Kuantan MP pledges to send mining firm back Down Under

By Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh pledged in Parliament today to keep fighting until the controversial construction of a rare earth refinery in Gebeng is stopped and Australian mining firm Lynas Corporation leaves Malaysia.

“If they are so desperate to process rare earth, they can do so in their own country,” she said this evening when debating the motion of thanks on the royal address.

The PKR lawmaker added that due to reports in both foreign and local media on the negative effects of the plant, Kuantan residents were now fully aware of the risks that Lynas’ plans would bring to their home state.

“If until today, the ministry, state government and Lynas was able to trivialise this issue through PR exercises (public relations exercises), they can do this no more.

“And as their elected representative, I will keep on fighting until Lynas’s refining plant, which is presently under construction, is shut down. We will send them back to Australia,” she said.

Fuziah also urged the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to stop any effort to award a license to Lynas allowing it to operate its plant and process rare earth.

“I understand that AELB has only given a license to Lynas to build the processing plant in Gebeng, Kelantan, but has yet to issue the license to allow it to process rare earth.

“I would like to stress here that this is the best thing for AELB to do now. The plant is still under construction and is not due to commence operations until the fourth quarter of the year.

“It is not too late for AELB to return to the right path and make the best decision for the people,” she said.

This, stressed Fuziah, was due to concerns that the firm was yet to come up with a concrete plan on how to dispose of its radioactive wastes.

“Do we want a repeat of the Bukit Merah case where the children of factory workers were born with birth defects and only then we plan to act? Are the lives and safety of the Kuantan residents worth so little to the Malaysian government?” she asked.

Australian mining company Lynas Corporation is building the world’s biggest rare earth refinery in Najib’s home state, raising fears of a repeat of the radiation pollution in Bukit Merah, Perak that has been linked to at least eight leukaemia cases in the local community there.

Fuziah, who has also pledged to raise the issue in the Australian Parliament, reminded the government of the radiation scare in Japan, resulting from the series of explosions in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant damaged during last week’s earthquake.

“To date, four nuclear reactors have exploded and radioactive contamination has caused a great scare among the general public, not just in Japan, but across the region.

“Now, hundreds or maybe thousands of people are exposed to radioactive materials resulting from the explosions and many have been evacuated to safer zones.