An open letter to the CEO of Lynas Corp

comments     Tan Bun Teet     Published     Updated

Dear Ms Amanda Lacaze,

First of all, please  allow  me to welcome the news and congratulate you on your appointment as the new CEO of Lynas Corporation. Though this  congratulatory message may have been nine months late but it is nevertheless from the bottom of my heart.

Now let me introduce myself. I am Tan Bun Teet, the current chairperson of a residents’ movement called Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) in Kuantan,Malaysia.

By now the movement’s name SMSL should ring a bell or two for you though it would have been too familiar a name for your chairperson, Nick Curtis!

Yes, we are one of the residents’ groups here that has been campaigning  against the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) at Gebeng, Kuantan - since March 2011 to today. We have gone to the courts here to try to stay your Temporary Operating Licence (TOL). Further we have recently mounted an attempt to urge the Malaysian government NOT to issue the Full Operating Stage Licence (FOSL) to your company.

We have even been sued by your company in June 2012 for defamation. Lynas eventually dropped  the suit in July 2013 and we are now in the process of asking for compensation from your company for all the troubles your company had put us through.

I hope you have been  adequately and fully briefed and updated on all matters that happened over here in Malaysia. At the Lynas annual general meeting (AGM) in 2012, your company’s Nick Curtis told the shareholders ‘a lot of things’, but as I was present at the AGM, I found them to be ‘questionable’.

First allow me to make this point very  clearly that we are NOT against Rare Earth (RE) processing. We are fully aware that many of the green technologies require the use of RE in their designs and  construction and I, too, owned an iPhone which has RE elements in it.

If you have heard of the  arguments forwarded by  our opponents here that we are ‘hypocrites’ because we opposed Lynas on the one hand and using gadgets that contained RE, on the other hand, you would now be aware that it is indeed misguided and misplaced.

I do not know if you are being briefed thoroughly on the landscape of oppositions to Lamp by your staff. It is certainly not the case of being ‘at the wrong place and at the wrong time’ that resulted in what your company is currently going through!

Local communities not consulted

We started opposing the set up of Lamp because of the simple reason that Lynas had not consulted the local communities here before they began building it. I believe this would have been a prerequisite back in your home country.

Our visit to the Australian Parliament in July 2011 resulted in the then-foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, making a public statement that “he would expect all Australian corporations operating overseas to observe the same stringent and  high standards as they would in Australia”. This is obviously found lacking in putting up Lamp in Gebeng! Let me direct you to some of our arguments:

1. Lynas picked Malaysia as its destination for Lamp because of the relative economic advantage in terms of its construction and operational costs over all other factors. One, it has overlooked the fact that where it is sited the area is prone to flooding during the monsoon period, normally from October to January each year.

The entire Gebeng Industrial Park in which Lamp is situated was a reclaimed swamp land which the peat soil underneath it could start an underground fire during the dry season. Finally, the high water table ( about one meter below the surface) makes it unsuitable to even temporarily store the radioactive ‘residues’ that would be produced by Lamp. These are among the safety reasons why we oppose Lamp.

2. It is a fact that Lynas has acquired the official approval from the Malaysian regulatory authority, Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) for Lamp’s operations (Temporary Operating Licence -TOL)  for two years in early September 2012 .

One of  the conditions attached to the approval required Lynas to identify a ocation  for its Permanent Disposal Facility (PDF) within 10 months of its operations! It has been two full years since Lamp began operating and till this date it has yet to submit to AELB  the location for the PDF! Surprisingly, in Lynas’s latest quarterly financial report ending June 30, 2014, there was a claim that your company  had satisfied ALL the conditions under the TOL!

This is totally and indefensibly untrue and yet Lynas was still  awarded the FOSL for another two years by AELB!

3. AELB, by acting  contrarily to its own demands and the lack of intention by Lynas to find a location for the PDF on the pretext that you could recycle the radioactive WLP ‘residues’ thus  making the requirement unnecessary, we have no choice but to continue to oppose Lamp until an acceptable solution is found.

If the radioactive WLP ‘residues ‘ produced by Lamp are not managed accordingly in full compliance with the recommendations of  IAEA, it will burden the future generations of our people! Lynas has made a written undertaking to our government that it will remove all the WLP residues from our border if it failed to recycle them. It made the commitment with the full awareness that under the Basel Convention this is not at all possible.

Such empty promises will leave behind a toxic legacy here bearing the stigma of a socially irresponsible Australian corporation called Lynas.

I, with many of our local and foreign supporters intend to attend the Lynas AGM this November in Sydney. We look forward to meeting you and hearing your wisdom in bringing this protracted confrontation between your company and the local communities to an amicable ending.

In the meantime, we look forward to your support, willingness and openness to have more constructive engagements and transparent dialogues with us in wanting to do things in a new way and committed to resolve all the past and on-going problems Lynas is facing with SMSL and residents especially the Lamp. We also look forward to you leading the company to show the social and corporate responsibilities of Lynas to the communities here.


 

TAN BUN TEET is chairperson, Save Malaysia Stop Lynas.

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