Lynas wins full mining licence despite protests

This is one of the latest developments on Lynas’ bid to get a full licence amid public outcry against its business operations in Malaysia. Re-blogging my post earlier this week:

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (left) and Natalie Lowry (right) flash an eviction notice for Lynas in Sydney. (Photo: Supplied)

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (left) and activist Natalie Lowrey (right) flash an eviction notice for Lynas in Sydney after she was released from detention. (Photo: Supplied)

Protesters against the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (LAMP) operating in Kuantan, Malaysia face bleak days ahead after the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) granted the controversial plant a Full Operating State Licence (FOSL) after the Temporary Operating Licence (TOL) issued in 2012 expired Tuesday.

A full licence granted to rare earths mining company Lynas Corp Ltd. may be a big win for the industry, but for ordinary citizens battling for their health and safety it is a major setback.

Amin Abdullah, corporate communications manager of Lynas Malaysia SDN BHD, confirmed the board  granted the company a two-year full licence. Amin said in an email to Asian Correspondent: “We are pleased to inform that AELB has awarded us with the Full Operating Stage License (FOSL) yesterday.” He said this has been announced to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

AELB Director-General Hamrah Mohd Ali said the FOSL as a proof Lynas has fully complied with the conditions set by AELB during its TOL operating stage. Lynas can apply for further renewal when the FOSL expires in two years.

Hamrah added that, “Lynas deserves a three-year FOSL but the board decided only to grant a two-year licence.” He said the board members have the right to decide on the period of the licence, and he was unable to provide the details of the decision-making process since he was not involved.

Activist groups including Stop Lynas, Save Malaysia and Stop Lynas! have been urging the company to reveal the location of its waste disposal facility. The permanent disposal facility (PDF) is one of the five conditions set in the licence applications. The groups have been fighting against toxic and radioactive wastes from the plant which they claim to be posing health threats to the local community. The location of waste disposal facility has been undisclosed up to this time.

However, Amin noted that during the two years of the TOL, Lynas fulfilled a list of conditions set by the regulators and was continuously being monitored by various regulatory bodies, including AELB and Department Of Energy in Kuantan. “We are pleased to inform that Lynas complies with all relevant National and International regulations & standards set by IAEA, AELB, DOE etc, “ he said.

LAMP’s upstream and downstream extraction sections. (Photo: Lynas)

Hamrah dismissed criticisms on Lynas’ undisclosed facilities, saying they were merely “interpretations”.

“The problem you raised that members of the public had said that the condition of the (temporary operating) licence had not been complied with, that was their interpretation. But we (act) based on facts, science and figures, we are not (acting) based on hearsay,” he stressed.

The AELB issued the two-year TOL to Lynas on Sept 3, 2012 with five conditions, including disclosure of the PDF of the radioactive waste.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry later imposed two extra conditions over the licence, which required Lynas to come up with a method to immobilise the radioactive elements in its waste, as well as an emergency response plan on dust control.

Amin said Lynas has been operating in Gebeng Industrial Estate in Kuantan, Pahang since November 2012 after being granted a TOL which has fulfilled all the regulatory requirements set by the AELB and the Malaysian government.

“These regulatory requirements include the Environmental Impact Assessment as well as Radiological Impact Assessment that must be done first and concluded at the initial stage of the application  for the license. Public engagements were also done at the start of the application and it is an ongoing continuous activity until today,” he added.

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Malaysian authorities accused of human rights violations

Re-blogging:

The local police in Gebeng, Malaysia have been accused of suppressing basic human rights following the illegal arrests of civilians who are protesting against the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP), an Australian-owned rare earths mining company.

Civilian rally against Lynas.

Over a dozen of protesters were arrested on June 22, including Australian environmental defender Natalie Lowrey. She was released earlier and she is now back in Sydney safe and sound.

However, not all the protesters were freed in good faith. Last week, six were released on three conditions – bail amounting to RM 2,500 (€576) each, a ban from posting on social media, and monthly reporting at the local police station.

