M'kini: Anti-Lynas Father's Day protest draws 2,000
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Anti-Lynas Father's Day protest draws 2,000
19 Jun, 11 4:24pm
The anti-Lynas Fathers Day event today, organised by Save Malaysia NGOs,
drew a multiracial crowd of 2,000, many of whom were parents with their
kids, according to Save Msia NGO chairperson Tan Boon Teet.
The event ended peacefully at 11.30am without any interference from the
The organisers requested families and friends to gather at 8am at Taman
Gelora , Kuantan, preferably wearing their Save Malaysia t-shirts and go for
They were also asked to bring flags to tell the world that Kuantan people
and other fellow Malaysians will not allow Malaysia to be recolonised and
treated as dump site for foreign toxic waste.
The organisers emphasised it was not an anti-Australia protest but they were
against the opening of the Lynas Rare Earth Plant in Gebeng near Kuantan.
The waste by-products of the plant, which contain the radioactive element
thorium has stirred public protest.
The plant, which residents fear will produce highly toxic radioactive waste,
is slated to begin its trial run in September.
Nuclear Physicist: M'sia Will Gain Nothing But Radioactive Waste from
by Haider Yutim Last updated on Friday, 17 June 2011 09:40
Ahmad Bungsu Hamid Tuah is a nuclear physicist and committee member of
Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) Science Bureau as well as Public Complaints
Bureau. Malaysian Digest caught up with Ahmad Bungsu recently to get a
clearer picture of the controversial Lynas rare earth plant project in
Gebeng, Kuantan. This is first part of the interview.
Malaysian Digest: What is rare earth?
Ahmad Bungsu: Rare earth is the element very much associated with
radioactive materials. It's in the same group family of Uranium and it is an
unstable material. So, in atomic terms, it means it always disintegrates and
in the process of disintegration most of the rare earth will generate
Why is it called rare earth? Because it is not commonly found all over
the world like lime stones or granite. Its abundance is also where you can
find Uranium. When you find a lot of Uranium you are bound to find rare
earth because it is very much associated. For example, Thorium is also rare
earth element but Thorium can also be used for nuclear fuel which China and
America are embarking into now as this new fuel is more available than
Uranium but is cheaper.
So most of the nuclear powers in the world are looking very seriously
into Thorium as the future source of nuclear energy as fuel. So that is the
rare earth you cannot find them easily in the world. You cannot find them in
Malaysia or Sri Lanka or in Brunei or whatever, but in certain countries
only like Australia, America, and China.
mD: So those are the countries that we get rare earth from?
AB: At the moment, yes. It's being commercialized on a big scale in
* What are the other elements besides Thorium?
Thorium, Latium, Cerium, Californium, Polonium. There are actually a
lot and according to Nick (Nicholas) Curtis, the CEO of Lynas Corporation in
Australia. He claimed that there are 19 types of rare earth elements and
their applications are in various fields - high technology, supercomputer,
high performance jet, turbines and those sorts of things. including
satellite application. So the price of Thorium at the moment is comparable
to copper and it's very expensive. Now the price is RM400 to RM500 per
kilogram. That's why Australia is very crazy to extract this rare earth and
sell this product.
So you just imagine Australia on first phase of production per year is
11,000 tons of refined rare earth. Can you imagine 11,000 where the average
RM300 per kilogram? So how much money they can get out of that? 11,000 tons
per year multiply by RM300 per kilogram. this is the reason why they
seriously want to go into this and fighting over is just like the Americans
go to the far west and they wiped out the Red Indians and even poisoned the
rivers with cyanide to kill the Red Indians to get the gold. Maybe this is
the second phase - they are not hunting for gold anymore. They are hunting
for rare earth but they cannot process the rare earth in their country so
they come to Malaysia because, in Malaysia, they get free tax for twenty
However, I don't see any established regulations to cater the
guidelines. I don't see the guidelines yet written by DOE (Department of
Environment Malaysia) or AELB (Atomic Energy Licensing Board). If they have,
please publish it in the newspaper as a guideline for the whole people in
this country. But have they came out (with the guideline) before this
industry started in Malaysia? I heard they are trying to consult the
international atomic agency yet we have to see.
