Thursday 29 December 2011

A Reflection of 1311

The first light of dawn had just broken through the horizon.  The day was Sunday, November 13th 2011. Most of Kuantan were still asleep.  After all, it was very early on a Sunday. Like most Sunday mornings, the city was peaceful, quiet and tranquil - waiting for the day of rest to start.

This day, Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) had planned a family-friendly “Whack a Piñata” action.  Piñata is most commonly linked to a Mexican, Latin and South American ritual.  Wikipedia has a lot of information about the piñata if you are keen to learn more about it

For SMSL, the ritual was to give residents and their children the opportunity to symbolically whack the evil of the Lynas rare earth project into total ruins in return for some goodies for those who did it.  It was also aimed at getting the media attention, to raise public awareness and to send a message to the government to stop the controversial Lynas rare earth refinery project from Australia.

At the crack of dawn, SMSL members and supporters – generally making up of peace-loving respectable citizens consisting of mums and dads, grand parents, children, students, youths people of all backgrounds – got up and gathered their gear and props to head towards Taman Gelora.  They put on the striking black, yellow and red “Save Malaysia Stop Lynas” t-shirt. Urged or dressed their children or grandchildren the same.  They then made their way to Taman Gelora, the popular seaside exercise park in town which has been used for a series of very colourful and creative Stop Lynas activities.

The day was a success despite the heavy police presence – they set up road blocks at every single entry point into the park.  They warned people against joining the action, took down some people’s identity card details and harassed many others.  Most people felt so strongly about the issue they ignored the police warnings to join the action. Many were angry that the government has wasted tax payers’ money to protect a toxic project of a foreign company.

Irene, a staunch young supporter of SMSL was rightly asking,

“Why was the Polis Di Raja Malaysia becoming the Polis Di Lynas?”

The Piñata action has drawn many thoughts and emotions from everyone.  Here we have gathered some to share with you.


YC Kwok

Firstly, the making of the piñatas would not have been possible without the generous support and contribution of Mr YC Kwok.  He is a man of few words with a heart of gold.  He has made tremendous contributions to SMSL and the Stop Lynas campaign even though he would be moving his family to Kuala Lumpur in late December.

The 1311 event took up many hours of Mr Kwok’s time.  On top of that he also made his air-conditioned factory available day and night for at least two weeks for the making of the 26 amazingly stunning and colourful piñatas.

Yet Mr Kwok is ever so humble.  He said:
“I'm not what you called so ‘generous’. When SMSL decided to have the 1311 event with the hitting of the piñatas, the Committee was looking out for a suitable place.  At first an office was offered but I felt that it would be too small and unsuitable for this. I offered my factory to SMSL since the factory is not in production at the moment.  I felt that I should contribute as much as I could to Stop Lynas.  Many experienced and highly trained technical people I know also said that the plant is not safe.  Like me, they would like to kick the LAMP out. So I hoped by offering my factory for the piñata project it would be a small part of a campaign to Stop the Lynas project.”

Yu Siew Hong

Dr Yu, a local GP and a committed Stop Lynas campaigner.  She was the brainchild behind the piñata idea, with the help of her children as she explained:

“Why the piñata? I was very much a fence sitter before, undecided as to which side and which of the groups to link up with. I met SMSL Chairman Mr Tan once at Dr Carmen Chew’s place.  I am however out of the loop due to my busy life. Then I was approached by Grace to give some ideas for the family day event 1311, which I promised I would.

Armed with very little knowledge about rare earth, I sounded my 3 kids out. They, particularly my number 2 suggested for us to use a piñata for the action. After some research, I thought it would be a good idea to gauge the public reaction and to encourage them to participate in whacking the piñatas as a symbolic gesture of whacking the many evils of the Lynas project. I was very impressed by the enthusiastic response of so many people.  The scene of the day was most invigorating - a picture speaks a thousand words indeed!”

Haji Ismail Abu Bakar

Haji Ismail has been with SMSL since the beginning, through thick and thin. He hopes that more Malays will take part in the Stop Lynas campaign especially when most of them will be directly affected negatively by the Lynas project.  He is worried about the families living in the various kampungs near Kuala Balok and Gebeng close to the Lynas plant.

The Kuala Balok fisher folks will be worst hit because they live near the Balok River where Lynas’ waste water likely to be contaminated with radioactive particles and other hazardous substances will be dumped.  Many of them eke out a living from artisan fishing – catching fish and other seafood near shore in small boats.  Shellfish such as crabs, prawns and cockles bred and spawned in the mangrove swamp of the Balok River are bottom-feeders easily contaminated by any pollutant including the radioactive thorium and uranium which are heavier and will sink to and accumulate in the bottom of the mangove.

Haji is sad that many of the kampong folks lack understanding and are easily manipulated to the point where it has been difficult for the better educated informed people to reach out to them.

