Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Open Letter to Malaysia Government on Lynas Pre-Opt License Application

Related Media Releases 
1) Kuantan MP : Lynas Speaks As If They Are in Cohort with the Malaysian Authorities
2) Consumer Assoc. of Penang(CAP) & Sahabat Alam Malaysia(SAM) : Malaysia Not Adhering to IAEA Recommendations on Lynas
3) Australian Greens MP call on Lynas to come clean about the Controversial Refinary

      Tan Bun Teet, Chairperson, Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL)
      Andansuara Rabu, Chairperson, Stop Lynas Coalition (SLC)
      No. 1, LORONG GALING 12,
      25300 KUANTAN,
      PAHANG DARUL MAKMUR                                                              13 JANUARY 2012

1.       Y.B. Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Maximus Johnity Ongkili, Minister of Science, Technology & Innovation (MOSTI)
2.       Y.B. Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad, Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI)
3.       Y.M. Raja Datuk Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan, Director General, Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB)
4.       YH. Dato' Haji Zulkifli Bin Haji Yaacob, Yang DiPertua, Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK)
1.       Mr Yukiya Amano, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Y.B. Dato' Sri Douglas Uggah Emabas, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Y.B. Dato' Seri Haji Noh Bin Omar, Minister of Agriculture And Agro-Based Industry
Y.B. Tan Sri Bernard Giluk Dompok, Minister of Plantation Industries and Commoditie 
5.       Y.B. Dato' Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen, Minister of Tourism


We refer to the radioactive waste management plan (“RWMP”) on display for public viewing in response to an application by Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd for a class A license for milling for the LAMP in Gebeng, Pahang.  In view of the complexity of the issues, the risks involved for Malaysia and in the public interest, we hereby request and would appreciate that:
- that a copy of the document is made available to the public to ensure transparency and accountability
- that an extension of time for the review period to be extended for another 4 weeks rather than the existing brief 14 days to review  a plant widely considered to be the world’s largest rare earth refinery.

We would like to draw the attention of your good offices that our Most Honourable Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak has stated time and again that the safety and health and welfare of the people is of the utmost priority of the people – “Rakyat di dahulukan”.

Government’s commitment to the IAEA Recommendations
We specifically note the Government’s stand in accepting in total the recommendations of the IAEA panel’s report dated 30th. June, 2011 entitled “Radiation Safety Aspects of a Proposed Rare Earths Processing Facility (the Lynas Project)” (“IAEA report”) which includes inter alia that Lynas must submit a long term treatment and storage of its waste products. AELB went further by demanding a demonstration of funding of such remedial work before it starts its operations.

The IAEA report recommended that AELB should also “intensify its activities regarding public information and public involvement. In particular, it should:
·         Develop and make available easily understandable information on radiation safety and on the various steps in the licensing and decision making processes;
·         Inform and involve interested and affected parties of the regulatory requirements…
·         Make available, on a routine basis, all information related to the radiation safety of the proposed rare earths processing facility…and ensure that the public knows how to gain access to this information.”

The Government’s adoption of the IAEA recommendations has been widely reported in the media both in Malaysia and internationally. It has especially been cited by Lynas Corporation in Australia.  Lynas has made many public statements admitting to its failure in community consultation previously and has promised to improve on this aspect of the project as per the IAEA recommendation.

However, we are gravely concerned that the Government has imposed very strict conditions to limit public access to the RWMP. The public and various stakeholders are not allowed to make copies of the RWMP on display nor is the RWMP available in soft or hardcopy for a more thorough and in-depth review by relevant independent experts in the national interests.

The review process is far from being accessible and the review period is too brief for the public to make sense of the detail of the application by Lynas.  We have been informed by officials on duty at the various display centres that the RWMP is only to be made available under strict conditions as required and specified by the Lynas Corporation.

Lynas undermining of Malaysia’s Sovereignty and Internal Affairs
As citizens, we are puzzled, shocked and worried at the same time over the power and influence Lynas Corporation exerts on the Malaysian Government to the extend where a foreign corporation is apparently dictating terms on how Malaysia should conduct its business and govern the nation.  As a nation, we have sovereign rights and power to make sound informed decision in the national interest and in the interest of citizens.

Government’s Duty of Care to Exercise Prudence
The Government has a duty of care to exercise prudence to ensure Malaysia’s reputation and standing is upheld.  In the eye of the IAEA and citizens as well as the international community, the Government must NOT compromise our standards and safeguards for the sake of the overzealous commercial interest of a foreign corporation.

The Lynas Advance Materials Plant (LAMP) is a of a scale Malaysia has never dealt with before and Lynas has not operated any rare earth treatment plant previously.  The US Molycorp project has a zero discharge policy and it is piloting the plant in small stages despite its location in a remote and isolated desert area.  There are many serious concerns with the LAMP design, the shonky construction and its location in an environmentally sensitive area.