I do wonder about this international atomic agency; they can allow the
rare earth to be processed here, why not in California? International Atomic
Agency is basically American-based. Why should Australia come to Malaysia.
why don't they go to America? Because Australia claims Malaysia has better
infrastructure, but America has better infrastructure than Malaysia. why
you (Lynas) go to America where IAEA is there to protect you?
* What does this rare earth process into? What does it become?
These rare earths are actually various elements found in large
quantities in Australia. And recently it came out in Australian media that
they have found much bigger reserve of rare earth. They've even discovered
Uranium in granite rock in high concentration in a mining area. The
concentration is about 39 percent which is considered quite high. So I
wonder whether the next mining would be sent to Malaysia as well as a
dumping ground for their waste.
They produced so many of these rare earth like Latium, Cerium in
Malaysia, and what is left as waste product are their oxide and also all
sorts of traces of these elements will be left including Thorium plus all
the ammonia, sulfuric acid, nitric acid. So this waste product will not have
any market value is a waste that have a big liability to the future of this
country. This is because, for example, as a nuclear engineer I've learned
that these wastes should be kept in the desert area where there won't be any
rainfall. So what they do in America is they put these toxic and radioactive
wastes in a special container which can last for ages. This container is
also resistant to radiation so that if this container has been bombarded
with gamma ray or plutonium, the container must withstand and last for long.
They also put it (the waste container) in a cavern under the ground in
a very dry area where you don't get any rain. In the case of Malaysia, it is
very worrying as they will be dumping all this oxide in Gebeng itself.
Imagine now we have more rainfall than many years back because of the
climate change. This rainwater will wash all the acid and oxide into the
ground water and the plants will use the water where those radioactive will
be absorbed into the plants and it will go into the food cycle.
Concerning the product, in Gebeng they will refine the oxide into the
finished product from Thorium Oxide and process it into Thorium. Thorium,
for example, will be used to fuel a nuclear reactor in many years to come
and of course it's very expensive. Meanwhile, they will sell the other
materials to other countries. From my research I found out they already have
a contract with Japan to buy them (the materials. So what's going to happen
here is they'll bring all the rare earth to Malaysia and then they'll
process it here and throw all the dirt here.
So in this case I don't see how Malaysia would benefit from this
because what is left behind is the radioactive waste which would have a very
long-term effect of pollution to this country. But these people make money
and do not pay the taxes to this country for 12 years. And they claim that
they have provided job opportunities to Malaysians.? Well, maybe 300 to 400
I want to ask them: You are so caught up with this 400 job
opportunities, what about more than 1 million foreign workers here who are
'taking' all the money from this country? Is it not important? Do you feel
that other industries cannot cater for these 400 workers? I'm sure if the
project is cancelled they can make a petrol chemical plant because it's near
Kerteh and cater more workers. You are talking about workers. I don't see
what the benefits are for Malaysians as we only get the radioactive waste.
This radioactive waste has a devastating effect on the local community. Once
you start this business here, foreign tourists will hesitate to come to
Cherating because it will frighten them off. So what happens to those big
hotels mainly the owners? Are they happy to welcome rare earth industry in
Gebeng if they can see in the future that the tourists are not coming to
Also, the seafood there, in the long run, will be contaminated.
Imagine in the first year they are going to produce 11,000 tons of waste.
What about the following years or ten years? In ten or twenty years maybe a
million tons of oxide of this waste will be left in Gebeng. And who is going
to pay for its cleaning though there is no point in cleaning because where
we are going to send it as nobody is going to accept this rare earth? So I
don't understand why the government of this country so persistently wants to
start this business. What does the government get? They get nothing. The
only one who will enjoy the fruits of this rare earth plant is Lynas.
However, we are not sure whether they are really going to produce rare
earth or not. Are we sure? I'm not sure. Who is going to monitor the plant
every day? I'm not saying they would produce other materials but probably
they might produce other materials. they might produce Uranium.
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