Mustapa: Lynas jumping gun over rare earth refinery start date

By Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider

Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed has slammed Lynas Corp for pre-empting the government by repeatedly projecting start dates for the Australian miner’s controversial RM1.5 billion rare earth plant in Kuantan.

The international trade and industry minister accused the Australian company of “jumping the gun” and failing to engage transparently with residents around its Kuantan refinery who have opposed the project due to fears of radiation pollution.

Mustapa denied that the government was colluding with Lynas to ride roughshod over public safety. — Picture by Choo Choy May
“They have no business to pre-empt the (Atomic Energy Licensing) board. No business at all to issue these kind of statements and we have reprimanded them,” Mustapa told The Malaysian Insider in an interview last week.

The minister said he understood the alarm of local residents over the project and has told Lynas repeatedly it “has not done enough engagement.”

“They’ve underestimated but learnt their lesson. They have been more transparent over the last one or two months.

“But I saw them last week in Perth, it’s still not enough,” the Jeli MP said, adding that the failure of both Lynas and the government to engage from the start has resulted in “some people who cannot be persuaded.”

Mustapa was accused of being a “Lynas spokesman” by Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh last week.

He denied the accusation from the PKR vice-president who has led protests against the Lynas plant, saying it was “akin to calling me a traitor.”

Lynas had earlier projected to be given the go-ahead from radiation regulators AELB by the fourth quarter of this year.

But Putrajaya said last week it asked for changes and additional information on September 19 from the Sydney-based firm with regard to its safety submissions.

Having shed more than half its value on the Australian Securities Exchange over the past six months, it was then reported to expect a pre-operating licence “by the end of the year and it could come before analysts make a planned visit to the plant this month.”

“‘Slight delays’ at its controversial Malaysian refinery will not affect its plans to supply rare earths to customers by the first half of next year,” Australian daily Sydney Morning Herald said on November 1.

The Malaysian government had adopted in July the 11 recommendations set out by an International Atomic Energy Agency-led (IAEA) review of the refinery.