Lynas claims deadline extended for PDF due to Covid-19 constraints

According to a source, ex-minister Khairy signed the extension.

Putrajaya has purportedly granted another extension to Lynas Rare Earths to build a permanent disposal facility (PDF), according to the Australian mining firm.

The announcement comes as the previous deadline is set to expire next week.

In February 2020, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) said the firm must construct the PDF in order not to violate the conditions of its three-year licence.

Lynas informed the Australian Securities and Exchange (ASX) yesterday of the new six-month extension to March 2, 2022.

The company said the Malaysian government decided to provide an extension because it recognised the constraints presented by the current Covid-19 situation.

“We continue to engage productively with the relevant government and regulatory authorities to process the approvals for the PDF,” it added.

Source claims KJ approved second extension

Meanwhile, a reliable source told Malaysiakini that former minister of science, technology and innovation minister Khairy Jamaluddin signed the extension some two weeks ago.

This was just before the Muhyiddin Yassin administration was toppled, forcing Khairy and other cabinet members to resign.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said Lynas filed the application for an extension in mid-July.

The source claimed the firm sought to extend the deadline to March 2, 2023 when its licence expires but Khairy disagreed.

According to the source, the ministry approved the extension because there was a change for the PDF building site and constraints due to the movement control order (MCO).

Lynas initially planned to build a PDF in Bukit Ketam – a forest reserve about 35km from Kuantan, Pahang. This was rejected by the Department of Environment (DOE) in April.

Lynas then shifted its focus to a new site located in the Gebeng Industrial Estate, which sits next to the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP).

When asked about the extension, an AELB spokesperson said that the conditions for Lynas remain unchanged.

“Until today, we are sticking to the previous decision (Sept 3 deadline). There has been no update from the board,” the spokesperson added.

Malaysiakini has contacted Khairy and Lynas on this latest development.

Concerns over residue

Activists and the local community have protested for years against Lynas’ operations, citing health concerns caused by the Water Leach Purification (WLP) residue.

Lynas has insisted that the waste is harmless. Even former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the mining firm’s refinery is not dangerous according to experts.

AELB had provided Lynas with a three-year extension for its operating licence, which is valid until March 23, based on four conditions.

This includes ending the production of radioactive residue in the future while the cracking and leaching process must be moved overseas.

Lynas is also required to begin the process of developing the PDF for storing WLP residue within the first year from the date of approval of the licence.

In a statement to Parliament on July 16 last year, Khairy said Lynas could lose its operating licence if it failed to meet the conditions.

After the EIA rejection of the company’s Bukit Ketam plant in April, DAP Bentong MP Wong Tack reminded Khairy about this.

However, AELB agreed to extend the deadline to construct the PDF to Sept 2, 2021.

By : LOW CHOON CHYUAN – MALAYSIAKINI

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