Perhaps Lynas should turn back

— Tay Tian Yan
The Malaysian Insider
February 24, 2012

Feb 24 — I recently met director Tan Chui Mui. She told me she had moved her studio from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

KL is too small in the world of film-making; Beijing is somewhat larger.

Tan needs a bigger space to develop her career and fulfil her dreams.

She has won several awards in international film festivals. She is so young and there are lots of potentials she could exploit outside the country.

She does come back to her native Kuantan every now and then, not so much for making a movie, but for her hometown.

Lynas Corp plans to set up a massive rare earth refinery plant in Kuantan, and Putrajaya has issued a conditional temporary licence to the Australia-based firm.

Waste materials from the processing of rare earth could be radioactive, everyone knows that. Both the Malaysian government and Lynas have reassured the public that necessary precautions would be adopted to ensure zero leakage of radioactive substances.

Kuantan residents do not feel assured. They are not willing to stake their health and safety.

Tan took the lead in opposing the proposed plant by making a short documentary “Survival Guide in Radioactive Village,” which has been screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival and soon at other film festivals worldwide.

During the Chinese New Year, she organised a candlelight vigil at Teluk Chempedak near Kuantan to protest against the rare earth plant.

Despite her age, her powerful resolution and determination have moved the hearts of many.

Indeed, the world outside is indefinitely large while her hometown is so small. Just because it is small, and is the one and only, it has to be protected at all costs.

Even if the rare earth plant is certified safe, unforeseen circumstances could still happen. And if it does, it could wreak dreadful havoc on the little town.

Australia spans 7.7 million square kilometres. It is the sixth largest landmass in the world and about 20 times bigger than Malaysia, although it only has 22 million inhabitants, fewer than us.

With such a so much land and much of uninhabited, it wouldn’t be hard for Lynas to pick a place to set up a rare earth plant in Australia. In the event of a leakage, the destruction could be contained to minimum.

Kuantan is just a small town of about 30km in diameter but inhabited by some 700,000 people who have nowhere to escape if any untoward incident takes place.

By choosing Kuantan over Australia and transporting the raw rare earth ore over more than 5,000km across the sea, Lynas will have to incur much higher costs and time.

Australians should have a keener business sense than this, I believe.

They definitely do. But they also place their homeland’s safety above monetary gains.

To set up a rare earth plant in Australia, Lynas may need to pass the rigid environmental evaluation as well as acceptance from the general public.

While Malaysia has proposed that the radioactive waste be transported back to Australia, the same might not be practical as cross border transportation of industrial waste is strictly prohibited under the international law, while Canberra has made it very clear that it will not take back the waste.

Malaysia is neither a rare earth producer nor a major consumer. To make the country a transit point for international rare earth supply will only do Kuantan more harm than good.

Perhaps Lynas should turn back and look inward, given the fact that its homeland is blessed with such an enormous land mass. —

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Saturday, 25 February 2012 - 9:54 am

    ///She told me she had moved her studio from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.///

    She took the lead. More businesses and investors will move out of Kuantan in the long term for safety reason. The existence of Lynas will inevitably scare new investors from coming to Kuantan.

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Saturday, 25 February 2012 - 10:04 am

    I presume Tan Chui Mui moved her studio from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing because she does not want to go back to her native Kuantan so often so as to avoid contamination form Lynas.

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Saturday, 25 February 2012 - 10:06 am


    “form Lynas” should be “from Lynas”.

  4. #4 by Winston on Saturday, 25 February 2012 - 10:21 am

    “To set up a rare earth plant in Australia, Lynas may need to pass
    the rigid environmental evaluation as well as acceptance from
    the general public.” – end of quote

    What is even more important is that Australia is not a corrupted
    nation like ours!
    If the nation is corrupt, it’s absolutely useless to have any “laws”
    as we have been witnessing in this country for the past five and
    a half decades!
    Now, some ministers are proposing to the company, a private
    company, to take back the wastes.
    Why propose to a private company when it is apparent that their
    government have indicated that the wastes will not be permitted
    to be sent back to them?!!!
    Go figure that out!!!!