Haji hopes that by being in the forefront of Stop Lynas activities, he can help in some way to encourage those who will be most negatively impacted to pay attention to the issue and to join the Stop Lynas campaign.  Despite his age, he has never shied away from the Stop Lynas activities.  He has this to say:

"I have kept my commitment to Stop Lynas and have been actively involved with SMSL. I participated in most SMSL activities including the weekly meetings, public seminars, press conferences and the first trip to Australia which was freezing cold. I took part in most of the SMSL public events including 109, 1311 and 1211. These activities were very well organised and fruitful.  They showed that we worked in solidarity with each other and that we are seriously concern about the issue. At the same time we continue to create awareness amongst local residents especially those living in Kuantan.

Regarding the 1311 event, it was heartening and encouraging to see so many people bravely stood up to demonstrate peacefully wearing the SMSL T-Shirt to show those in power that we the people will decide what is best for our country.

My wife and I were involved in the planning discussion of the event including the piñata idea. I appreciate the good effort of my fellow committee members and the volunteers who helped out. On the day of 1311, I was very embarrassed and disappointed to see so many armed personnel giving us a hard time even though it was just a peaceful event.

Taman Gelora is a public area. No permit is needed from the authority for the kind of activity SMSL has organised.  .After all, it was a family gathering with no subversive element loitering around to cause any trouble to anyone or to damage any property. Anyhow, the armed personnel and heavy police presence did not deter the thousands of residents from coming forward to participate.
1311 was not a demonstration but a gathering of people who want their living environment safe and clean. We do not want a toxic radioactive plant nearby to contaminate our food, water and air.  Deep in our minds we uttered:

'I Don't Wanna Leave my loving home and place'.  After all, why should we forgo our homes just because of a foreign company called LYNAS and its greed and toxic plant??!!”

Wen Tan

Wen Tan, our amazingly creative and passionate graphic designer and a concern mother has the following heart-felt reflection to share:

旧报纸,热糨糊, 焦急心,慌忙手。。。 午夜了,多希望完成的就是最后一粒皮納塔 Piñata)。。。
Old newspaper, hot starch, anxious heart, worried and busy hands, ….. it’s already midnight - how we wished that this is the very last piñata to be made….

To support the SMSL November 13th Family Day of Action <<One Heart, One Determination to Protect Our Homeland>> at Taman Gelora, concern fathers and mothers in Kuantan took time out from their hectic schedule racing day and night to make enough piñatas for the event. We deliberately made these piñatas to appear evil and nasty to symbolise the evil power of Lynas Corporation. We then get everybody to whack these piñatas collectively to symbolise our united stance and effort to topple Lynas.

13日清晨七时,一家大小开车前往公园时,路经苏丹王宫却被警方阻止拦截抄下身份證號碼並勸告勿參加。接近公园的2个路口也有多位警员把守 在通往公园路上障碍重重,充满紧张气氛。
7am November 13th our entire family of young and old travelling in a car to the park.  As we were approaching the road outside the Sultan’s palace, we were stopped by a police road block.  The police took down our IC number and warned us against taking part in the action.  As we approached the park, many police were also heavily guarding two of the entry roads leading to the park. The atmosphere was very tense.

每次有反稀土活动,同一时间, 同一个地点也一定会有洲政府搞的康乐活动,出动数辆巴士,帐篷霸占场地,警员在公园四週驻守,警方通过新闻,报纸聲稱活動屬於非法集会,並勸告民眾勿參加,在反稀土活动上百般刁难。
…every time we organised a Stop Lynas activity, there would be a parallel “recreational” activity organised by the state government to coincide with our event- deliberately staged at the same time in the same place.  They would send a few buses of participants, erect some tents in key strategic locations to attempt to occupy the park and to drown out the impact of the Stop Lynas activities.  The Police would send troop to stand guard everywhere.  Through the mainstream news services and the press, they would declare our activity an illegal gathering close to the day without giving any legitimate reason.  Their aim has been to warn the public and to intimidate them in an attempt to stop them from taking part - creating many obstacles and difficulties for the Stop Lynas movement.

时常都可以听到。。。但政府最想关掉的就是最真的声音。想到家园将成为放射性废料的倾销地,心在滴血。。。许多高科技的国家,都对提炼稀土却步,不敢在自己的本土设厂。为什么? 因为它必需要人民付出健康和生命。賠上性命,還不算最可怕;最可怕的是,看不到苦難有結束的一天。。。水源污染。。。食物污染。。。为了能和家人平安生活在无污染的土地。。。不要灰心,不要怕,只要您肯站出来!合群之草,才有力量集体沉默、熟视无睹,才是最可悲的
Very often, we hear the many government slogans such as “citizens first (Rakyat di Dahulukan…); protecting justice, fairness and integrity, etc. .. However what the Government most wanted to shut off are the true and genuine voices of the people.  When I think of my homeland becoming a radioactive waste dump, my heart bleeds….!

Many advanced industrialise nations have shied away from developing rare earth plant in populated areas.  Why? Rare earth plant costs the people’s health and sometimes their life.  If we have to pay with our life, isn’t it frightening enough?
The scariest part is that we will not see the end of the hardships – contamination of the water supply, contamination of our food and pollution of our air - are just some of the risks.
We have to fight this battle so that our family can live peacefully in an environment free from pollution.  Do not feel defeated, do NOT be scared.  As long as you are willing to stand up, just like a lone strain of grass when standing in unity with others will have the strength to withstand strong forces.  If we as a group kept quiet, pretend not to see the reality, a tragedy will sure to befall us soon.

