Minister’s job to protect Malaysians, Yeo tells Lynas workers

Kenneth Tee
Lynas employees demonstrate in front of the Parliament compound in Kuala Lumpur December 11, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 — It is a minister’s job to protect public interest after Lynas reneged on its commitment to remove its waste from Malaysia by influencing public opinion, Yeoh Bee Yin told Lynas workers in an open letter today.

“The myriads paid advertorials in all major newspapers, the press conferences that paint bad picture of the ministry and so on, eventually boils down to this: To protect the company bottom line by not honouring the commitment made,” she said in her Facebook page.

Yeo, who is also energy, science, technology, environment and climate minister, was responding to Lynas employees who had demonstrated in front of the Parliament compound on Tuesday to seek clarity on the government’s plans for the controversial rare-earths refiner and save their jobs.

The Bakri MP further cited Australian news outlet, Australian Financial Review, stating the country only takes 10 per cent of Lynas’ earnings of one year to send out waste that has been accumulated in Malaysia over six years.

“CLSA analyst Dylan Kelly said in a note to clients that the cost of transporting the waste back to Australia was estimated to be A$60 million (RM181.5 million), but said insurance would cover about A$46 million of that. The balance of about A$14 million would represent about 10 per cent of the earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of A$129 million that Lynas recorded in 2017-18,” Yeo quoted from the article.

Yeo clarified that there was continuous accumulation of two primary residues at the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) — namely Water Leached Purification (WLP) Residue totalling 451,564 metric tonnes and Neutralization Underflow Residue totalling 1.113 million metric tonnes — which have no viable near-term solution to be managed.

“The risks to the surrounding communities and environment increase with the increasing amount of accumulated residue as it is exposed to the threat of natural disasters such as major flooding.

“Your employer has TWICE made the commitment to the Government of Malaysia to remove waste from Malaysia,” she said.

She also attached letters of undertaking written by Lynas Corporation Ltd, Australia and Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd dated February 23, 2012 and March 6, 2012 respectively, indicating their commitment to remove LAMP residue from Malaysia, if necessary.

Malaysian law allows 20 metric tonnes of waste or a limit of 180 days for temporary waste storage.

Lynas had requested an exemption where it has accumulated hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste over a six-year period.

“Considering the risk of the residue accumulation, it is now ‘necessary’ to do that.

“Therefore, it is my hope that Lynas will honour their words and start the process of shipping out WLP residues from Malaysia,” she added.

She said she acknowledged the anxiety of losing one’s job as she knew full well how it felt to struggle to make ends meet.

“I would like you to know that I did not ask more than what your employer had committed back in 2012.

“I hope this decision also sends a message to the next generation that this generation of Malaysians is doing the best we can to leave the country a better place for them to live in,” she said.

Yeo is currently in Katowice, Poland attending the United Nation Climate Change Conference of the Parties on behalf of Malaysia.

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