- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

Malaysia: Rare Earth Processing Plant Creates Backlash

Categories: East Asia, Malaysia, Environment, Health, Protest

Recently, the Save Malaysia! Stop Lynas! [1] campaign started to protest against the release of radioactive waste from a rare earth processing plant in Malaysia.

The situation unfolded when the New York Times published an article [2] revealing that Lynas Corporation, an Australian mining company based in Western Australia, has established a processing plant in Kuantan, Malaysia, called the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP).

In particular, many Malaysians are incensed that this plant was constructed without the residents’ consent, as there are residential areas within 30km of LAMP.


From the Facebook page of Stop Lynas! Save Kuantan

Khoo Kay Peng articulated [4] this opinion in his blog:

This Federal Government claimed that it is willing to listen to the people. But listening cannot be a selective work. In the case of Lynas, the people have spoken and they would like a project with such huge risk and low benefit to the people to ship out of the country.

The way the government welcomes and fought for the Lynas plant to be operational in Gebeng is a monumental shame to our inability to attract better quality investment.

Glam also rubbished [5] the Malaysian government’s assurance that the radioactive waste will not harm Malaysian citizens:

Prime Minister Najib Razak said the Government has instructed Lynas Corp to relocate its residue disposal site to a location far from its Gebeng plant and local communities. In the same breath, he also said that this did not mean the rare earth project and its residue were harmful (The Star, March 03, 2012, p 02). So tell me, Najib, what exactly did you mean?

…the government itself is clueless on what to do with Lynas’ “radioactive waste”.

We simply cannot let the government do this the second time around! You and I may not be living in Bukit Merah or in Gebeng-Kuantan, but in the case of Bukit Merah, fellow Malaysians have suffered and in Gebeng-Kuantan, another group of Malaysians will suffer if we permit this government to be reckless. Let's stand in solidarity with them and do what is necessary to put a stop to this madness! Stop Lynas!

However, there are also those who think that the plant’s operations would not affect Malaysians. Eddy wrote [6]:

My recent post on Lynas Gebeng had a surprise distinguished visitor, Datuk Dr. Looi Hoong Wah himself, I would like to share his comments, which would more or less put paid to the rubbish and scare mongering by the Stop Lynas crowd. I am reproducing his comments in full as follows, please read:

All the Anti-Lynas foot soldiers and RED GUARDS BARU should realise that they have been misled by some very sophisticated ultra-devious people who are experts in mass brainwashing and are using the issue to gain political mileage for their own evil ulterior motives.

In Bukit Merah, the radiation comes from Thorium and Uranium which are our own and has been in Malaysia for billions of years.

Although the radiation level is well over 37 times that of the Lynas waste, there is no definite well controlled scientific proof that the cases of leukaemia and birth defects are caused by radiation from the waste.

Unscrupulous people have been using videos and pictures of patients with congenital abnormalities and other illnesses to instil fear into the population. There is absolutely no scientific proof that these cases are caused by radiation.

Zurairi Ar also wrote [7] about the distortions of facts by anti-Lynas groups.

The bulk of this fear can be attributed to the level of distrust against our ruling government and local authorities.

Like many other Malaysians, I do wish for a cleaner and greener Malaysia, but it should go beyond a partisan affair.

Stopping Lynas and saving Malaysia… they don’t always need to be the same thing.

Shinliang brought in [8] a different perspective, expressing scepticism at the Government’s ability to manage such a site.

Would I want the processing plant next to my home? No. Just like I don’t want any factory near my home, I don’t want the processing plane near my home too. All I am saying is that the danger of the plant is, at times, exaggerated. The danger of this processing plant is probably similar to any other factories. In fact, it could be safer.

But I did say I oppose the construction of the Lynas plant, yes? Of course, and here is the real reason. Our government.

No factory is accident-proof. An accident, after all, is defined as an unexpected event. But in a country, where cow-feeding operations can become real estate agency; where jet engines can be lifted from an air base; who is it to say that a rare-earth processing plant cannot become a nuclear catastrophe? The problem is, there is just not sufficient trust in the management of our government agencies for a project like this. While I acknowledge that there are projects that are well-run by our government, but I can also say that about half of them are equally abysmally managed. As the rakyat, can we afford the risk? As the Prime Minister of all Malaysians, should you take the risk?

iMyn voiced [9] similar concerns:

Well, I’m not saying that I support the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (LAMP) 100% but I can say I don’t oppose it 100%. The biggest question is whether we are ready to take up the responsibility of handling a risky but very beneficial business on our soil. Would we just give up and say, we are not ready for this, or we make things happen? Besides any business has risks. The oil & gas industry has potential to pollute the environment as much as the Lynas factory.

On Facebook, the Stop Lynas! Save Kuantan [10] group has garnered 11,709 Likes at the time of writing, while a Twitter account that goes by Stop Lynas Coalition [11] is actively campaigning against the issue as well.

On Twitter, Bobby Teoh wrote [12]:

Hey you! Why are you doing this? Why are you destroying ppl's home. Do you think money is everything? Do you care about mother earth? #Lynas

Which received a reply [13] from Tims Trading:

@Bobbyteoh #lynas provides jobs for locals while is safe for the environ don't believe lies

There are also many videos that have been circulated on YouTube, for example, a video by Stop Lynas Save Malaysia.