EDITOR: | June 25th, 2014 | 15 Comments

Anti Lynas protests are no cause for concern

| June 25, 2014 | 15 Comments
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unnamedEnvironmentalists are at it again in Malaysia, as some 1,000 protesters, resumed their anti-Lynas protests, blocking the entrance to the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Kuantan, located in the State of Pahang. The resumption of protests, while apparently sudden, was not warranted by any especially damning environmental reports, plant failures, leaks or incidents. In fact, the new wave of protest had been long announced as various anti-Lynas groups had vowed to shut down the facility, sending a ‘warning’ to Lynas that it should have abandoned operations by June on Sunday as Malaysians push anew for the closure of the facility ahead of the expiry of the temporary license in September 2014. That deadline was one of the conditions that the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board set for Lynas (ASX: LYC) when it granted the temporary operating license in September 2012.

In December 2013, Lynas presented the results of its research on waste recycling to the Board, which agreed to the Company’s request to build a permanent disposal facility, having met its obligations, even if the site has to be determined. Most importantly, as far as the protesters’ claims are concerned, the Board said “the radiation levels onsite and offsite the plant to be within regulatory limits and that its operations were safe and under control”. The protests have attracted considerable media attention because among the demonstrators that were arrested, there was one Natalie Lowrey, an Australian. Unlike fifteen of her fellow Malaysian protesters, who were arrested, Ms. Lowrey has not been released. Finally, the arrests were made, not in accordance to government abuse, rather, Kuantan police, secured a court order, just before the arrival of the protesters, banning anyone from being within a 20-metre radius from LAMP.

This is not because, Malaysian authorities want to make an example out of her; No, it’s rather simpler than that, as she will likely be charged with breaching the terms of her visa, even if she may also be charged with violating the Malaysia Riot Act as well and could be detained for up to 14 days. Therefore, there is no actual additional risk to Lynas investors stemming from these riots. The protesters staged a march featuring a ‘media-friendly’ 300km walk (also featuring a 48-year old man making the trek despite having only one leg) from Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan, which grabbed attention. The Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) group was usually associated with such actions; this time, the protests were organized by ‘Himpunan Hijau’, which also demands that LAMP be shut down “after Lynas Corp ignored their ultimatum to leave Malaysia earlier this year”. The Malaysian political opposition has learned to use anti-Lynas events to score points, having already failed to make too many waves, launching a number of conspiracy theories about the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 Boeing 777.

The Kuantan High Court has repeatedly rejected applications filed by environmental activists to close the LAMP rare earth processing plant in Kuantan. Indeed, there are no legal or regulatory obstacles preventing LAMP from continuing operations. On more than one occasion, the Courts demanded the protesters to pay for Lynas’s legal expenses in confronting lawsuits launched by environmentalists.

Lynas is developing one of the most prolific rare earth resources in the world at its Mount Weld property in Western Australia. Lynas’s LAMP processing facility in Malaysia has had to overcome several legal hurdles. The way the government has handled this latest wave of protests has confirmed that the authorities want to keep the facility and the Company, which may hopefully make Malaysia into a rare earth production leader. Lynas has faced far larger demonstrations in 2012, one of which was over 100,000 bare-footed activists supporting the political opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim (who has exploited the Lynas issue for political leverage in the 2013 general election. It was one of the largest political rallies ever held in Malaysia and it failed to influence the Court’s decision. The uncertainty that Lynas had to endure in 2012 was highly motivated by political calculations because of the election. That it still managed to emerge successful in the end is a vindication for its LAMP facility and project. It is interesting to note that Malaysia want to build a nuclear power generation facility by 2021. The government held talks with Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom just days ago. Because of the 2011 Fukushima meltdown, the Malaysian population feels uncomfortable with nuclear power plants and this has certainly influenced the anti-Lynas sentiment.


Editor:


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Comments

  • CAMERON LOVE

    Alessandro, from minimal research, it appears the LAMP does not possess an adequate waste management plan. Opposition to the plant rightly suggests with no such long-term disposal or environmental hazard mitigation development, production should cease on the basis the company has no social licence to operate.This view is upheld by the Okeo Institute report(http://www.oeko.de/oekodoc/1628/2013-001-en.pdf, summary comments here: http://www.foe.org.au/articles/2013-03-14/new-report-australian-rare-earth-corporation-dumping-toxic-waste-environment-and). Given the smaller ARE plant was shut down as a result of human health and ecologically hazardous impacts, if I were a potential investor in Lynas, I’d want to see evidence of waste management planning before committing any funds!

    June 26, 2014 - 1:57 AM

  • JJ Beswick

    Cameron, they have a perfectly adequate waste management plan; it’ll all be turned into byproduct, apart from a small fraction (under 1%) containing organics.
    The Oeko report was a farce. They arbitrarily set limits about 100x lower than IAEA recommendations then declared Lynas in breach. The public monitoring in (?)Kuantan showed Kuantan over the Oeko limit even before the LAMP had started up!
    The ARE plant WAS a terrible outcome I agree, but the comparison is incorrect. Different ore (MUCH more radioactive) no waste control at all and basically in the middle of town.

