Lynas PSC: A state-sponsored marketing gimmick

After the dust from the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) report on the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) has settled, it is clear to all that it is merely a public relations attempt by the government to whitewash the project. The rakyat is not surprised by the government’s betrayal; after all, Lynas themselves acknowledged in their quarterly report for the period ending 31 March 2012 “that the main purpose of the PSC is to continue to help raise awareness concerning the LAMP.” [1]

Bad sign? | Photo by Sze Ming @ LoyarBurok

Below are some of the objectionable points from the report:

1. Lynas’ letter of undertaking to ship the waste out of the country is reproduced in the PSC report (see figure). According to the letter, Lynas only agrees to ship out the waste generated during the 2-year Temporary Operating License (TOL) period, not the entire 20 years for which LAMP is projected to be in operation, which is what the public is made to believe [2].

2. The PSC recommends that the TOL be issued to Lynas. Ironically, in the same report, further studies are also recommended. These studies are:

a) a health baseline study
b) a Health Impact Assessment (HIA)
c) an epidemiological study to determine if there is a link between the leukemia and cancer cases in Bukit Merah and the Asian Rare Earth (ARE) plant.

It is irresponsible for the government not to compel Lynas to complete these studies first before allowing Lynas to commence operation. In view of the doubts surrounding the safety of the project, all studies must be done a priori, and most certainly before the TOL is issued!

3. The argument that the DEIA (Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment) is the same as the PEIA (Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment) is simply flawed. The fact that a HIA is recommended implies that the PEIA is incomplete. Furthermore, public consultation, absent in the PEIA, would certainly be a part of a DEIA. Another fundamental difference is that the DEIA is conducted by the federal government, and the terms of reference determined by the federal authority, which must include a HIA and a referendum now. Incidentally, the committee also reported 8 weaknesses in the PEIA and these must be addressed with a DEIA.

4. The government demonstrated its sheer incompetence in admitting that they do not have a clue about what happened in Bukit Merah. The government had 20 long years to investigate the complaints of the Bukit Merah residents, and yet they did nothing. We are shocked that the government views so lightly an environmental disaster that took USD100 million to fix and required another 300 years of supervision by the state government. Don’t blame the public for doubting the competence of the authorities to regulate the largest rare earth refinery in the world.

5. The PSC report states that the risk from internal emitters have been taken into account. Lynas computed this risk using the ICRP method, which dilutes the waste to the entire mass of the body. This model is flawed because radiation exposure from embedded radioactive particles is localized. Prof Chan Chee Khoon presented evidence where the ICRP model failed to explain high instances of cancer near nuclear power facilities [3]. Furthermore, a well-known proponent of this argument, Chris Busby, believes that the actual risk from LAMP may exceed IAEA’s own limits [4].

6. The report revealed that the license to construct the factory from MITI was approved (22 Jan 2008) before the PEIA was approved (15 Feb 2008). Does this mean that even MITI was not even aware that the PEIA was horribly skewed in favor of the exaggerated economic benefits over environmental considerations [5]? Another evidence of incompetence, or perhaps bribery [6][7]?

7. Lynas has not been truthful in stating that they were not rejected by Terengganu. Lynas has always claimed that they relocated to Gebeng because they got impatient waiting for the approval from the state government [8]. By Lynas’ own admission in their 2007 Q4 quarterly report, the tax holiday is extended from 10 years to 12 years to compensate for delay caused by the relocation [2][9]. The Ministry of Finance website further revealed that “pioneer status” typically comes in increments of 5 years, there is strangely no category for 12 years [10], thus lending weight to the argument that the extra two years is the result of Terengganu’s rejection.

8. The committee recommends better public engagement and transparency, yet does not compel Lynas to disclose these important documents. They are:

a)  The plant decommissioning plan (to meet IAEA recommendation 2) or more specifically: “Environ Consulting Services (M) Sdn Bhd (2011b): Decommissioning Plan for the Advanced Materials Plant, Gebeng Industrial Estate, Kuantan”,
b) The updated RIA (to meet IAEA recommendation 1 and 2), and
c) Test results of the structural integrity of the plant.

The trees have eyes | Photo by Sze Ming

9. Cherry-picked facts favorable to Lynas and blatant lies are used to steer the report toward the desired conclusion: Lynas is safe. For example:

a) The report compares Lynas to other rare earth projects, namely Ashton and Arafura, but hides the fact that these projects are subjected to stringent environmental regulations. The two most glaring differences are that no waste water discharged and no accumulation of waste are allowed at the refinery. Extensive public consultations were also held for both projects, unlike LAMP which crept up overnight on the Malaysian public [2].

b) The report states that Stop Lynas Coalition’s (SLC’s) application for leave to challenge the legality of the TOL was denied. However, it fails to disclose that the Judge Rohana Yusuf denied leave not because the case had no merit, but because it was filed prematurely. In fact, she ruled that the approval of the TOL “is a decision amenable to judicial review” in view of the evidence presented [11]. An appeal has been filed and a hearing date is being sought.

c) Lynas has not been truthful when they claim that LAMP operates under atmospheric temperature in their presentation slides. In the “cracking” process, the ore concentrate from Australia is roasted at 650°C for 2.5 hours. Within the Chemical Engineering community, this temperature is regarded as “extreme temperature” [2].

d) The AELB has on numerous occasions used UNSCEAR 2010 to justify that there is no link between low-level radiation exposures to cancer. Although UNSCEAR 2010 found no conclusive link, they admitted that the study is hampered by “the lack of specificity in the type or characteristics of disease induced by radiation exposure, the long delay (years or decades) between exposure and disease presentation and the high spontaneous incidence of diseases associated with radiation in the ageing general population.” Furthermore, the paper states “there is emerging evidence from recent epidemiological studies indicating elevated risks of non-cancer diseases below doses of 1 to 2 Gy, and in some cases lower.” [2][12]

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die? If you wrong us, do we not fight?”
– Mr Tan Chin Hua

Acknowledgements: Soo Jin Hou (Stop Lynas Coalition), Tan Sek Choong (Feature Writer of MerdekaReview)


[1] “Quarterly report for the period ending 31 March 2012”, 30 April 2012, Lynas Corporation. From

[2] “???????????, ???????????”, 20 June 2012, Tan Sek Choong, Merdeka Review. From

[3] “Lynas: the use and abuse of science”, 23 June 2012, Chan Chee Khoon, The Malaysian Insider. From

[4] “Claims of safety for Lynas plant is based on selective science”, 24 May 2012, Soo Jin Hou. From

[5] “Environment given short shrift in Lynas plant study”, 25 April 2011, Joseph Sipalan, Malaysiakini. From

[6] “Now that Bersih is over (part 2)”, 2 May 2012, Raja Petra Kamarudin, Malaysia Today. From

[7] “Lynas says paid Putrajaya for toxic waste cover”, 21 May 2011, Debra Chong, Malaysian Insider. From

[8] “Lynas denies being ‘chased away’ from precious sites”, 19 April 2012, Shannon Teoh, Malaysian Insider. From

[9] ” Quarterly report for the period ending 31 December 2007”, Lynas Corporation. From

[10] “Pioneer Status (PS)”. From

[11] “Lynas: Judgement dismissing leave for judicial review”, 12 April 2012, Rohana Yusuf. From

[12] “Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation 2010”. From

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Sze Ming is a nature lover who grew up enjoying the paddy fields in Kedah. Green warrior, she believes going green is the only way for longer lives. Currently she doing her Master of Public Policy in University Malaya. Tweets @szeming87

Posted on 28 June 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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