Delay will hurt Malaysian suppliers, says Lynas
KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 — Delays to a temporary operating licence (TOL) for its controversial rare earth refinery would hurt its suppliers, 90 per cent of whom are Malaysian, Lynas Corp said today.
Regulators Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) said yesterday 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.
But the firm’s local managing director Datuk Mashal Ahmad (picture) told The Star today 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 delay not only affects Lynas but also our raw material suppliers and customers, which in turn will impact the whole supply chain,” he told the daily.
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.
“Our position is very clear. We need the licence to be issued as soon as possible because the plant is ready to fire up in three weeks while it takes one month just to bring in the rare earth ore,” Mashal said.
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.