    June 26, 2014 - 6:21 AM

    • Robert Richardson

      Thanks JJ for your response to Mr Love’s nonsense about the world’s safest Rare Earth processing plant – that exceeds all the rigorous environmental safeguards imposed by Malaysia, while producing output that us vital for all high tech industrial products from computers, TVs, phones to batteries for clean cars, clean power generation windmills, etc etc.
      just why Green Movement urban terrorists violently oppose REE processing is a complete mystery – especially when many other older and larger chemical plants in the same industrial park at Kuantan as the Lynas LAMP produce far more, and more dangerous, pollutants that the protesters are happy to ignore. As to so-called ‘radiation risk’, the raw material entering the LAMP is not even classified as radioactive in Australia, and even under Malaysia’s world’s most stringent laws, is still completely safe, as constantly monitored and displayed to the public there.

      June 26, 2014 - 6:50 AM

      • Tracy Weslosky

        Yes, allow me to also thank you JJ as you got “Love” before I did…

        June 26, 2014 - 7:08 AM

      • geobob

        RR: totally agree, the IAEA report on LAMP indicates that during 1st 10 years of operations, solid wastes from LAMP will average 0.04 Bq/gm, which has to be a calculated number, given that the natural background has to be much higher than 0.04 Bq – which is nothing.

        June 26, 2014 - 8:05 PM

  • leong

    I stumbled upon your article and found you bias opinion disgusting. In Malaysia voters don’t care much and dosen’t know much about Lynas. We here don’t have equal voting right. Gerrymendling is the order of the day. Let me enlighten you on ARE, asia rare earth corp own by Japanese,LTAT a religious body and some unknown individuals if I am not mistaken. Our Prime Minister Mahathir arrested a lot of protesters and give assurance from atomic energy consultant and what not to show how safe it is. Well as far as I know they have redo the waste containment 3 times as it start to leak over the last 10 years and from what I heard this also is not a permanent solution. Folks living near the area have high incidence of cancer and sickness Our Law is strict but then corruption is rampant it is like a culture. Almost all contract from Gov goes to middleman (cronies) before being given out and markup could go up to100%.That is why Lynas have noting to fear this is cowboy town east . Oh yes give Lynas this Tip, they can sell the purify sand to Singapore for a premium as They desperately need sands for development.

    June 26, 2014 - 9:20 AM

    • JJ Beswick

      Leong,with respect you really don’t have a clue about the project in question here; the Lynas LAMP REE plant in Kuantan.
      Above I agreed the ARE project had major environmental issues; their waste containment issues are not concerns of Lynas although I hope they are sympathetic and supportive,
      Again Malaysian politics are not my concern, although dishonest misrepresentation of the Lynas project by some political groups in Malaysia makes me less sympathetic to their views.
      Thanks for the Singapore tip regarding co-products from the Lynas site. I’d already suggested it in the case of the WLP-derived aggregate.

      June 26, 2014 - 11:44 AM

  • leong

    Hi Beswick sorry you seem to missed the whole picture. I am not technically ignorant. I never say Lynas is dangerous. Nuclear reactor is more than acceptable to me if built in a country where rule of law are adhere to. Corruptions is so rampant here in Malaysia many business cannot get a signboard license or delay for a year if you don’t pay the concil undertable money. So if we see” if ” the official from Lynas take care of one of the officials to look the other way he would just release waste into the river nobody will know. As I said this is a our holy culture. Politics , economic and sosial issues are strongly intervine. The LAMP project in Malaysia could carry incredible social cost in the future. The negative perception itself right or wrong weights on the countries involved. It is definately beneficial to Australia to locate the processing in Malaysia with Tax free profit for 12 years. Malaysia we get to process questionable material using huge amount of clean water which could potentially pullutes huge areas like ARE plant in Malaysia which was certifed safe and harmless by the authorities. Like it or not we Malaysia definately don’t benefit from it, there will not be further value added economics generated except filling the pocket of the person who award this project and we know who. I think Lynas would do much better if they locate it in Papua New Guinea or Indonesia as they are near (less shipping cost) less informed population and a lower cost centre. This way it be profitable straight away rather then struggle like now.
    Oh and by the way don’t worry Lynas is safe in Malaysia all license will be issue eventually when the hoo haa dies down. You can buy Lynas shares and I am sure you will profit from it when Rare earth price makes new high. Happy investing

    June 27, 2014 - 7:53 AM

    • JJ Beswick

      Must have cost them plenty to pay off the IAEA!
      Or maybe they built all the waste water and other clean tech to get IAEA sign off then didn’t bother to use it?
      Also I hope you’re not suggesting the LAMP is a nuclear reactor.
      It does use a lot of water, I agree. Makes the suggestion (frequently heard) that they should have built it in the Australian desert a bit silly.

      June 27, 2014 - 8:57 AM

  • Callum

    For non those if your posting comments in English on an English language website, please have someone with better English grammar sills than your own proof your comments. Apart from struggling to read through your poor sentence structures I need to wade through your ignorant ill informed comments regarding the safety of lynas’ operations. Look at the facts. Take note of what all the leading expert opinions say. Lynas is safe!

