We refer to a statement by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed that an independent panel will be established soon to conduct a study on the health and safety aspects of Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd’s rare earth oxides plant in Gebeng.
Following this, Lynas issued a statement that the company is confident that the one month review of its plant in Gebeng will reconfirm that it is safe and presents no hazard to the community or Lynas workers.
We are concerned that this upcoming study could be a sham to try to allay public concerns. Why not scrap the project now? Why do we need an environmentally unsafe operation? Is foreign investment justifiable when measured against public health and public acceptance? Surely, the health and safety of people and the environment must take precedence over commercial gains.
The public and communities in Kuantan and Gebeng have the right to know who the experts are who would be conducting the study. We need to ascertain the experts’ objectivity and competence on low level radiation and impacts. The findings of the study should also be made public so that it can be verified and open for public comments.
Our experience in handling the controversial rare earth plant in Bukit Merah, Perak showed that experts called by the government and the company assured that all safety measures have been taken. However experts engaged by the community found it unsafe and recorded high readings of radiation.
In Malaysia, the Atomic Energy Licensing Act 1984 Radiation Protection (Basic Safety Standards Regulations 1988 fixes the annual dose limit for exposure to radiation at 1 milliSievert (mSv) for the general public and 50 mSv for workers. It must be stressed that these permissible limits should not be taken to mean “safe limits”.
The public is already exposed to naturally occurring and ionizing radiation and do not need extra dose of radiation. It should be noted that there is no “safe” level of radiation as far as its effects to health are concerned. Whenever there is a dose of radiation there is a biological risk.
The government was proven erroneous in dealing with the radiation issue in Bukit Merah. And it is most unfortunate that the community had to and still suffers unnatural deaths and ailments due to the then government’s indifference and corporate apathy.
We do not want a repeat of Bukit Merah. Thus we urge the government to scrap the Lynas plant in Gebeng.
Press release, 23 April 2011