Steve Hang

Steve is no stranger to the many people actively engaged in the social media for the Stop Lynas campaign in facebook, twitter and the SMSL blog site. Steve is known for his regular posting of many positive and encouraging comments as well as reminders in the Pahang Don’t Need Hazardous Project facebook group.

He is a tireless young campaigner who is ever so willing to act and to work to Stop Lynas.  Steve is instrumental in most of SMSL’s media liaison work and is the major domo of most of SMSL’s social media sites.  Few if any of SMSL members can surplus the dedication of Steve. He is well liked by most if not all of SMSL members and supporters who know him.  Steve is a young man of few words and a determination of steel in defeating the Lynas rare earth project. Steve’s recollection of 1311 is brief but precise:

“I was touched seeing mothers bringing their kids along to make piñatas. To make the 26 piñatas was not a fast or easy job. It was not a 1-day job but it took about 2 weeks of very long days and a lot of hard work by a team of very dedicated people.

On the day of the 1311 action, I was at first worried and frightened to see so many police blocking the roads in so many places. I decided to park my car further away from the road block and jogged in. The only thing in my mind was to get inside the park so that I could take part to make 1311 a successful event.”

Grace Lee

Grace is one of the longest serving SMSL Committee Members.  She has been with the Stop Lynas campaign since the beginning.  Below is her refection of the piñata making and the 1311 family day of action:

“I took part with one common cause to STOP LYNAS!

My participation in the piñata making and the family day of action stemmed from my role and responsibility as a SMSL member and a Kuantan resident.  I am committed to campaigning to Stop Lynas through joining SMSL from day one!!

I am very touched by the hard works and efforts of some of our new volunteers', especially the pretty mamas who have spent many hours each day making the piñatas.  We shared great memories of working together for two weeks from 8am till midnight every day. Although we were exhausted from the long hours of hard work, everyone was happily making the piñata with the hope that the action will be delivering a strong message to Stop Lynas so that we may have a better future for many generations to come.

We took 13 days to complete the 26 beautiful and colourful piñatas. Each of them symbolises a different evil of the Lynas project. It was a fantastic achievement. The whole process was enjoyable and meaningful...even though we could do with more volunteers and helpers.  Those who turned up were truly dedicated.  I am very impressed by some members turning up on the Hari Raya Haji public holiday.  Some came in after office hour to play their part! I did not go to the office for two weeks. The passion, dedication and commitment of these SMSL Committee Members and supporters are truly admirable and commendable. 

As Steve often said: “Unity, solidarity and peace!”
The 1311 event was a success. Nearly 2,000 people participated despite a major obstacle with police setting up road blocks at key roads leading to the Taman Gelora. It was heartening to see that people in Kuantan were aware of their rights.  They were not afraid of the roadblocks and police intimidation.
Lastly, I would like to suggest that we make our opposition to the Lynas project public frequently, at least once a month.  The more reactive actions from the government to try to create obstacles, the more the public will be made aware of the infringement of their human rights by the government, thus infuriating them to be more committed to supporting and participating in the Stop Lynas campaign!!

Yip Fong Kiew

Fong Kiew is one of the hardworking and dedicated young Stop Lynas campaigners.  She is a silent mover and shaker running around to get things done without saying much.  She is loyal to the cause and is determined to Stop Lynas.  Fong Kiew worked so hard and put in so much energy into the piñata making that she was in tears at one stage.  Here is what she said about her experience:

pinata。。。 我一心一意为反莱纳撕稀土厂,也为了唤醒更多的人民一起来关注这些公害课题的醒觉,不顾一切的搞好这活动!
I have exhausted all of my energy to dedicate my time and effort for the event - day and night, apart from attending to my work, I was planning and preparing for the 1311 event.  I helped to give out flyers, put up posters, made piñatas - an activity I believe no one in the whole of Malaysia has ever done before…

I am in one heart and one mind to stop the Lynas rare earth refinery project.  I hope to call out to many more people to rise up together with us to pay more attention to this kind of issues and to wake up to the harm it will bring to the public.  That was why I put aside everything else to make the 1311 event a success.

一:看到大家用尽力气的打在pinata上,大声的喊上口号:stop lynas及喊出心中的不满!虽然打在pinata上,痛在我心上(因为真的付出很大的毅力在制造,过程中心中都默默念着:lynas, 我要打败你!), 当你看到1311那场面,人民发泄出他的情绪,我觉得辛苦得来,一切都是值得的!希望人民对与抵抗公害的醒觉一直提高!人非草木,谁能无动于衷!一心一意 护家园不是一个人的事,是一国家人的事!站起来抗战到底吧
Of course, the event was very successful - which was one of the reasons why I was so moved.  The pain was in my heart when I saw people putting their full force whacking the piñata while shouting “Stop Lynas” loudly to express their strong opposition and anger. We had put in so much effort into making the piñatas and they turned out so amazingly wonderful.  In the midst of making the piñatas, knowing that these creations of ours would be whacked to destruction, I was thinking quietly to myself: “Lynas, I want to beat you into defeat!”