    June 27, 2014 - 10:45 AM

    • Veritas Bob

      Please follow your own advice.

      June 27, 2014 - 11:21 AM

  • looi

    The 16 people were arrested NOT for demonstrating but for DEFYING a court’s order forbidding any of the demonstrators from getting to within 20 metres of the Lynas plant.

    Those 16 including Natalie Lowrey deliberately broke through the police cordon and in spite of being given a grace period of 10 minutes by the police to move out of the 20 metre line, they stubbornly refused to do so.

    As such the police has no choice but to arrest them for contempt of court.

    There is rule of law in Malaysia and nobody is above the law, whether big or small, local or foreign and if they deliberately and maliciously break the law, they will be entitled to free food and lodging in HIS MAJESTY’S LOCK UP OR PRISON !

    Moreover what these demonstrators are trying to do is to destroy the jobs of about 1,750 innocent hardworking people who directly or indirectly depend on Lynas feed their children and families.

    Who is going to feed the children of these 1,750 people if Lynas was forced to close down?

    In Malaysia we don’t have any special social security. Good jobs are hard to come by and if you do not have a job nobody is going to feed your children!

    June 30, 2014 - 9:59 PM

  • looi

    🙂

    Lynas “waste” or rather residues are not poisonous and is only very slightly radioactive from the tiny amount of a pretty harmless radionuclide called ” Thorium-232″.

    Because of its extremely long half life of 14 billion years, its radioactivity is incredibly small i.e. at 4,080 Bq/g.

    Compare this with

    ♥ Polonium-210 from Uranium-238 decay = 166,000,000,000,000 Bq/g

    (1/2 life=138 days)

    1 microgram of pure SHORT half life metallic Polonium-210 is a fatal dose.

    100 grams or 100,000,000 micrograms of pure metallic LONG half life Thorium-232 would not do any harm when swallowed and it will go straight through your gut and pass straight out in the stools.

    ♥ Carbon-14 = 165,000,000,000 Bq/g

    (1/2 life = 5,730 yrs)

    ♥ Thorium-232 = only 4,080 Bq/g

    (1/2 life=14,000,000,000 yrs)

    The only Lynas residue which has a tiny amount of radioactivity is the WLP which is only a miserable 6 Bq/g.

    In the USA, EU and Australia, a material with only 6 Bq/g will be treated as a non-radioactive material for transport purpose.

    ♥ For transportation purposes,

    A RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL IS DEFINED AS ANY MATERIAL WHICH HAS A SPECIFIC ACTIVITY GREATER THAN

    a …. > 74 Bq/g in USA (U.S.NRC Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

    b …. > 10 Bq/g (Thorium-232) in Australia and

    c …. > 1 Bq/g in Malaysia ! ! !

    ♥ The 3 Lynas residues consisting of FGD, NUF and WLP if not separated and left in it’s moist form, with about 35% moisture, would have an average specific activity of only 0.9 Bq/g even without dilution by blending !

    A RADIOACTIVITY OF 0.9 Bq/g IS FIT TO BE EATEN (IF EDIBLE) UNDER US AND EU REGULATIONS ! ! !

    Regulatory limits on radioactivity in foods (source: IAEA)

    USA foodstuff = 1.20 Bq/g (1,200 Bq/kg)

    EU foodstuff = 1.25 Bq/g (1,250 Bq/kg)

    SO THE RADIOACTIVITY IN THE LYNAS RESIDUE IS NOT DANGEROUS AND IF not separated and left in it’s moist form, with about 35% moisture,
    will have a RADIOACTIVITY of only 0.9 Bq/g,

    AND IS FIT TO BE EATEN (IF EDIBLE) UNDER US AND EU REGULATIONS ! ! !

    ♥ NICK TSURIKOV, RENOWN INTERNATIONAL RADIATION SAFETY SPECIALIST and co-author of the IAEA Safety Report on Radiation:

    “THORIUM IN “WASTE” IS INSOLUBLE AND CANNOT POISON ANY PLANTS, ANIMALS OR THE ENVIRONMENT – EVEN IN THEORY.”

    June 30, 2014 - 10:00 PM

    • leong

      Looi,
      My god don’t get so defensive as I said before I never say Lynas is dangerous or superradioactive. Just read through my post again to get to the issue I am talking about. There is no job shortage in Malaysia in fact we have millions of illegal worker here! Yes no high paying jobs here mainly bcos of huge illegal and legal migrant workforce depress the wage levels. Oh and yes my apologies for my bad english grammer a product of World class Malaysia education standard according to our respected education minister.
      Any way from comment given I notice a lack of comprehensive knowledge of social,political,economic and science when making statements. Guess this will be my last post. Good luck Mr Beswick remember what role does a Good Reporter play and when we read news we expect unbias and raw fact presented simple and clear. The audience like me is entitle to air their “bias” views within reason. Thank you for not censoring my comments.

      July 2, 2014 - 12:04 PM

  • Mortimer

    Looks like investing in non western countries is not worth the risk .

    July 3, 2014 - 6:44 AM

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