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MP SPEAKS | Dear Lynas employees, I read the news that 130 of you had protested at Parliament to call for the government to save your jobs. I would like to apologize that I was not there to receive your memorandum as I am now at Katowice, Poland, attending United Nation Climate Change Conference of the Parties, to speak on behalf of Malaysia in the global movement of fighting climate change and its impact.

I didn’t expect you to be in Parliament since it was Tuesday and a working day in Kuantan. If I knew you were coming to hand over the memorandum, I would have arranged the ministry officers to receive you so that you wouldn’t have to stand under the sun.

Trust me, I understand your anxiety of losing jobs. I grew up in an estate where my mother was a clerk and I know full well how it feels like of struggling to make ends meet – food, shelter, education, clothes, for the family.

On the ministry’s decision announced last week, I would like to clarify with you the following:

There is continuous accumulation of the two primary residues at the Lynas Advanced Materials Plan (LAMP) site namely, Water Leached Purification Residue (WLP) totalling 451,564 metric tonnes and Neutralization Underflow Residue (NUF) totalling 1.113 million metric tonnes. (I think you would have seen the “hills” of residue accumulated at LAMP.)

As of now, there is no viable near-term solution to manage the accumulated residue, which is stored at the open landfill temporary site.

The risks to the surrounding communities and environment increase with the increasing amount of accumulated residue as it is exposed to the threat of natural disasters such as major flooding.

Your employer has twice made the commitment to the government of Malaysia to remove waste from Malaysia. If you have not seen this, attached are the letters of undertaking written by Lynas Corporation Ltd, Australia (Lynas Australia) and Lynas Malaysia Sdn. Bhd (Lynas Malaysia) dated February 23, 2012, and March 6, 2012, respectively, indicating their commitment to removing LAMP residue from Malaysia, if necessary. Considering the risk of the residue accumulation, it is now “necessary” to do that.

What’s the cost for Lynas to remove the waste out from Malaysia? Australian Financial Review reported the following:

“CLSA analyst Dylan Kelly said in a note to clients that the cost of transporting the waste back to Australia was estimated to be US$60 million, but said insurance would cover about US$46 million of that. The balance of about US$14 million would represent about 10 percent of the earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of US$129 million that Lynas recorded in 2017-18.

I really hope you can put things into perspective according to these figures - it only takes 10 percent of Lynas earnings of one year to send out waste that has been accumulated in Malaysia for six years.

Even after the ministry sets the requirement of WLP waste removal from Malaysia, brokers like UBS and CLSA still kept their recommendations “buy” on Lynas stock. UBS even set US$3.10 price target on the stock, which is nearly double the current share price."

What these show you is that the whole drama the Lynas management is trying to stage – the myriad of paid advertorials in all major newspapers, the press conferences that paint a bad picture of the ministry and so on, eventually boils down to this: to protect the company by not honouring the commitment made. As a minister, my job on the other hand, is to protect the public interest and people of Malaysia.

I would like you to know that I did not ask more than what your employer had committed back in 2012. Therefore, it is my hope that Lynas will honour their words and start the process of shipping out WLP residues from Malaysia.

I hope this decision also sends a message to the next generation that this generation of Malaysians is doing the best we can to leave the country a better place for them to live in.

YEO BEE YIN is Bakri MP, and Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change minister.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.