When you see the scenario and atmosphere of 1311 where the public explicitly showed their strong emotion and anger I felt that all the hardships and effort are worth the moment!
I hope the public consciousness against the Lynas’ threat and the opposition to this kind of public health issue will continue to grow. Humans are unlike plants and wood, who can remain totally unmoved and unaffected?

The 1311 <<One Heart, One Determination to Protect Our Homeland>> action should
not be the concern of only one single person. It is a national concern which will affect everyone. Let us all stand up to fight till the end!!

Irene Ng

Irene is one of the enthusiastic young Stop Lynas supporters and active members.  She is a regular facebook activist with a good network of similar allies throughout Malaysia.  She belongs to a new generation of passionate young Malaysians who are outspoken and intolerant of bad political decision and behaviour.

1311 was one of her first actions which she got actively involved in.  Her motivation is pure and simple:

当时没有任何Stop Lynas 的概念,任何方法只要是对Lynas 不利的我都会去做。那段期间每个晚上至少两点才回到家。年迈婆婆和和几个稚龄妹妹是我的动力。我不想Lynas 干扰到我婆婆安享晚年,我更不想辐射毁了孩子的未来
At the time, I had no idea at all how best to Stop Lynas. I would do anything and run with any idea as long as it would disadvantage Lynas.  In the period leading up to the 1311 action, I did not get home till at least 2am every day. My elderly grandmother who brought me up and my young sisters were my driving force.  I do not wish to see Lynas destroy the peace and tranquillity of my grandmother’s golden age. And I do not wish radiation and the pollution of the Lynas plant ruin my sisters’ future.

This article was compiled and edited by Jade Lee at the request of Ng Chi Woei. Translation of the Chinese passages was done so that their heartfelt thoughts and reflection can be shared as widely as possible.
Completed 24th December 2011 

Thursday 22 December 2011

Lynas Waste Water Discharge Point in Flood

                                               LAMP waste water discharge point in flood

Before we welcome the festive seasons of Christmas and the New Year, SMSL wish to take this opportunity to thank all the people in Malaysia and overseas for their tireless effort to support our struggle to stop the hazardous Lynas rare earth project.  It is through this concerted effort that today, we are temporarily relieved that the Lynas rare earth refinery has not got its operating license and that it has not commenced its production which was scheduled for September 2011.

Needless to say we will work harder in 2012 to make sure this dangerous project will never be open ever in Gebeng or anywhere in Malaysia. Today, we would like to re-capture reflect on what has happened and highlight some of our achievements and milestones reached since we initiated the movement in March of this year2011.

We have engaged made representations and handing of memos to with a diversity of independent experts, our  elected political representatives, our Government the Parliament of Malaysia and the Government of Australian High Commission. Through our protests and demonstrations and the series of conferences and awareness programs the government was forced to set up the IAEA panel in June and it recommended 11 conditions to be fulfilled before LAMP is to be granted an  pre-operating license.

We have consistently argued that the location of LAMP is totally unacceptable as it is located on a reclaimed swamp land.  The phenomenal amount of hazardous waste in the various waste streams-water, gas and solid which will be produced by the Lynas’ plant is of great concern. The waste disposal method of Lynas is is full of risks and hazards – simply storing massive amount of waste contaminated with radioactive thorium and uranium in open ponds lined only with 1.6mm of plastic is UNACCEPTABLE anywhere by any decent responsible Governments, least of all in a swampy area so close to the Balok River and the South China Sea!

The Lynas project poses serious threats not only to our natural environment which many depends on for their survival but to our long-term health and our economic future. The dense local population, the Balok River and the sea are important seafood production areas. The waste water outlet of the Lynas plant are already badly flooded after only a couple of days of monsoon rain. Imagine the overflowing and the uncontrolled spreading of Lynas waste if and when it starts production.

This is the main drain for Lynas' waste water which flooded after 2 days of rain

See photographs taken 12th December at the waste water outlet point of the Lynas plant for evidence. will sooner or later through floods and industrial accidents spewed radioactive wastes into the nearby environment and destroy the local fishing and food industries.

Will our seafood be as 'laku' once Lynas starts to dump its waste?

What will happen to the fishermen and the small traders depending on this industry for their livelihoods?

what about our tourism industry?  Who will want to pay to holiday near a toxic waste dump?  This is a permanent problem for Kuantan because the radioactivity of thorium will last onger than the lifetime of
planet earth!

It will irreversibly ruin our economy and our health. The recent monsoon rains have proven the point and we have here photographs of the waste water discharge of the Lynas plant almost covered by flood water.

If this discharge point is so heavily flooded only after two days of heavy rain, what will happen to the plant if there is  one week of sustained monsoon rain?

