Article originally appeared in The Malay Mail Online
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 — Several Australian non-government organisations (NGO) today joined 16 Malaysian delegates in their protest outside Lynas Corporations’ shareholders meeting in Sydney, urging shareholders to divest from the controversial company.
StopLynas.org, an affiliate campaign of Friends of the Earth Australia, along with Beyond Nuclear Initiative, and AidWatch joined the call for Lynas to shut down its Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Kuantan and leave Malaysia.
The NGOs claimed the rare earth refinery was a bad investment for the country and had no social licence to operate.
Beyond Nuclear Initiative (BNI) coordinator Natalie Wasley said the Australian initiative supported and commended the mass movement in Malaysia against Lynas.
“The LAMP proposal will leave a radioactive legacy for Malaysia’s future generations and fails environmental and social justice tests.
“Tens of thousands of mothers in Malaysia like myself share the same commitment in shutting Lynas down. We ask Lynas shareholders to reconsider whether Lynas is really a good investment and to divest,” Wasley said in a statement here.
Although Australia is a signatory to the Basel Convention Control, which is aimed at reducing the international movement of hazardous waste, an August report said Lynas would keep its temporary operating licence (TOL) until plans for a permanent waste disposal facility were approved. The plan was submitted in early July.
The protest comes on the heels of a three-day occupation outside the Lynas headquarters. Himpunan Hijau has been ramping up its protest efforts after the signature drive it launched in August where they were said to have met their target of one million signatures in 36 days.
The group said that 1.2 million Malaysians had to date signed its petition of protest in their bid to get the Lynas plant to close down its operations in Kuantan.
On November 20 last year, activists from the Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) group had similarly protested outside Lynas Corporation’s headquarters during the company’s AGM.
On September 3 last year, the Malaysian regulator Atomic Energy Licensing Board granted Lynas (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd its TOL, which came with several conditions. AELB director-general Raja Datuk Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan had then said the TOL would be for a two-year period that would end on September 2, 2014.
Environmental activists have raised health and safety concerns over the RM2.5 billion plant in Gebeng, Kuantan.
“Here is yet another example of an Australian mining company operating abroad despite ongoing and widespread opposition from locals in addition to well-founded environmental concerns,” Aidwatch director Thulsi Narayanasamy said in a statement.
“Many people don’t realise how serious the activities of Australian mining companies overseas are, and their ability to get away with a flagrant disregard for people, the environment and the law.”
Himpunan Hijau is today also joined by members of SMSL, who are expected to ask questions of Lynas directors at the shareholders meeting.
SMSL spokesman Tan Bun Teet said the shareholders had the right to know the truth, stressing that the organisation would continue with its campaign until the plant was shut down.
“We cannot accept another toxic legacy when the Malaysian Government has such a bad track record in dealing with toxic radioactive waste which continues to pose great risk and hazards to the tax-paying citizens when Lynas gets away paying no tax,” he said.
For the past two years the biggest environmental movement in Malaysia has formed in response to the Australian rare earth miner’s controversial effort to build the world’s largest industrial rare earth refinery, the LAMP.
Himpunan Hijau chairman Wong Tack, who had led a 14-day 300-km walk, the Green Walk, from Kuantan to Kuala Lumpur last year in protest against the Lynas project, threatened that more Malaysians would come out to protest if the plant was not shut down by next year.
“We are giving Lynas a deadline to pull out by June 29, 2014,” Wong said in a statement today. “If they don’t, that will be the date when millions of Malaysians will come to the streets to shut down this toxic plant. This is the message we give to Lynas and its shareholders.”