The Australian Greens have expressed grave concerns over the Malaysian Government's approval for a new rare earth refinery in Pahang.
West Australian Senator Scott Ludlam said many local residents, environment groups and other parties were still deeply troubled by the proposed refinery and the process by which it has been established.
"In early January the Malaysian press was reporting severe restrictions on the public's ability to access information about the proposed plant. After almost a year of protests from locals and environmentalists forced Lynas to revise plans, the Australian company and Malaysian authorities were still reticent to reveal all. Why?" said Senator Ludlam.
Greens WA MLC Robin Chapple said rare earth mining and refining had caused controversy in China - the world's leading source of the minerals.
"One of the major reasons China has reduced its rare earth output and exports since 2009 was the government and public concern that mining and refining operations were causing excessive contamination to surrounding areas."
"The original proposal was to process as well as mine in Mount Weld, Western Australia, and to export the refined rare earth. We are concerned that thousands of tonnes of this unprocessed material containing radioactive thorium will be transported through Fremantle in road trains, in the same bags and using the same method employed for the lead exports by Magellan."
"We still believe that the material should be processed at Mt Weld and the toxic legacy placed back in the ground from where it came from rather than be left in piles on swampland in Malaysia," said Mr Chapple.
Senator Ludlam said public pressure had caused changes from the Malaysian authorities and the company, but serious concerns remained.
"The original plan looked like a cowboy job - raising a lot of questions. Protests by residents and NGOs since early last year saw a march on Malaysia's parliament and a demonstration at the Australian High Commission. Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency made a series of recommendations to reduce risks posed by the plan, including a better long-term waste management plan, leading the government to impose additional safety standards - but there has been a lack of transparency."
"When Malaysia's Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry announced Lynas had applied for a temporary licence, the Ministry stated it would display the application documents for public feedback before reaching their decision. Unreasonable restrictions were placed on public viewing of the documents. It was reported only one person was allowed to view the 300+ page document at a time for a maximum of one hour. If the public could view the document for a 14 day period, in an office open seven hours a day, but only one person at a time for a maximum of one hour, there was essentially a smoke and mirrors consultation process," said Senator Ludlam.
Media Contact: Giovanni Torre - 0417 174 302