Memorandum to Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir and Cabinet Ministers
Protect Malaysia and Stop Lynas from Polluting Our Environment
We, the undersigned NGOs and concerned individuals call on the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Climate Change (MESTECC) Yeo Bee Yin and Jawatankuasa Kaukus Parlimen Pantau Lynas (Parliamentary Caucus on Lynas) and all Cabinet Ministers to:
· Suspend Lynas’ operating licence to STOP Lynas polluting our precious environment and exposing the public to Lynas’ hazards for now and for future generations
· ENSURE that Lynas has a timeline to ship out the toxic waste before the expiry of its operating licence in mid-September
· Do not approved of Lynas’ application to turn its current waste storage site as a prescribed premise for its scheduled waste
· A high populated heavy rainfall wet tropical country like Malaysia cannot afford to sacrifice hundreds of hectares of precious land and pristine forest to create another risky tomb to isolate Lynas’ half a million tonnes of toxic waste
· ENSURE that the promised US$50 million deposit from Lynas is paid in full in cash, just in case Malaysia ends up having to carry out the Lynas clean up exercise.
Lynas is a 100% Australian-owned junior mining company that places profit before ethics, public and environmental health. It has denied scientific truth about the hazards from its waste and effluent, leaving them to pollute our environment since production started in 2012. A responsible Government would have shut down the plant, imposed heavy fine and ordered the company to remove its waste and clean up its contamination to as far as it has spread from the environment. Lynas’ hazards are cancer-causing radioactive thorium and uranium, toxic elements consist of heavy metals, arsenic and chemicals found in its toxic waste that should have been isolated from the environment.
We welcome Tun’s recent announcement to impose a new condition requiring Lynas to only bring in radioactive-free semi-processed feedstock for refining at its Malaysian plant. However, we are deeply concerned that despite Lynas’ own monitoring data showing that serious toxic heavy metals have contaminated our ground water since 2015, no action has been taken to stop these cancer-causing elements from entering our environment as Lynas continues with its operations to generate these hazards.
Our Regulators Have FAILED in their Duty of Care
Our regulators namely Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) and Department of Environment (DoE) have both failed in their duty of care to act in their mandated roles to enforce the law. No other business in the world have been allowed to store over 450,000 tonnes of toxic waste in the open wrapped up only with plastic sheets! No other business in Malaysia has been allowed to accumulate nearly 1.2 million tonnes of scheduled waste on site when our regulation has limited onsite storage of not more than 20 tonnes for up to 180 days! No decent regulator would remain silent and not verify the source or cause of serious toxic heavy metal contamination of the ground water when data from 2015-2016 have shown this problem, when 50 families in the local area are dependent on ground water for their daily uses.
Instead, these public funded ‘regulators’ have continued to sing praises to protect Lynas, despite scientific facts and data showing that Lynas’ waste disposal site is problematic as it is in a flood and fire prone low-lying porous peat mangrove with ground water table less than 1 metre from the surface. They have failed to critically verify Lynas’ misleading and false claims of zero harm and international best practice, putting our environment and local people at risk.
Lynas is a Liability for Malaysia
Ultimately, rakyat of Malaysia will end up paying for the Government’s failure in stopping this toxic rerun. Lynas’ toxic legacy will be many times far more costly than the Bukit Merah Asian Rare Earth legacy as the amount of radioactive and toxic waste generated has already exceeded that from ARE by 40 times. Malaysia will end up coping the high costs of cleaning up the Lynas toxic legacy site, deteriorating health outcomes of local people requiring expensive medical care when they start to suffer from known diseases associated with the kind of hazards Lynas has generated, which often take many years of bioaccumulation to manifest into chronic health conditions both for humans and the environment.
The quantity of thorium, uranium, heavy metals, toxic elements and chemicals in Lynas’ wastes pose significant hazards to require their total removal from Malaysia to avoid costly health and environmental disasters which often take a long time to surface for this kind of pollution. The paltry US$50 million Lynas has committed to the de-commissioning fund will not be enough to clean up the mess 40 times more than that generated by Mitsubishi’s Asian Rare Earth plant in Bukit Merah. Lynas’ attempt to make its current storage facility a permanent dump site in a peat swamp is grossly irresponsible given the serious contaminations problems that have already occurred.
Sustainable Investments Stem from Good Governance and Effective Administration
We recognise and acknowledge that Malaysia needs foreign investment. It is therefore even more pertinent that we present our beloved country as a conducive place to responsible corporations/companies to do business and operate in, based on good governance, high level of professionalism in our dealings and integrity in the way we conduct businesses. Malaysia will be an attractive investment destination if our Government uphold the law and restore order to create a fair and equal playing field for all. The PH Government has the power to make this happen.
MESTECC’s decision requiring Lynas to remove its toxic waste from the water-leached purification (WLP) stream is merely to hold Lynas accountable to its own undertakings made in 2012 to the then BN Government. By continuing to tolerate Lynas’ massive piles of wastes, we are sending the wrong signal that Malaysia is a third world nation desperate for toxic trade and polluting industries. In so doing, Malaysia has essentially undermined and disadvantaged many other responsible businesses that have taken pride in abiding to our environmental law and regulation through genuine actions to protect our environment and public health.
As civil society groups and individuals. we too have been particularly patient and tolerant, giving benefits of the doubt to the PH Government which we have helped put into power last May, We have largely held in good faith that PH Ministers and MPs would concertedly tackle the Lynas toxic waste problems to protect Malaysia and the Rakyat from its radioactive and toxic hazards.
Sustainable Development is a PH Promise to the Rakyat
We wish to remind all Ministers and Members of Parliaments of the Pakatan Harapan Manifesto, which your respective Party has signed onto before GE14. Janji/Promise 39 of the Manifesto stipulated that "Balancing the Development with Environmental Protection". Therefore, development decision from the PH Cabinet must lead to the security and well-being of the people and our environment.
Lynas is a poisoned chalice from the Najib era. It has no place in Malaysia and least of all if PH is committed to pursuing a sustainable development future. Sustainable development as promised in the PH Manifesto is only possible if the Government upholds our own law to restore order. Many of us have contributed and campaigned for PH to be elected.
Tun, we supported your leadership because we trust that you will act in Malaysia’s interest and that you will uphold your words to undo past mistakes. Lynas is a major mistake committed by the Najib regime. We now count on all of you whom we have voted into power, to right this wrong to pave the way for Malaysia to pursue a new clean and safe sustainable pathway of development.