Recently, Lynas has given 25 reasons to justify the location of the rare earth refinery plant in Gebeng. The Menteri Besar has also given his and has continued to attack  SMSL and others who are supportive of the Stop Lynas campaign for our strong stance. As far as SMSL and the better informed people of Malaysia are concerned, Lynas could have given 100 or 1000 reasons, it will still not be good enough. We are opposed to the project  and will be here in force to stop the Lynas project in the new year. 

Where is Lynas’ long- term waste storage strategy for its radioactive solid waste , commission and decommissioning plans as recommended by the IAEA?, may we ask?

Not only that its waste disposal method is problematic, the plant itself has many construction defects which are is risky and dangerous. We have suggested to the Government through MITI to stop the Lynas construction work and to carry out a full engineering audit of the plant for safe measure.  The government has not acted on it.

We would like to ask why haven't there been any social and economic impact assessment studies done before the refinery plant was approved for construction?

Why wasn't there a detailed EIA (environmental impact assessment) done for a project believed to be the world's largest rare earth refinery?

We are especially concerned that our Government has not exercised prudence and has failed in its duty of care to manage the proposal using a more stringent precautionary approach.  In the first place a project with radioactive waste and so much waste in each of the waste streams should NEVER have been allowed to be built in a swampy area so close to the sea which so many depended on for their livelihoods.

Despite all the covert smear campaigns against all anti-Lynas group in our mainstream media owned and controlled by the ruling parties, we in SMSL will continue to campaign for the total and full withdrawal of this toxic project! We are truly impressed by the support shown by the local residents and residents from other states as well as the good people of Australia. Our recent campaign trip up north has reassured us that people throughout  Malaysia are against the project and they have strongly advocated a change of government be it state or federal to surely bring about the closure of this toxic plant! We shall together work towards this goal as the ruling parties be it MCA, UMNO had never shown any regards for the voice of the people.

In the last two weeks, SMSL was proud to have won the 2011 SUARAM Human Rights Award jointly with Bersih 2.0 and the KLSCAH Civil Society Award on the 8th and 12th respectively. We wish to thank this very important recognition and honour for SMSL.  We especially want to thank our supporters for their courage and undying support for SMSL. These awards are a recognition of their invaluable support and we urge all Malaysians to emulate the organisations and individuals that
bestowed in us these honours to come forward and stand with us to be a part of people power to keep our beloved Malaysia safe and to rid of polluting industries and political scoundrels!

Tuesday 6 December 2011

1211 For Our Future Generations !

SMSL will be organizing an activity called 1211 with the theme ‘For our future generations” on the 11th Dec 2011 (Sunday at the Taman Gelora).

This event comes in the wake of the government’s action on rushing through the Free Assembly Bill in our Parliament a week ago. Should the Bill becomes law, then all future activities will have to go through so many obstacles that we wonder if it is possible at all to organize any event to allow people of Gebeng, Kuantan, Kemaman and Balok to continue to voice out their concerns regarding this world-largest Rare Earth processing plant. Once it is in our statute then the basic right of free assembly as guaranteed by our constitution will be severely curtailed and democracy in this country will meaningless! We shall wait to see if government has the will to uphold the basic principles of democracy in the days to come and we urge all citizens to voice out their concerns on this issue while they still can before it is too late!

It is this wanton act of encroachment on our basic rights by our elected government that makes this event 1211 more meaningful.

Under Article  5 of our Constitution we are guaranteed the right to live in a reasonably healthy and pollution free environment. Our government is the custodian of this duty to all citizens! By allowing  LAMP to be built and operate in the midst of a highly densely populated and in an ecologically highly sensitive area, our government has openly demonstrated through its actions that it has negated its duty to protect its own citizens!

SMSL is keenly aware of the potential risks and hazards that our future generations will face once this plant is allowed to operate. It will leave behind hundreds of thousands of tons of solid radioactive waste in our backyard. To date Lynas has not proposed a viable solution on how to handle this mammoth volume of solid waste that contain Thorium and Uranium! Future generations living in this vicinity will be saddled with the burden of contending and putting up with the potential risks posed by this radioactive wastes!

Our air will be peppered with micro radioactive dust with alpha particulates from its stacks while the Balok river in which our children swim everyday will be inundated with waste water from the plant! All these threats will spell inevitable long term disasters for our future generations who will continue to live here. Any ingestion of this radioactive particulates through respiratory function or food could and will eventually lead to health challenges 20 years down the road. By then who will pay for all the costs and sufferings that befall the victims?

Its is most regrettable that in the present sitting of our state assembly our Menteri Besar chose to twist this issue by turning it into a political issue and at the same time continue to  mislead the public. He has never informed the public and perhaps the August state assembly and members of our state legislature  that the LAMP is built on a reclaimed swamp land where the water table is 0.9 metres below the surface. He had made wrong comparisons by equating LAMP with that of ARE of Bukit Merah.! He has never informed the public that the LAMP is 10 times the capacity of ARE! Neither has he shown any attempt to listen to what the people in Gebeng, Balok and Kuantan have to say regarding this plant. He even refused to meet the delegation representing the people here to meet him. Neither has he bother to have a dialogue with the people here. His arrogance has so far found no parallel in the history of Pahang and perhaps the whole of Malaysia!

