor graduated with PhD from Cambridge University and a MSc from University of California in Berkeley, with a long career in Chemical and Environmental Engineering.
"The low risk radioactivity Lynas has claimed for its operations has not accounted for the biological effects of ionizing radiation and toxic hazards from its contaminants in the waste. These are the real public and industrial hazards.” He clarified.
"These contamination data are from Lynas own monitoring stations, surrounding its waste storage facility and its final waste water discharge point. Bauxite ores from the Gebeng[ Phang Biao Yu, (2017), Geotechnical Properties And Morphological Properties Of Raw And Processed Gebeng Bauxite, Universiti Malaysia Pahang, p.67] area contain 88ppm nickel and Bukit Goh[ Hasan, M. et. al., (2017) Properties of Raw And Processed Bukit Goh Bauxite In Kuantan, Pahang In Accordance With Imsbc Code http://umpir.ump.edu.my/id/eprint/18925/ p. 5] contains almost undetectable amount of nickel, whereas Lynas’ own WLP waste contain 111mg/kg of nickel[ Environ, 2011, Safety Case of Radiological Waste LAMP. P. 26]. The maximum recorded contamination level of 96,110 µg/l was from Lynas’ sampling stations at its waste water discharge point, labelled as GW13. This reading is over 1000 times higher than the Dutch intervention level of 75 µg/l! That is about 10% of the WLP nickel concentration.” Dr Tan elaborated on the ERC data.
“All of its nickel data exceeded the Dutch limit of 75 g/l. Also the few chromium data available in the Table - 31 µg/l to 266 µg/l - exceeded the Dutch intervention limit of 30 µg/l. Similarly with its lead (Pb) and mercury (Hg) data. These are all toxic elements that will adversely affect our environment with serious implications for community health. We need access to all monitoring data to get to the bottom of Lynas’ pollution problems.” He added.
Mr Tan recalled, “As many journalists who attended the ‘Public’ Hearing hosted by the ERC in Kuantan, we have clearly heard DoE and AELB singing Lynas praises, claiming that Lynas has obeyed all laws and has followed international standards for its operations.”
“It is high time the MACC starts to look into how Lynas could get its construction approval and keep getting its operating license renewed even when DoE and AELB have full access to Lynas monitoring data. How long will the Pakatan Harapan Government tolerate serious ground water contaminations and the massive amount of wastes left in such a leaky facility to continue to pollute our environment and to spread hazards to our community. ” Concluded Mr. Tan.
For further comments, please contact:
Mr Tan Bun Teet - Hp: +60 179 730 576
Dr KK Tan – Hp+60 162 874 248
Mr Hon Kai Ping - +60 112 544 7356
Mr Alan Chan – Hp +60 165 028 368