Cloak and Dagger Mystery: The Lynas Saga

Trying to make sense out of the Lynas Advanced Materials Processing (LAMP) facility saga?

Consider this article the Holy Grail as we attempt to unwind a cleverly wound plotline of misinformation fed and regurgitated to the media with the goal to misalign and unite protestors.  After all, most protestors are committed to truth and discovering that they are questionably puppets by a capitalistic competitor, which we suspect – well, this just doesn’t make sense at all.

For starters, from the onset Lynas was granted the “strategic pioneer status” by the Malaysians. Lynas didn’t start this – they were enticed by tax incentives from the well known Malaysian Industrial Development Association (MIDA). MIDA was created to attract entrepreneurs and international caliber companies to relocate and utilize their work force. Lynas is being villainized by some misinformed media for accepting the well known MIDA benefits which include a 12 year tax free period.

Let’s go back and review the facts:

  • January 22, 2008: Lynas was granted a manufacturing license to produce rare earth oxides and carbonates at Gebeng Industrial Estate, Kuantan.
  • February 15, 2008: The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on the project was approved following a rigorous review by the Malaysian Department of Environment (DOE) who confirmed that Lynas has complied with all requirements of the EIA approval. Lynas began planning and construction of its LAMP facility soon after obtaining its manufacturing license.
  • 2011: The Malaysian government arranged a further independent review by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Lynas cooperated with an independent review. The recommendations of the IAEA were accepted by Lynas and by the Malaysian government. The IAEA concluded that the LAMP facility, once completed is expected to be safe and fully compliant with international standards, and that Malaysia’s laws and regulations regarding radiation safety are comprehensive and conform to IAEA standards. In some cases, Malaysia’s regulations are stricter than internationally accepted safety standards.
  • April 22, 2011: The Government responded to public concerns by announcing the appointment of an independent panel of international experts to review the health and safety aspects of the project and to make recommendations to the Government.
  • May 13, 2011: The Government announced that the IAEA in Vienna, Austria, had agreed to appoint an expert team to review Lynas’ International Safety Standards and Good Practices, along with their compliance. The goal was to provide an independent expert opinion on safety issues and most importantly — those relating to radiation safety. The IAEA concluded that Lynas had met all radiation safety standards imposed on them at the plant by the regulatory authorities (Atomic Energy Licensing Board and DOE) and that these standards meet internationally recognized IAEA safety standards. (Source)
  • February 2, 2012: The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) announced that it had approved the granting of a Temporary Operating License (TOL) for the LAMP facility, subject to a number of conditions, which Lynas has accepted. Lynas has in all of their actions respected the government’s review and approval process and has acknowledged that it imposes very high standards. Lynas also continues its program of consultation with community representatives in Malaysia.
  • March 19, 2012: The Malaysian Government reported its decision to establish a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to give a better understanding of the rare earth refining industry. The PSC will not decide on matters such as the approval and ongoing operation of the LAMP facility.
  • April 5, 2012: The AELB announced that Lynas’ TOL was on hold until Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Maximus Ongkili had heard an appeal by local residents opposed to the project.
  • April 17, 2012: Mr. Ongkili announced that a decision this matter will be made “as soon as possible.”
  • April 20, 2012: Lynas announced it was filing defamation suits against two protest groups opposed to the LAMP facility — Free Malaysia Today and Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas.
  • May 9, 2012: Today is designated as the day for case management and for the submission of relevant documents. A date for hearing this matter has not yet been set.
  • May 6, 2012: The Malaysian National News Agency reported that the PSC is expected to visit the LAMP facility this Thursday, May 10, 2012. The PSC is also planning to meet local residents to better understand their concerns.
  • May 7, 2012: Amid these recent developments, industry experts gathered in Malaysia for the inaugural International Symposium on Rare Earths in Kuala Lumpur where four industry experts delivered presentations covering the broad spectrum of rare earth processing.
  • May 8, 2012: Mr. Jebasingam Issace John, CEO of the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) comments that the LAMP facility will not have a negative impact on the proposed 607 hectare Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, established to increase foreign investments in Malaysia. THE ECER is an economic development corridor in Malaysia based on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia covering the states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and the north of Mersing district of Johor.

What’s left? Lynas must also submit waste management plan for approval before the start of operations for approval by the AELB. Lynas has reported that the waste from its rare earth processing facility in Malaysia will not be hazardous and that radioactive residue can be recycled for use in commercial applications. This will significantly reduce the amount of waste that needs to be disposed and ultimately means that the facility will not need long-term storage of its processing wastes. Lynas has further indicated that its REE processing residue can be turned into gypsum.