For an elected head of government to behave in this manner, part of the blame has to be on us for NOT delivering a strong enough message to him. Let us deliver a strong message to him that people have had enough of his twisted logics and his indiscriminate accusation leveled at parties opposing this project. His  racist view that the Chinese in Malaysia are opposed to the project to help China maintain a stranglehold on the rare earth supply to the world has totally ignored the plain truth that Lynas Corporation is in fact partially owned by  a large number of mainland Chinese investors..

We were flattered by the presence of a large contingent of policemen in our last gathering at Taman Gelora in our 1311 event last month. We felt safe because of their presence.. We were puzzled to be told that the gathering was illegal.

Let us be clear about what proper procedure one should follow should he or she be confronted with similar doubts. Please be reminded that when the police ask for your IC, under the law you have to produce it and show it to them. HOWEVER, they have no right to take away your IC .They cannot tell you to go back simply because you happen to wear the SMSL T shirt. Neither can they tell you that children below the age of 15 are not allowed to participate in the 1211 event because the Free Assembly Bill has NOT become law! If you are in doubt rest assured that our legal advisers will be stationed at every check point to help you!

It is time that all residents of Gebeng, Balok, Kuantan, Kemaman and Gambang take personal responsibility foryour health, social, economic and environmental concerns.  We need to  voice out and to  take a stand.

On Sunday 11th December, SMSL will provide you with a platform where you can safely bring your family members on a fun-filled morning outing and at the same time to show the government your stand on the  toxic project in Gebeng. 1211 will be our final event for the 2011, miss this you may miss the last chance this year to tell the nation what you think of the project. We promise you that it will be more fun and joy than the 1311 event! We urge you to attend come rain or shine! We shall look forward to seeing you there!

Saturday 3 December 2011

Correspondence from Hon. Eric Ripper MLA Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia on Lynas issue dated 01Dec2011



There are many risks associated with the rare earth project in Malaysia which you have not been told. Lynas Corporation is not a typical mining company with fixed asset and a sound track record of practical experience in the mining sector. Nick Curtis is a merchant banker, not a miner. The company’s investment is only as flimsy as what his PR team have managed to spin, hoping that the truth on the ground will never surface because they are out of mind and therefore should be out of sight.

What are the risks associated with the Malaysian rare earth plant?
• Poor location – siting a highly polluting plant near a highly populated area is a big mistake. It has now become the target for Malaysia’s biggest environmental protest action.

• No informed consent from local people - the plant was constructed without any public consultation and least of all the informed consent of the local people.

• The project was badly managed by different contractors and sub-contractors with no experience in rare earth processing anywhere.

• Most people work for Lynas Corporation to cash in on the windfall of the surge in share values and not for the sustainability or the success of the project, causing massive cost over-run and shonky construction.

• The critical part of the plant – the concrete tanks in the processing area are defective due to the omission of the damp proofing membrane at the base of the tank and poor workmanship resulting in serious leakage and cracks. They are expensive and time consuming to fix if at all possible.

• Experienced industrial engineers projected that even if Lynas has summarily fixed the construction problem, it will take at least 3 months for all engineering work to be completed for operation, and another 3 or 4 months for production. The monsoon raining season has just started. No work will be possible in this period and Lynas will probably encounter other flood related problems soon stalling its project completion further. This contrasts with Lynas’ repeatedly unrealistic claim of a January production.

• The Malaysian Government mandated Lynas to provide a long-term waste management plan which Lynas will never be able to satisfactorily produced because there is no safe way to manage radioactive waste. So far, all of the waste management plans submitted by Lynas have been rejected by the Malaysian government.

• Cutting corners and doing it cheap in Malaysia – whilst Lynas managed to by-passed the more stringent Australian laws and procedure to fast track the rare earth plant in Malaysia, Lynas has overlooked that this has sparked outrage and anger amongst Malaysians to challenge their government.

• Ethically minded Australians will not support this project. Some will help the Malaysians to stop it in Australia. The campaign has only just started. You can still divest before it is too late.

• Even if the Malaysian Government decided against all odds to issue Lynas the pre-operating licence, there will be court actions. Cases are being prepared by the various groups both in Australia and in Malaysia potentially stalling the project indefinitely.

Sydney : Lynas Out Of Malaysia, Stop Exporting A Toxic Legacy !

Wednesday 30 November  2011

Lynas Out Of Malaysia: Stop Exporting A Toxic Legacy
SYDNEY. In this morning, a protest in solidarity with the Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas! Campaign took outside Australian rare earth mining company, Lynas' Annual General Meeting in Sydney.
The protest voices concerns about the potential toxic and hazardous impacts on the lives and livelihoods of local communities in Malaysia which  would include a waste stream containing 106 tonnes of radioactive thorium and 5.6 tonnes of uranium and the fact that there has been no consent from the local communities surrounding the plant for the operation to go ahead.