The six are members of the Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly), a Malaysian environmental movement protesting against Lynas. They were detained on charges of illegal assembly and rioting following their participation in the protest calling for the company to cease work on the plant and leave Malaysia.

The group opposes the operations of Lynas plant, which the group claims produces tonnes of toxic waste.

A couple joins the rally.

Two protesters were hospitalised after the protest and  a human rights defender sustained serious injuries in the head, resulting in concussion, according to reports. All were charged were violating the country’s penal code.

The lawyer for the human rights defenders rejected the conditions, arguing that the injunction is an unconstitutional infringement of  the right to freedom of expression. The case hearing will resume on September 2.

Front Line Defenders is concerned that the charges and bail conditions are targeting the protesters  in order to obstruct and limit their human rights, specifically their campaign to protect the environment of the local community in Kuantan.

A vigil rally pressing for the release of Australian environmental defender Natalie Lowry.

Front Line Defenders has urged the authorities in Malaysia to immediately drop all charges against the 15 human rights activists.

Link: Asian Correspondent

1.2 million Malaysians send eviction notice to Lynas Corp

Australian-owned Lynas Corp cannot get away from its “socially unlicensed” operation in Kuantan, Malaysia, An eviction notice signed by 1.2 million Malaysians across the nation has been sent urging the company to shut down and leave the country immediately.

The signatories press the Australian company to respect local people’s basic human rights and dignity, and to do environmental justice.  They slammed the company for posing health and environmental hazards. Lynas’ operation involves toxic and radioactive rare earth, they said, and that they will fight to the end not to allow their children to be harmed or their land to be destroyed for profits.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (left) and Natalie Lowrey (right) flash an eviction notice in Sydney. (Photo: Supplied)

Apart from health risks, they claim the operation is illegal, if not anomalous, for not having a proper licence. They said the business took off without a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) put in place and not complying with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommendations. The signatories also pointed out the project lacks long-term plan for the permanent waste disposal of radioactive waste.

Sydney-based environmental activist Natalie Lowrey was released on June 30 after six days in detention. She was arrested along with 16 other Malaysians for joining a peaceful protest. She is back home and held a press conference with Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon at the Lynas headquarter located along Pitt Street.

In a statement, she thanked supporters of her release, including hundreds that joined vigils across the country, the 34 Malaysian non-governmental organisations (NGO), and other various groups and individuals.

She also appreciated the support of international colleagues and friends, especially Friends of the Earth International and Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific for their quick response in getting a petition going and networking across member groups across the world.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (right) joins the press conference with environmental activists at the Lynas office in Sydney. (Photo: Supplied)

Lowrey said she has no regrets for her act of solidarity with Malaysian people. She also urged all Australian citizens and residents to take responsibility to hold Australian corporations accountable for the impacts of their developments and operations in other countries. She added:

As an international community we must start considering the impacts of rare earth refining and look at worlds-best-practice to contain and deal with the waste and move towards alternatives including urban mining and the recycling of rare earths, especially that rare earths are used in so many green technologies.

The Save Malaysia Stop Lynas activist group has also urged the Malaysian Government earlier not to extend Lynas licence which is due to expire in September this year. The group lamented and claimed Lynas has failed to disclose to the public the identification of the site for the Permanent Deposit Facility (PDF) for its radioactive Water Leach Purification (WLP) waste as required under the terms of its Temporary Operating License (TOL).

As early as 2012, the issue of radioactive waste storage disposal has never been resolved. It was suggested that wastes have to be shipped back to Australia.

However, even the former Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Norman Moore, asserted at that time that “Australia does not support the importation and storage of other countries’ radioactive waste”. He passed on the responsibility to the Malaysian government to take care of the processing plant that is operating in its territory.

Rhiannon reiterated what Lowry had said that the Australian company has no right to destroy the home of Malaysians or to endanger their health and well-being. She also called for the immediate pullout of the company from Malaysia.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent/The Green Journal