Friday, March 11, 2011

Alarm over giant plant despite history of health hazards


KUANTAN, Mar 11: Concerned over the health hazards of rare earth refineries, PAS Youth has questioned the rationale behind the approval by the authorities for such a plant in Kuantan, whose construction is being undertaken by an Australian firm.

Lynas Corp is said to have been given the go-ahead to build a rare earth ore-processing plant, believed to be the first such plant outside China in nearly three decades.

The plant caters for a group of minerals used in production of high-technology products, ranging from mobile phones and televisions to energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs. 

PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Hasan Tantawi (left) has criticised a statement by the head of Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board, Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan, who claimed the project was approved after an inter-agency review indicated the imported ore and subsequent waste would have minimal radioactivity within the safety level. 
If indeed the processing of rare earth does not affect the health of the citizens, how come it is harvested in Mount Weld in Australia but processed in Perth? Why must it now be brought to Gebeng, Kuantan, 2,500 kilometres away?” asked Nasrudin.

Nasrudin recalled that a similar project had once been operated by Japanese company Mitsubishi Chemical in Perak during 1982-1987, but was aborted in 1992 following strong protests over long term hazardous effects on public health including cancer, leukemia, disability and death.

History of leukaemia, cancer 

Nasrudin said he had been informed that toxicologist Dr Jayabalan Tambyappa had expressed doubts over the term 'low' as claimed by the authorities who justified the plant's approval.

Dr Jayabalan was said to have treated leukaemia patients whose illnesses he and others had attributed to the old Mitsubishi Chemical refinery in Bukit Merah, Perak, which now remains one of Asia’s largest radioactive waste cleanup sites.

Nasrudin also warned that the project posed a high risk to health due to the proximity of the Gebeng Industrial Centre to residential areas.

“The toxic waste will be dumped into the river which will then pose radioactive dangers to nearby residents. If it were really safe as claimed, wouldn't Australia's vast desert land be sufficient for such a purpose?" he asked.

Meanwhile, a Canadian daily said the Malaysian government appeared to be more interested in the lucrative profit generated by the plant.

“Despite the potential hazards, the Malaysian government was eager for investment by Lynas, even offering a 12-year tax holiday. If rare earth prices stay at current lofty levels, the refinery will generate $1.7 billion a year in exports starting late next year, equal to nearly one per cent of the entire Malaysian economy,” wrote The Montreal Gazette in its report.

Ulasan: Sudah dapat kelulusan dari Jabatan Alam Sekitar? Jom kita lihat dan kaji laporan Environmental Impact Assessment mengenai kilang itu. Atau ada tangan-tangan tertentu di belakangnya? Eloklah rakyat melantik pakar bebas untuk menelitinya kerana kesihatan kita tidak ada tolok bandingnya.

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