Aimee Bull-McMahon, from Friends of the Earth Sydney said, “We are outside the Lynas shareholder meeting today to demand Lynas to get out of Malaysia.” 
“Communities should have access to free, independent and accessible information before a decision is made about mining or any other developments that threaten their lives and livelihoods and also have the right and freedom to say yes or no.”
On 4th August 2011 Lynas opened their Mt Weld rare earth mine in the Northern Goldfields of Western Australia. Lynas wants to export the rare earth ore out of Fremantle to Kuantan, Malaysia. The controversial Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) is the target of the largest environmental justice action in the history of Malaysia with opposition from thousands of local community, environment groups, the Malaysian Medical Association and the Bar Council (the association of lawyers in Malaysia).

Wen Kheng Ooi, a Malaysian diaspora living in Australia with relatives in Kuantan who will be affected by the pollution from the Lynas' rare earth plant if the project goes ahead said, “I am protesting at the Lynas AGM because I do not want to see Malaysia being used as a toxic waste dump for Lynas. I have relatives living close to the plant. They will be directly affected by the radioactive waste from the Lynas plant if the project goes ahead."

"I owe it to my relatives in Kuantan to tell Lynas to get out of Malaysia. It is not right for Lynas send radioactive rare earth concentrate to Malaysia to be processed when Lynas should have stayed in Australia and stick to the stricter environmental requirements of Western Australia."
Jade Lee, spokesperson for the community organisation SMSL  in Malaysia said, “We formed SMSL within weeks to provide a platform and avenues for residents to campaign against the plant. We were never consulted about the project. Malaysia does not have a good track record in managing pollution."
"We will fight till the end to stop the project. We are doing this for our family and the future generations. It is unacceptable for Lynas to simply dump it's toxic waste here in Malaysia to contaminate our land and our food chain"

"Lynas still have not produced a decent long term waste management plan, the plant will. We do not want radioactive waste in our backyard."
Ms Bull-McMahon, “Where is the exact site which has been chosen for the waste disposal? Why was this site chosen? How much storage capacity for radioactive waste does this site have and for how many years of waste has the site got room for? What other plans are in the pipeline for dealing with the waste?”

“It is not good enough to leave local residents in the dark about the long term implication of how this facility will deal with its radioactive thorium and caustic waste products.”

Monday 28 November 2011

NTN summary of Lynas radioactive tailings seepage at Mt Weld

Rare Earth Ores and Radiation Risks at
Lynas Corporation’s Mt Weld Operation
Lee Bell
November 2011

The National Toxics Network (NTN) has been investigating the potential of radioactive contamination arising from the Lynas’ rare earth concentrate plant at Mt Weld, near Laverton Western Australian. NTN is concerned a regulatory loophole is being utilised to improperly transport radioactive materials through WA suburbs to be shipped to Malaysia.

According to environmental and mining authorities in Western Australia, the waste slurry generated from the chemical processing and flotation of the rare earth ores at Lynas Corporation’s Mt Weld concentrator plant is radioactive. The radiation is primarily due to the thorium and uranium content of the ore. 

The tailings from the ore concentrator have also been deemed radioactive by the state Department of Mining and Petroleum.

NTN is extremely concerned that the concentrate will soon be transported through residential suburbs as if it were not a radioactive substance, with no identifying signage, despite being subject to a radiation management plan that has not been released for public consultation. The public and workers have a right to know about the radiation risks to which they will be exposed.
For a number of year Lynas has mined and stored stockpiles of rare earth ores (REO) at the Mt Weld mine site and graded these stockpiles according to purity and other factors. The stockpiled ore is then shipped 1.5 km to the concentrator plant where impurities are removed through chemical and flotation processes. Two major streams of material then leave the concentrator plant. 

Firstly, the product is a lanthanum oxide concentrate (which also contains a range of other rare earths) and a waste stream which is a slurry of water and process liquors contaminated with 15.8% solids including the uranium and thorium with a pH of 10.5-10.8. Secondly, the waste is then piped to large tailings ponds where the liquid fraction can evaporate over time. This has the effect of concentrating the solid fraction of radioactive materials within the tailings pond residues. This concentrating factor has not been assessed by authorities and could result in radioactivity levels many times higher than claimed in the proponent’s reports especially towards the end of the mine life. As the ponds dry out airborne dust containing radioactive particles will become a major management problem for decades to come.

Government documents have become available which indicate that Lynas Corporation failed to construct its tailings ponds according to the engineering conditions laid down in the environmental operating licence issued by the WA Department of Environment and Conservation. 

As a result Lynas has been ordered by the DEC to rebuild a small section of their tailings pond and line it with High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) as an interim measure. If Lynas had received government approvals and used the initial tailings ponds they constructed, they would have leaked at an estimated 186, 000 litres per day or over 67 million litres per annum of radioactive leachate.

The DEC Environmental Assessment Report for the concentrator plant makes it clear that Lynas Corporation failed to meet the regulatory controls and conditions put in place to prevent environmental contamination from processing rare earth ore tailings production. It also raises considerable doubt about their ability to meet waste disposal regulations and environmental protection requirements in other jurisdictions such as Malaysia. 

