The diabolical Lynas struggle begins
At ground level the anti-Lynas outcry heats up with people even observing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day by gathering to highlight their displeasure at the setting up of the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (LAMP).
DAP followed up with a peaceful anti-Lynas protest in Kuantan. Lynas, in trying to quell the mounting fears of the public’s protests against its plant in Gebeng released a series of videos.
Top management from Lynas was to answer any questions raised in respect of Lynas, rare earths and its operations. Unfortunately what they had to say was all that had already been heard from them prior to that.
Malaysia agrees to expert evaluation
13 May 2011– Experts to review Lynas project May 29-June 3
The Malaysian government, in an attempt to deal with the anti-Lynas build-up announced through the International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed that the Vienna-based International Atomic Agency (IAEA) had agreed to send an expert team to Malaysia to carry out a study of the Lynas plant in Gebeng.
All members of the team are recognised experts in their respective disciplines and have specialist knowledge on issues relating to radiation protection, safety assessment, waste management, transportation and decommissioning and remedial actions, said the Minister.
The appointment of the international panel was not viewed with favour by the anti-Lynas groups as the identified experts were appointed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an organisation which they say are in favour of nuclear power plants.
The protestors remained doubtful whether the government was in fact acting in good faith by appointing such a panel. However, the panel was to proceed with their investigations and the future of Lynas in Gebeng was left in the hands of these government appointed experts.
All sides close in on Lynas
Ministy of International Trade Industry (Miti) who coordinated the 6 day visit of the panel said that all relevant parties had been invited to meet with the panel members to air their views however it was reported that the Residents’ Association in Balok which is right next to the project site did not receive an invite.
In any event anti-Lynas groups got ready to pose their concerns with the panel. But not everyone was against Lynas. Pro-Lynas support groups also attended the meeting albeit unwelcome.
The report from the international panel was due to be submitted at the end of June 2011.
However, the government thought it a prudent damage control tactic to release their own report to calm the rising anti-Lynas protests.
They brandished the Radiological Impact Assessment which of course declared the project safe. It was also said that The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) would in all likelihood not approve the pre-operation licence to Lynas if the long-term waste management strategy plans were not submitted.
16 June 2011 – Don’t hush up radioactive contamination, gov’t told
Opposition parliamentarians took the government to task for not revealing the fact that there was a radiation leak at the plant in Gebeng.
People take to the streets
26 June 2011 – Kuantan anti-Lynas walk draws 1,000
About 1,000 people from Kuantan and around gathered at Bukit Perlindung in the early morning to carry out another peaceful demonstration against the construction of the Gebeng plant.
At cross roads
A summary of the report from the international panel is made known and as anticipated, Lynas is said to have complied with international radiation safety requirements.
However, a 11-point “necessary recommendations” prior to operations at the plant are allowed was also given by the panel. Seven of these recommendations were technical.
It was also noted that Lynas had yet to submit their long-term waste disposal plans. Further, the report noted that no information was given regarding how Lynas was going to handle the waste should they be asked to or decide to leave Malaysia.
30 June 2011 – Lynas plant environmentally hazardous, claims NY Times
The NY Times apparently had access to internal memos allegedly issued by engineers associated with the construction of the plant claiming that the design of the plant was flawed, it had structural cracks, air pockets and leaks in the containment tanks i.e. tanks in which the mined ore mixed with acids will be stored.
There are about 70 of these tanks.
The much awaited report by the International Atomic Energy Agency did not go down well with the the Anti-Lynas groups.
They said it was too narrow and did not cover the impact the activities would have on the environment, economic pursuits nor the health of the people living nearby.
Anti-Rare Earth Action Group (Badar) said protests would continue. If necessary, even legal avenues may be sought to protect the people.
Malaysian anti-Lynas group appeal to Australians
5 July 2011 – Anti-Lynas group pickets in front of Lynas’ HQ
A 12-member team from ‘Save Malaysia’ went to Australia to alert Australians on the happenings in Kuantan. They hoped to get the Australian people to pressure the Australian government to stop Lynas from operating in Malaysia.
They were even set to go to the Australian Parliament in Canberra.
