By Lisa J. Ariffin
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 5 — The main environmental group opposed to the Lynas rare earth plant in Kuantan said today it would seek to get an injunction to freeze a temporary operating license (TOL) issued earlier this week to the Australian miner.
Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) chairman Tan Bun Teet (picture) said he was not surprised with the Atomic Energy Licensing Board’s (AELB) decision to issue the TOL to Lynas despite widespread public protests and concerns about safety.
“We are going to the High Court in Kuantan for judicial review of the TOL, but even before we come to trial, AELB has jumped the gun and issued a TOL,” Tan told The Malaysian Insider today.
“We feel that this is very unprofessional, unethical, and maybe even illegal,” he added.
Tan was referring to two pending judicial review applications filed by SMSL in the Kuantan High Court.
The first is a judicial review of the award of a TOL to Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) by the AELB, and the second is for the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Maxmimus Ongkili’s decision to reject their appeal against the decision.
Lynas Corporation confirmed earlier today that it had received a TOL from government regulators, paving the way for it to fire up its controversial rare earth plant.
Opponents have called the RM2.5 billion project “the world’s largest radioactive waste dump” despite the Sydney-based firm’s insistence that radiation would be at very low levels as “it will break down and alpha particles will release very strong radiation into the food chain.”
Lynas cleared its final major hurdle in June to getting its TOL after a parliamentary select committee (PSC) called for the licence to be issued as “scientific facts” show that the controversial Kuantan plant is safe.
The positive feedback tabled in the PSC report came just days after the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti) dismissed an appeal against the facility by residents living nearby and instead imposed two conditions that Lynas said it will have no problems meeting.
Lynas had said in April that delays in obtaining the licence for its facility, which was initially approved in January, may have “very serious consequences” for the RM80 billion worth of rare earth orders already received as it is “sold out for the next 10 years.”
Unprecedented public anger against the Lynas plant in Kuantan has been fertilising Malaysia’s green movement and could affect voter sentiment ahead of key national polls that must be called soon.
Earlier this year, thousands of people gathered for a peaceful demonstration in Kuantan calling on the government to stop the plant from being fired up.
The company said that the issuance of the TOL would enable Lynas to commence the transport of rare earth concentrate and to complete all necessary steps to prepare for first feed to kiln, which is expected in October.
Last week, five Kuantan residents made headway in their last-ditch bid to stop Lynas Corp from firing up its plant after they got the High Court’s nod to challenge the science, technology and innovation minister’s decision to award a TOL to the Australian miner.
In a separate statement today AELB said the TOL would be valid for a period of two years effective September 3.