Amid govt review of Pahang plant, Lynas says ‘Plan B’ includes going back to Australia

Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
Lynas chief executive Amanda Lacaze said she was confident Lynas would pass the environmental review by the Pakatan Harapan government. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 — Rare-earths miner Lynas is looking for alternative locations for its processing plant in Gebeng, Pahang as Putrajaya reviews its 10-year operations here.

In the possibility that it may have to close its Malaysian plant, the Australian company said one of its options is to move back home.

“We could reorganise our assets with time in a way that would allow us to continue to serve our customers. Short term we may need to partner in China; longer term we would re-establish our operations outside of China. Australia is a pretty good place,” Amanda Lacaze, Lynas chief executive told the Financial Times (FT) in an interview.

She said she was confident Lynas would pass the environmental review by the Pakatan Harapan government, and cautioned that that a negative review would alarm investors, customers and governments, who are sensitive to “ensuring there is a reliable source of supply outside China of rare earths.”

“I don’t think it is likely to be the outcome but if we were forced to close [in Malaysia] it would be immediately felt in the supply chain throughout the world and it would be most significant in the Japanese, North American and European markets,” Lacaze explained.

She said that the said environmental review needed to be fair, transparent and scientific and the committee should comprise of individuals with “technical and scientific competence, rather than pro- or anti-campaigners.”

Yesterday evening, Putrajaya announced the line-up of the executive committee tasked with reviewing Lynas’ operations in Pahang.

The six members of the committee are Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI) research fellow Prof Datuk Mazlin Mokhtar; United Nations University — International Institute for Global Health visiting lecturer Prof Jamal Hisham Hashim; Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Unit director Prof Maketab Mohamed.

Putrajaya has announced the line-up of the executive committee tasked with reviewing Lynas’ operations in Pahang.. — AFP pic

Assoc Prof Anita Abdul Rahman from the Department of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia; Universiti Malaysia Pahang’s Earth Resources and Sustainability Centre director Assoc Prof Muzamir Hasan and former director of the Hazardous Substances Division in the Department of Environment Malaysia, Datin Paduka Che Asmah Ibrahim.

Kuantan MP and longstanding Lynas critic Fuziah Salleh has decided to stop being the chairman of committee reviewing the operations of the Lynas rare-earths plant in order to speak out freely and cut off allegations of bias by the firm.

She was originally announced as the committee chairman.

In the FT interview, Lacaze, also pointed out that processing operations had already undergone two reviews by the International Energy Agency and four tests in Malaysia’s courts and parliamentary select committee.

“People view radioactivity highly emotionally, as if everything is yellowcake or everything is suitable for nuclear weapons,” Ms Lacaze said. “Radioactivity is all around us and the radioactive material that we handle and the residue from the operation here is described by the IEA as intrinsically low risk,” she said.

Lynas took out advertisements showcasing its Malaysian workforce in major local English, Malay and Chinese dailies including The Star, Utusan Malaysia and Sin Chew on October 16, 2018.

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