Assurance from Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti)
5 July 2011 – Science ministry to Lynas: No compliance, no licence
The Ministry of Science gives an assurance that Lynas will not be given a licence if they do not comply with the recommendations of the IAEA report.
13 July 2011 – Lynas plans next phase of Kuantan plant
In the midst of all the turmoil Lynas stands undeterred and proceeds to plan the second phase of the Gebeng plant at a cost of US210 million and which is due to be ready in the last quarter of 2012.
They were proceeding with this in spite of not having complied with the 11-point recommendations in the IAEA report.
Lynas CEO uncompromising
14 July 2011 – Anti-Lynas group ends trip with ‘disappointment’
The 6 member team of ‘Save Malaysia Stop Lynas’ were very unhappy with their meeting with the CEO of Lynas, Nicholas Curtis, as he was uncompromising and relied heavily on the report by the IAEA panel reiterating that the plant in Gebeng had been already declared safe in the IAEA report.
All was not lost however as they met more sympathetic Parliamentarians who promised to bring the issue up in the next Parliament sitting.
Student group steps forward
31 July 2011 – Student groups up pressure against Lynas
Students decided to join in the fight against Lynas. A coalition of student movements, Gerakan Mahasiswa Selamatkan Rakyat (GMSR) spearheaded a series of road-shows to educate the man-on-the-street on the dangers of the Lynas plant operations in Gebeng.
Kuantan MP steps in
28 September 2011 – Kuantan MP complains to Australia’s ASIC over Lynas
The Kuantan MP, Fuziah Salleh wrote to the New South Wales branch of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) complaining that Lynas Corporation had misrepresented its actions in its second quarter report for the year ending 30-6-2011.
She claimed that none of the documents said to have been submitted by Lynas based on the IAEA report have been disclosed to the public.
Lynas meets the people
29 September 2011 – ‘Lynas has met with thousands of local folk’
Lynas, in response to the Kuantan MP’s complaint said “Lynas has met with more than 3,000 local residents in Malaysia since it received the International Atomic Energy Agency recommendations to intensify its communications activities, and will continue to do so Lynas is fulfilling its community consultation obligations and claims to the contrary are factually wrong.”
Poeple take the streets – again
9 October 2011 – Police disrupt 2,000-strong ‘Green Rally’
A rally in support of people facing environmental issues was held at Taman Gelora, Kuantan. The 2,000 odd supporters were asked to disperse by the police cutting short the rally by half an hour preventing speakers from making their speeches.
10 November 2011 – International festivals eye anti-Lynas short films.
Taking up the cause and hoping to generate more awareness of the anti-Lynas movement four film directors put their creative skills together to come up with the ‘Survival Guide to Kampung Radioactive’. They hope to reach international audiences as well.
One months later – people back on the streets
13 November 2011 – 2,000 people ‘whack a pinata’ against Lynas
It was declared an illegal gathering but the people were in force at Taman Gelora, Kuantan to say ‘NO’ to Lynas radioactive refinery being set up near their homes.
Groups campaign in Sydney
21 November 2011 – Anti-Lynas group to protest in Australia, again
In an effort to stop Lynas a group of supporters will campaign in Sydney outside the venue of Lynas’ annual general meeting. Save Malaysia Stop Lynas said Lynas was projecting an unrealistic early production date pre-empting government approval.
30 November 2011 – Ministry, AELB visit Lynas plant
Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria secretary-general of International Trade and Industry Ministry together with AELB director-general Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan and Lynas Malaysia managing director Mashal Ahmad visited the site.
Sta Maria said Lynas’ application to begin operations was being studied in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations.
Activists show Lynas red flag
11 December 2011 – Protesters seek to ‘flush’ Lynas from Kuantan
Led by Tan Bun Teet, 400 activists gathered at Taman Gelora in the rain to carry out another protest against the Lynas plant in Gebeng.
Many protestors are of the view that the plant is too close to populated areas.
24 December 2011 – Kuantan MP: No DEIA, no licence for Lynas
Fauziah Salleh the MP for Kuantan says a detailed environment impact assessment (DEIA) should be produced before Lynas is given the green light to operate in Gebang.
This article is a four-part series: Part-3 will be published next week.
Pictures taken from Malaysiakini, CJMY archives and screen captures of relevant websites..