If a pre-operating licence is issued, it risks jeopardizing our fishery, agriculture (especially oil palm and bird nest) and tourism industries.  None of those sectors has been considered in Lynas’ preliminary impact assessment.  Any further licensing approval for Lynas in the absence of a clear understanding of its impact will be made at the expense of jeopardizing Malaysia’s own Gross Domestic Products as a large majority of the people in Pahang we are directly and indirectly depending on these sectors of the economy for their survival.
The shonky construction of the LAMP as reported in the New York Times in June 2011 has yet to be assessed and rectified through an independent engineering audit.  Building approval of the plant under this circumstance will risk workers, the surrounding factories, our environment and waterways subject to the hazards of the many highly toxic and corrosive as well as radioactive substances which will be used in the plant.  Of utmost concern is the Kuala Balok community who is at the front line of any water pollution and seafood contamination including the dreaded radioactive substances which are likely to be found in the waste water of Lynas and any leakages from the plant which will be washed into the Balok River and the South China Sea.  

The South China Sea is a shared water with our ASEAN neighbours.  It will be very embarrassing for Malaysia and the diplomatic implication is grave if any contamination is detected by our regional neighbours or any major spills occurred due to our own weak governance and mismanagement of the project.

As citizens and as leaders of citizen groups advocating for the community, we would like to know why has the Government been so prepared to forego its own duty of care and compromise Malaysia’s sovereignty simply to rush through an essential public consultation to facilitate a speedy approval for an application from a foreign company.

Surely Malaysia should be demonstrating strong leadership to comply with our commitment to the IAEA to protect its citizens and the country from the risks and hazards of a foreign venture!

Is the Government not concern that the world is watching Malaysia, and that it is essential to show them that we are a responsible modern state with good governance that prioritises our own national interests – our environment and the vital ecosystem services such as clean water, healthy soil and other natural resources which sustain our economy and our citizens?

Each and every ministry and head of agency addressed in this letter is mandated with responsibilities and duty to protect the country and her citizens.  This duty of care has been entrusted by the people who elected this Government.  Failure to carry out these duty and responsibilities will certainly result in serious electoral back clash in the next election.

Lynas has no capacity to compensate beyond its mine life
In the context of the mining industry in Australia, Lynas Corporation is merely a single-project high risk-taking corporation developed based on rare earth speculation utilizing a strong public relation (PR) machinery to boost its stock to attract investment.  It has neither capacity nor asset beyond the mine life of its Mt Weld operations and the market worth of its rare earth oxides to compensate Malaysia for any eventual contamination and health problems like Mitsubishi did for the fallout from its Asian Rare Earth plant.

Lynas Not Walking the Talk
Lynas Corporation Limited (Lynas) has recently step up its PR exercise publicizing and advertising in our media and especially in our local daily newspapers which statements such as:

“Lynas is proud of its health and safety standards…We share a strong set of values at Lynas around open and honest operations, respecting and contributing to the communities in which we live and work. Lynas would like to ensure the community’s concerns are addressed and their questions answered.”

Being a publicly listed Australian, Lynas is well aware that in Australia, it will have to make its waste management plan and licensing application public and accessible by the authorities there.  We can access all of Lynac’ licensing application and the Australian authorities’ approval documents for its Mt Weld operations online.

The Australian Government went further to fund non-government organisations such as the Conservation Councils and the Environmental Defender Office to provide independent support to the local communities to obtain the services of experts to analyse vital and important technical documents.

How is it possible that Lynas comes out so openly to say that Malaysia’s requirements are more stringent than Australia when they at the same time imposing such restrictive access to such a vital and important document like the RWMP, especially when this document is a long-time coming and have not been routinely made available to the public as recommended by the IAEA and agreed to by both the Malaysian Government and Lynas?

Our Stance and requests
We have attended and viewed the RWMP.  We found many crucial areas of the document that warrant greater scrutiny by independent experts in the public and national interests.  We implore your good offices to uphold the commitment made to the IAEA and to the public to release this document to the public and to make it accessible.

Given the complexity and the many areas of disagreements on the Lynas’ proposed waste disposal method, we hereby request for an extension of time for the public review so that the IAEA recommendation on public consultation can be implemented and complied with by your good offices.

Further, we would like an opportunity to be able to present and discuss specific technical concerns arising from our review and analysis of the application BEFORE the AELB Board make its recommendation to Putrajaya for approval for the pre-operating licence.

We would like to take this opportunity to clarify to the Government that as responsible and concern citizens, we are compelled to and will do everything possible to stop a repeat of the problems and tragedy of Bukit Merah in Gebeng.  All we are seeking is a safe and clean future for Malaysia and for our family.  We trust that as fellow citizens and as parents, you will appreciate our concerns and will act accordingly to protect our interests and not that of a foreign firm.

Thanking you in anticipation

Yours sincerely,

Tan Bun Teet                                                              
Chairperson, Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) 

Andansura Rabu
Chairperson, Stop Lynas Coalition (SLC)

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