Radioactive tailings leakage – a licence to pollute.
The ‘tailings’ or waste material from the processing of rare earth ores at Mt Weld into a concentrate, contains 500ppm ThO2 (Thorium Oxide) and 30ppm U3O8 (Uranium Oxide). The calculated radiation specific activity from this combination is 1.80 Bq/g for the Thorium and 0.32 Bq/g for the Uranium which totals 2.12 Bq/g. This is more than twice the threshold radioactivity level set by the Department of Mining and Petroleum for classification as radioactive tailings (‘radioactive’ classification is in excess of 1.0 Bq/g). This regulatory criterion occurs under the Western Australian Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995.

The Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) is a 17.5 hectare paddock style impoundment constructed in two stages. The first stage was intended to take the first two years of waste followed by stage two which would see the banks raised to accommodate the future production waste.

A review of the integrity of the tailings ponds by Lynas engineering consultants Knight Piesold in 20091 found alarming evidence that the radioactive waste material would have been able to leak at the rate of 186,000 litres per day if the ponds had started to accept tailings. WA authorities ordered Lynas to fix their tailings facility after finding that the construction was grossly inadequate and a small tailings pond has now been lined with HDPE plastics to act as an interim waste storage pond. The remainder of the large tailing pond will now have to be re-engineered with HDPE over time.

However, even the new lined tailings facility is estimated to leak at the rate of up to 14,000 litres per day according to the Department of Environment and Conservation.2 

Far from their claims of being a clean, green industry Lynas Corporation are prepared to allow the leakage of over 5 million litres of radioactive tailings every year at the site of their concentrator plant. The concentrator plant has been operating since May 2011 and 2.5 million litres of contaminated tailings have already leaked from the facility if the Department of Environment and Conservations predictions are correct. No monitoring data from the site has been released to the public as yet.

Contradictory regulations on Transport
Lynas confirm in their Radiation Management Plan that because their “ore, concentrate and tailings contain elevated concentrators of natural thorium and uranium personal annual radiation exposures at the Mt Weld operation were predicted to be above the annual public dose limit of 1mSv per year”.3

In spite of the clear admission by Lynas Corporation that their ore, tailings and concentrate are sufficiently radioactive to exceed the annual public dose limit, they failed to take measures to sufficiently engineer their tailings pond resulting in potentially massive leakage of the radioactive waste. 

At this stage there are no clear indications as to how the concentrated tailings will be managed at the end of the ponds life or the mine’s decommissioning. Given that the ponds will be built in a hot, arid zone with little rainfall, the ponds can be expected to dry out and generate dust with radioactive particles and other heavy metals. 

Notably, Malaysia also classifies waste or radioactive materials as ‘radioactive’ when the specific radioactivity level exceeds 1.0 Bq/g. This is the reason why Lynas Corporations ‘product’ or rare earth concentrate will be regulated as radioactive material for transportation purposes, from the moment it lands in Malaysia.

Lynas Corporation have relied on an exemption loophole in the Western Australian transport regulations to allow their concentrate to be shipped from Mt Weld to Fremantle Port (nearly 1000km) without it being classified as radioactive material. The loophole allows the concentrate to be transported without Dangerous Goods classification or ‘radioactive material’ classification due to an exemption clause in the Radiation Safety (Transport of Radioactive Substances) Regulations, WA, 2002 which allows up to 10 Bq/g of specific radioactivity if the product is not destined for production to extract the radioactive elements (uranium and thorium) or if the material is not subject to chemical processing.  

This is despite the fact that the Thorium levels are much higher in the concentrate (approx 1700 ppm) giving it a specific radioactivity level between 3.5 and 8 Bq/g4. So even though the concentrate exceeds the level at which tailings are classified radioactive by up to eight times, and exceeds the Malaysian transport regulations by up to eight times it will not be classified ‘radioactive’ for transport purposes in Western Australia thereby disguising its true nature to the public

There will be no signage or placarding on the trucks carrying the concentrate denoting its radioactive nature. This is critical for emergency workers to make rapid decisions in the event of an accident or spill of the concentrate on public roads or at the port.

Lynas argue that the Radiation Safety (Transport of Radioactive Substances) Regulations, WA, 2002 and the ARPANSA Safe Transport of Radioactive Material Code of Practice (STRM, 2007) applies only to materials that are not chemically processed or intended for the extraction of the radionuclides. However, the processing of concentrate at Mt Weld involves the use of at least 5 chemicals which contradicts their claim that they are subject to an exemption from the transport regulations. 

Indeed Lynas Corporation’s Environmental Impact Assessment5 documents for their rare earth processing plant in Malaysia state; “The Advanced Materials Project involves processing lanthanide concentrate from Mt Weld in Western Australia, at a processing site that uses chemical treatment processes.”

Further it can be argued that the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Malaysia will process the material to extract the radioactive elements uranium and thorium as well as other impurities. The impurities will then be dumped as part of the LAMP waste stream in Malaysia. As such the exemption from radioactive transport requirements in WA appears to be based on proponent assurances rather than sound science.
Contact : Lee  Bell BA MA (ESD)