Alyaa Alhadjri and Cindi Loo
KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 5, 2012): The long wait by Australia-based Lynas Corporation to commence operations of its controversial rare-earth processing plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, is finally over with the government’s issuance of a temporary operating licence (TOL) today.
Lynas executive chairman Nicholas Curtis said the company can now begin transporting rare- earth concentrate from Mount Weld, Australia, and complete all necessary steps to prepare for first feed to its kiln, which is expected by next month.
“Receiving this licence from the AELB is a significant milestone for Lynas … Like everyone at Lynas, I am eagerly anticipating the safe start of operations at the Lynas Advanced Material Plant,” said Curtis in a statement.
Construction of the plant has been met with strong opposition by local environmental groups, led by Kuantan residents who expressed concern over potential health hazards from wastes generated at the plant.
Lynas, however, maintained that its operations adhere with both local and international standards, and that all wastes can be safely converted into commercial co-products for export to regional markets.
As such, Curtis said issuance of the TOL will provide additional validation on safety of Lynas’ operations in Malaysia.
“The approval to begin operations also verifies Lynas’ commitment to strong safety, health, environmental and community values and highlights the company’s determination to achieve its Zero Harm goal.”
Curtis added that the plant’s operations will be monitored by the Atomic Energy Licensing Board to ensure that they comply with all standards set, before conversion of the TOL into a full operating licence in the next two years.
AELB executive secretary Raja Datuk Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan confirmed that the Board is now satisfied that Lynas has fulfilled all technical requirements, including for waste management, and as such, had on Monday decided to award it with a two-year TOL which will expire on Sept 2, 2014.
“AELB also noted that Lynas has committed to remove from Malaysia the Water Leach Purification residue arising from its LAMP project.
“The TOL will enable Lynas to conduct trial processing of lanthanide concentrates in stages and in limited quantities under close and continuous surveillance by the authorities,” he said in a statement.
In an immediate response, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh said AELB’s decision has showed a complete disrespect for a pending legal appeal by anti-Lynas coalition Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas to stop operations of the plant.
The Kuantan High Court had on Aug 28 granted leave for SMSL to contest the government’s initial decision in January to award Lynas with a TOL.
“AELB behaved as if they are above the law, knowing very well that there is a loophole in the period between the decision for leave and decision of judicial review itself, taking advantage of the situation to issue Lynas with a TOL,” said Fuziah.
When contacted, SMSL spokesperson Tan Bun Teet said the group will file a legal injunction against Lynas to stop them from going into operation until all court proceedings are concluded.