Australian MP: Lynas prohibited from importing waste

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Petaling Jaya (Sept 14): An Australian Greens MP has shot down Lynas Corp’s latest attempt to ship radioactive waste from Malaysia back to Western Australia state, saying that it is prohibited under Australian law.

Robin Chapple, the Greens spokesperson for Mining Issues, pointed out in a statement on Friday that the Western Australia Nuclear Waste Storage (Prohibition) Act 1999 forbids the import of radioactive waste.

“The news flies in the face of Australian government policy and WA legislation, which asserts that Australia doesn’t accept or import radioactive waste from other countries,” Chapple said.

“It seems that again Lynas thinks it is outside the law as it is operating in Malaysia, and may be subjected to less rigorous legal scrutiny. Well it isn’t, and if it thinks that WA will take this radioactive waste, it can think again.”

Online portal The Malaysian Insider reported on Wednesday that Lynas had submitted an application to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) to import radioactive waste from its RM2.5 billion rare earth plant in Gebeng, Pahang.

The move comes after the mining giant was granted a temporary operating licence (TOL) last week despite opposition from various quarters in Malaysia and Australia. The TOL allows Lynas to operate for a period of two years beginning Sept 3.

One of the TOL’s conditions is that Lynas is legally bound to ship the radioactive material back to Australia. But the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) has said that this condition isn’t written in “black and white” and is based solely on Lynas’ unilateral commitment.  

Lynas’ application to ARPANSA follows three statements on separate occasions by the Western Australian government that it would not accept waste material from the Lynas plant in Gebeng.

Minister of Petroleum and Mines, Norman Moore, made this statement for the first time in Parliament on April 1, 2010.

He then repeated it in a written statement to Chapple on March 20, 2011 and again to the Free Malaysia Today news site on March 23, 2011.

Lynas meanwhile is also facing opposition back home in Fremantle Port where it will begin shipping the ores very soon.

Fremantle-based Greens MP, Lynn MacLaren, said on Tuesday that the community opposed the shipping of the ores, as it didn’t want to be a “cog in the wheel of subjecting innocent men, women and children in Malaysia to the exposure of toxic waste”.

“Really, you have to laugh,” Chapple said. “Lynas has now been tripped up by its own lack of willingness to take heed of Australia’s expectations with respect to sustainable mining and environmental, social and legal standards, and it has got its comeuppance.”


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