Lynas must remove waste from Malaysia or risk license-ministers

KUALA LUMPUR Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:23am EST

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KUALA LUMPUR Dec 10 (Reuters) - Australia's Lynas Corp must export waste material created by operations at its controversial rare earths plant in Malaysia or risk having its operating license revoked, four Malaysian ministers said in a joint statement on Monday.

The statement followed local media reports citing Lynas Malaysia's managing director Mashal Ahmad as saying the company would not export residue from the plant, which began operations in late November after a series of legal hurdles.

"Should Lynas fail to comply with this condition, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board is empowered to suspend or revoke the license, and order Lynas to immediately cease operation," said the statement released by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

"The government will not compromise the health and safety of the people and the environment, in dealing with the issue of Lynas," the ministers said.

The ministers said they were responding to "recent inaccurate media reports regarding the removal of the residues."

Mashal was reported by the Guang Ming Daily as saying that Lynas needed to abide by international conventions which prohibit the export of hazardous wastes. Mashal declined to comment when contacted by Reuters late on Monday.

Senior opposition politician Lim Guan Eng said Mashal's reported comments meant the government should revoke Lynas' license for breach of its contract.

Lynas has been embroiled in lengthy environmental and safety disputes with local residents since construction began two years ago. Its $800 million plant, which opponents say is environmentally hazardous, began operations late last month after long delays caused by legal challenges and safety disputes.

Located in the east coast city of Kuantan, it had been ready to kickstart since May.

The Malaysian high court will hear an application for judicial reviews to block operations of the plant on Feb. 5 next year. (Reporting By Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah; Editing by Stuart Grudgings)

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