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The Malaysian Government has publicly slammed Lynas Corporation and issued it with a reprimand over actions it says have pre-empted the Government’s licensing approval.
The Government said by repeatedly projecting start dates for its Malaysian processing plant Lynas has “jumped the gun” on the approval process.
In June Lynas said its $200 million plant would be operational by the end of 2011.
It said the Government’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board would give the project the green light after the company met requirements from an International Atomic Energy Agency report.
But international trade and industry minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed told Malaysian Insider the company’s announcements were premature.
“They have no business to pre-empt the [AELB],” he said.
“No business at all to issue these kind of statements and we have reprimanded them.”
The minister also accused Lynas of failing to properly engage with the community around its Kuantan refinery.
He said the company had underestimated the community and “learnt their lesson”.
He said while Lynas had started to be more transparent over the past few months its efforts were “still not enough”.
The Malaysian Government says Lynas will not be allowed to begin operations or import rare earths to the country until it meets the IAEA recommendations.
The company says it is committed to meeting the regulations.
Some Kuantan residents are opposed to the Lynas operations because they say the plant will cause radiation pollution.
But the company has repeatedly confirmed to the Malaysian people and Government its operations pose no risks to the community.
Lynas says radioactive waste from the plant would be placed in reliable storage cells to avoid leaks, and the ore itself is no more dangerous than normal background radiation.
The minister’s comments come in the lead up to the country’s elections, and follow previous criticism by Kuantan MP Fusia Salleh that minister Mustapa was a “Lynas spokesman”.
In the Malaysian Insider interview the minister denied the claims and said he understood community concern over the issue.
But Salleh has previously faced criticism over Lynas as well, with allegations of fact distorting.
In October Lynas chairman Nicholas Curtis said there was a misleading public campaign against the company, which was creating unnecessary fear for “political purposes”.