the opposition had decided not to take part in the committee because the government was using the panel to try to quell public worries……. the government would allow the plant to go ahead regardless of the committee’s findings…..
Political and Construction Hurdles for Malaysia Rare Earths Plant NYT, By LIZ GOOCH and KEITH BRADSHER March 21, 2012 KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A controversial rare earth metal refinery in Malaysia encountered further obstacles this week, with the country’s political opposition refusing to participate in a parliamentary committee set up to investigate the safety of the plant and with hints that the refinery could face further construction delays.
The plant,which is being built by the Australian company Lynas, is one of two
giant projects intended to break China’s near-monopoly on the
production of rare earths; the other is in the California desert near
Death Valley. But the Malaysian project, on the outskirts of Kuantan,
one of the country’s largest cities, has become a lightning rod for
activists and residents concerned about possible radiation leaks…..
The refinery has received a temporary operating license from the
Malaysian government, but the project has already had a series of
delays and protests. Last month, demonstrations in Kuantan and at
least three other cities around the country, including Kuala Lumpur,
attracted thousands of protesters.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court on Tuesday directed Malaysia’s Atomic
Energy Licensing Board to provide details of the temporary license
that it gave Lynas. The court acted after a group of residents near
the refinery filed an application for a judicial review of the
license, said K. Shanmuga, one of the group’s lawyers.
Lynas originally planned to finish the factory by last September,
despite warnings by engineers that it would not be ready then. But the
company ran into delays and ended up announcing in the fall that the
project would not be finished until the second quarter of this year.
An engineer with a detailed knowledge of the project said Wednesday
that another delay had come up in recent days. Complex electronic
components that require a long time to manufacture were ordered late
and will not be ready for the first phase of the refinery’s
construction until November, said the engineer, who requested
anonymity to avoid retaliation by Lynas in the close-knit mineral
Parts of the refinery can be commissioned without the components,
including kilns for drying ore, the engineer said, but other sections
of the production process require the components.
Lynas denied that it was facing further construction delays, saying in
a statement that any parts arriving late this year would be for either
a spare parts inventory or a planned second phase that would double
the capacity of the refinery…..
Attempts by Lynas to reassure the public that the plant is safe have
failed to satisfy activists and opposition parties.
The Malaysian government announced Saturday that it would establish a
bipartisan parliamentary committee to investigate public concerns
about the safety of the plant. Critics assailed the move as a public
relations exercise in advance of elections widely expected to be held
later this year.
The committee was to include four members from the governing
coalition, three from the opposition and one independent member. But
on Tuesday, the opposition announced that it would boycott the panel.
Fuziah Salleh, the opposition member of Parliament for Kuantan who has
been a leader of the protest movement, said the opposition had decided not to take part in the committee because the government was using the panel to try to quell public worries. She contended that the government would allow the plant to go ahead regardless of the
James Chin, a political scientist and the director of the School of
Arts and Social Sciences at Monash University in Malaysia, said that
under the rules of Parliament, the government could still proceed with
the panel even if the opposition refused to take part.
Mr. Chin said that the safety of the plant could become a concern for
more voters but that for now it was mainly an issue for people who
lived near the refinery….. Ms. Fuziah said another rally was planned
for next month.