Radioactive waste IS NOT safe for people, not safe for communities, and not safe for the environment.
The Stop Lynas campaign started in March 2011 in response to the thousands of Malaysians uniting together to say no to Australian rare earth miner, Lynas Rare Earths (formally Lynas Corporations). The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) – a rare earth processing plant that is now operating in Kuantan, Malaysia, is dumping more than one million metric tonnes of toxic and radioactive waste on their lives, livelihoods, the environment and the health of future generations.
Since 2014, AID/WATCH has supported the Australian-Malaysian Stop Lynas campaign and is currently collaborating with Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) / Friends’ of the Earth Malaysia, Save Malaysia Stop Lynas campaign and Conservation Council of Western Australia.
The campaign is calling on the Malaysian government and its relevant agencies to ensure that there is complete transparency, public feedback and consultations before approving any permanent disposal facility (PDF) of Lynas Corporation for its water leach purification residue (WLP) which contains radioactive wastes. And for Lynas to remove all its radioactive waste from Malaysia under their original licence conditions and legal undertakings
SEND A SUBMISSION LETTER
Send a submission to the Jabatan Alam Sekitar (Department of Environment) Malaysia calling for the rejection of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) submitted by Lynas Rare Earths for its radioactive waste dump at Bukit Ketam in Kuantan, Malaysia.
WHO IS LYNAS RARE EARTHS?
Lynas Rare Earths Limited, formerly Lynas Corporation Ltd, is an Australian rare-earths mining company, listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) engaged in extraction and processing of rare earth minerals, primarily in Australia and Malaysia, and development of rare earth deposits.
Lynas has two major operations:
- Mt Weld Rare Earth Mine and Concentration Plant, Western Australia: Mount Weld rare earth deposit is located 35 kilometres south of Laverton in the Northern Goldfields, Western Australia
- Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP), Kuantan, Malaysia:
And two proposed projects:
- Lynas’ Proposed radioactive waste Permanent Disposal Facility (PDF) in the Bukit Kuantan Forest Reserve:
- Rare Earths Processing Plant, Western Australia: to process the Rare Earth concentrate from their mine at Mt Weld in the Goldfields region of WA. The material produced in Kalgoorlie will be further processed at our Lynas Malaysia refinery.
WHAT ARE RARE EARTHS MINERALS?
Seventeen elements form the group known as the Rare Earth Elements (REEs): the 15 lanthanides, yttrium, and usually scandium.
Rare earth elements are actually relatively abundant in the earth’s crust, but are not often concentrated in mineable deposits, and are almost always found in conjunction with significant radioactivity. Therefore, these elements are “rare” mostly because of the difficulty associated with economically extracting them.
Due to lax environmental laws, China has built a monopoly in the rare earth market controlling over 90% of the world’s rare earth minerals. Due to severe environmental issues, China has begun to mitigate the damage from the production of rare earth by shutting down small operations and raising standards as well as restricting exports meaning potential supply problems of rare earth’s. This has driven Western companies to produce on their deposits.
China’s restriction on rare earth exports has had a dramatic effect on the price of rare earth minerals which are becoming increasingly valuable as they are used in electronic equipment like computers, mobile phones and the “green” economy including wind turbines and hybrid cars. Other uses include medical devices, and military applications such as missiles, jet engines, and satellites.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES?
Environmental, Health and Safety Concerns for Workers and Local Communities
One of the most contentious issues with the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant is the thorium (Th) by-product. Exposure to Thorium can cause cancer posing serious risks to workers at the LAMP and surrounding communities. Studies have shown that inhaling thorium dust causes an increased risk of developing lung cancer, and cancer of the pancreas. Bone cancer risk is also increased because thorium may be stored in bone. Thorium has a half-life of 14 billion years and is easily transported and spread through wind and water.
An earlier rare earth plant, the Asian Rare Earth Sdn Bhd (ARE) owned by Mitsubishi Chemicals in Bukit Merah in the state of Perak, Malaysia was forced to close down after strong community pressure and court action. During the 1980s and early ’90s, Mitsubishi dumped radioactive waste onto open ground. The Malaysian authorities assured local people it was safe. After years of discontent, Mitsubishi closed down the plant and allocated AUS$100 million to the clean-up operation. Only recently, 80,000 tonnes of waste with thorium were found left in the open.
The ARE contaminated a large area and affected many nearby residents. Several people died. Abnormally high numbers of childhood leukaemia and birth defects were observed. Some of the surviving residents of Bukit Merah are still plagued with severe health problems. Until this very day, the Malaysian authorities refuse to acknowledge that the radioactive waste was responsible for the sudden escalation of health problems among the residents.
Lynas is processing 10 times the amount of ore compared to the ARE. Despite Lynas’ public proclamation of “Zero Harm” commitment, there are no foolproof containment measures for such toxic residue for workers onsite at the LAMP. It should be noted that the ores that Chinese miners were exposed to in Bayan Obo Rare-Earth and Iron Mine contained 400 ppm of thorium. The rare earth oxide concentrates that will be arriving shortly at Kuantan port will have 1600 ppm of thorium. The US Public Health Service (1990) reports that the natural background level in the soil is typically 6 ppm of thorium.
The LAMP is located close to fishing communities and coastal resorts. The local community is deeply worried that the toxic and hazardous waste will, over time, contaminate a large area beyond the vicinity of the plant. There are serious concerns that the fishing grounds could be contaminated, affecting their food safety and their health, potentially ending the local fishery industry and the tourism trade.
“No monetary returns of whatever Foreign Direct Investment and its spinoffs can outweigh possible radiation and/or other health risks, which can wreak harm on our citizens, perhaps for as long as the half-lives of some of the extremely toxic radionuclide waste products —which in some cases might be ‘forever’!”
 ‘Results from a study of thorium lung burdens and health effects among miners in China’, Chen XA, Cheng YE, Rong Z, Journal of Radiological Protection, 2005