  5. #5 by SENGLANG on Saturday, 25 February 2012 - 10:45 am

    We are just dreaming of asking Lynas take back the wast. Australia will not accept it, if that was case Lynas will not come to Malaysia. It will be not turning around now, the people will have to bit the bullet and live with it.

    With millions have been spent and the plant is on final operation check Lynas will not turn back. The loser will be the Malaysian people. Lynas must have sealed the agreement long time, if the license is cancelled, huge compensation is on the way. Lynas is the gainer all thank to the incompetence of BN government

  6. #6 by Cinapek on Saturday, 25 February 2012 - 10:58 am

    I was once told by a mall developer that he does not want to rent or sell a huge space to banks on the ground floor of his complex. His reason? Banks close at 5pm and when they close, a large section of his ground floor will be “dead”, affecting the retail traffic in his mall.

    This analogy applies to Lynas. Kuantan, and by extension, Pahang and Malaysia thinks they have snared a great investor in Lynas. But the nature of Lynas’s business and the inherent danger they pose will discourage other large investors into that area. Who would want to site a multimillion investment in an area that could at any time become another “Fukushima”?

    The writer has a good point. Why would Lynas choose to site this plant in Malaysia when their home country Australia has so much larger uninhabited space? Why are they choosing to risk large number of Malaysian lives when they could have sited this plant in the Australian outback with little risk to human lives? Unless the risk is so high that even their own Govt refuses to accept them? Or are Asian lives worth less than kangaroo lives? The Australian Govt should also have a responsibility to its neighbours and come clean on why they should not stop Lynas from endangering their neighbours and keep their own rubbish in their own backyards instead of their neighbours front porch.

  7. #7 by Tango on Saturday, 25 February 2012 - 11:33 am

    Have we forgotten 2011 Japan Tsunami? A sea facing town on east coast is now in irrepairable mayhem after earth quake induced tsunami whacked a radioactive facility. Isn’t this a huge possibility, factually with precendent but not considered by DOE? And my dear KL /Sgp dwellers, u are bare 250km away from Kuantan…

    So this is about the life n future of all, not just Kuantan. If this govt won’t think broadly n have no COW sense even, u r again forcing us to vote for survival of this nation and our children.

  8. #8 by undertaker888 on Saturday, 25 February 2012 - 12:40 pm

    When pr takes over, execute these umno retard ministers for treason. Execute them.

  9. #9 by Winston on Saturday, 25 February 2012 - 6:22 pm

    In this age of fast changing scientific discovery, it is not at all
    surprising that, suitable and easily obtainable, substitutes could
    be found for rare earth.
    When that comes about, this company’s business may be badly
    affected, so much so, that it will just be discarded and be a
    monument to the stupidity and greed of the decision makers
    both here and in Australia.
    But, Malaysians will have to live with the discards, both the mine
    as well as the wastes.

  10. #10 by monsterball on Sunday, 26 February 2012 - 12:45 pm

    Today…thousands from all over Malaysians gathered at Kuantan to protest Najib’s Lynas project.
    Malaysians are no more contended to vote against UMNO b only.
    They will speak out loudly against corruptions made in so many forms which those crooks think Malaysians can easily be fooled.

  11. #11 by waterfrontcoolie on Sunday, 26 February 2012 - 1:59 pm

    In this country, the dispairs of the people is not important, like all projects, the owners who have cash to sway the relevant ministries are the real decision makers! Every decision today seemes based on that fact. When even senior officials were asked why that stupid decision, many lately have replied ask your MPs! Those thinking officials are indeed caught by the changes that took place when the Siapa-nama-tu turned the Civil servants into HIS Obedient SERVANTS! Such impact was not easy to forget and what better option then to nod your head and jump onto the gravy train? Part of the reason BN has agreed to have the plant in Malaysia is simple. Sensing the unpredictable outcome of the 13th GE; why not have the Lynas plant here when most of them would be in Australia AFTER the GE!

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