Australian mining company Lynas Corp in response to questions from Metal Pages refuted many of the allegations that its rare earth processing facility in Gebeng Malaysia is unsafe and poorly designed.
The company, which has just been awarded a temporary two year licence to operate the controversial plant said it has followed best practices and adhered to international standards throughout the project.
Firstly, a company spokesman dismissed a recent story in The New York Times claiming that AkzoNobel had walked away from the Lynas project on the grounds that it was concerned over the plant’s design as being incorrect. “AkzoNobel is a chemical company and manufacturer of resin. It does not apply the resin lining, nor certify the work.” He explained that Lynas made a commercial decision to change the contract services for integrated resin sourcing, application and certification of the concrete leaching tanks to Trepax Innovation Thailand in 2011. “The new contractor is applying a vinylester resin to meet international industry standard Derakane 411 from the worldwide leader in vinylester resins (Ashland),” he said.
Secondly, he refuted the claim that the plant is built on unsuitable ground very near the water table and is environmentally unsound. He said it is located in the Gebeng Industrial Estate, which is designated as a specialist chemical and petrochemical industrial zone. “It already houses a number of multinational companies including BP Chemicals, Petronas and BASF,” he said.
He also cited a report published in June by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which stated that there is a negligible risk of surface water contamination as all liquids will be treated for harmful contaminants before discharge. The Agency was also satisfied that extensive geo-technical analysis and modelling had been carried out to ensure safety.
A number of statements from the IAEA were highlighted:
“Exposure of members of the public as a result of the contamination of surface water bodies is expected to be negligible, since all liquid effluent will be treated before discharge to remove any harmful contaminants.”
“The design of these embankments has included extensive geo-technical analysis and modelling to ensure acceptable factors of safety.”
“Stormwater management also takes into consideration the very unlikely reoccurrence of some very high rainfall events recorded in the past.”
The spokesman explained that the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board has also signed the plant off as being safe following a “thorough and extensive review.” He pointed out that the AELB has the right to appoint a third party to insure the plant is fully compliant with regulations.
“The Malaysian regulatory authorities have put in place a comprehensive process to monitor and evaluate Lynas’ compliance with the highest international standards and Lynas’ responsibility to operate the plant in a safe and sustainable manner,” he said. “Lynas maintains a deep commitment to the communities in which it operates as well as ongoing communication with interested parties to reinforce the facts about the safety of the LAMP.”
Lynas also says that the plant’s design is not radical or experimental and is based on established practices applied by other minerals extraction and processing companies involved in similar by-product families.
Nonetheless, these reassurances have not satisfied the protesters who point to what they believe are numerous defects in the design. Also, they will seek to make the Lynas plant an election issue, which means that Lynas’ project will remain shrouded in political uncertainty. Indeed, the elections may prove to be another test for the company, which can expect to be on the receiving end of plenty more negative publicity.
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