Australian mining firm Lynas today thwarted efforts by environmental group Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) to alert shareholders to the risks posed by its refinery plant in Gebeng, Pahang.
“One shareholder urged the board to allow us to share with the others what’s happening in Malaysia but it was denied,” SMSL chairman Tan Bun Teet told The Malaysian Insider after the company’s annual general meeting at its headquarters in Sydney.
“When questions were raised asking for more information, the chair conveniently forgot about it,” he said.
Tan said questions related to the refinery in Malaysia were brushed aside, with former Lynas chairman Nicholas Curtis limiting the topics that could be discussed during the meeting.
“Our questions to the board were either partly answered or totally ignored,” he said.
“The entire meeting was orchestrated to keep shareholders under-informed.”
The RM2.5 billion plant near Kuantan has been mired in controversies over concerns that the processing of rare earth ores from Australia would have a disastrous impact on the health of some 700,000 people within a less than 30km radius of the facility.
A report published by German think-thank Oeko Institute earlier this year highlighted the plant’s failure to prepare a safe disposal facility. The plant’s poor waste management system also remains a cause for concern as residents fear that radioactive leakages may occur.
SMSL, together with another NGO, Himpunan Hijau, sent several representatives to Sydney this week to attend the firm’s meeting. The groups had wanted to pressure the company’s board of directors to close its Pahang plant by encouraging its shareholders to stop backing the company.
“We told the shareholders that the road ahead for Lynas will not be smooth sailing with millions to be paid in litigation costs from anti-Lynas campaigns,” Tan said.
Tan said it was clear shareholders were not happy with Lynas’s performance after doing poorly on the Australian bourse the past year.
Lynas’s shares have been on the decline since January, sliding from $0.72 (RM2.11) to $0.30 (RM0.88) today, according to data from Bloomberg.
The company has been suffering financially after prices of rare earth fell over the past few months while operational delays at the Gebeng plant also placed a strain on its budget.
Tan also said Lynas was tight-lipped on its strategies to bounce back next year and the firm could not even promise to meet its target production of 11,000 tonnes in 2014.
“Instead of answering questions on how Lynas could meet its target production of 11,000 tonnes in the first quarter next year, Nick only informed shareholders that the plant will produce according to market needs. There was no elaboration on how the company is going to turn around financially in 2014,” he said.
“Most shareholders left even before the meeting was over,” he added.
Outside Lynas’s headquarters, several NGOs had gathered, including Australian anti-Lynas groups, SMSL and Himpunan Hijau, to urge shareholders to stop backing firms with bad practices abroad.
“Many people don’t realise how serious the activities of Australian mining companies overseas are, and their ability to get away with a flagrant disregard for people, the environment and the law,” said Thulsi Narayanasamy, director of independent watchdog Aidwatch. - November 29, 2013.