Australia’s only rare-earth company, Lynas, has told The Echo that last week’s article on the Greens Party, entitled ‘One rainy night in Mullum,’ contained ‘factual inaccuracies and misleading statements.’
Rare-earth minerals are the raw materials used for the manufacture of renewable energy items such as wind turbines, hybrid car batteries, solar panels, circuit boards and magnets.
And while rare-earth min- erals are also used to manufacture parts for cruise missiles and iPhones, their extraction is known to be associated with highly toxic materials such as uranium and thorium.
Lynas’s executive vice- president of corporate affairs, Alan Jury, said that contrary to the statement that Lynas was forced to shift its operations to Malaysia owing to opposition from ‘all political parties’, Lynas possessed regulatory approvals to build its refining operations in Australia and received support from the major parties.
He said, ‘Lynas decided to locate its refining process in a Malaysian industrial park owing to access to the abundant supply of electricity, water, relevant technical expertise and chemical inputs for the refining process that were not readily or competitively available in the Western Australian desert.’
Mr Jury also said that senator Ludlam’s statement that Lynas’s rare earths are ‘radio-active sludge shipped in plastic bags’ was misleading.
‘The radioactivity in Lynas’s rare earths is so low that it is prevented, by transport regulations, from applying a radio-active placard to the load.
‘If every product that was radioactive required similar treatment, then bananas, stone benchtops and garden fertilisers would require similar signage.’
Regarding public opposition in Malaysia, Mr Jury said the company had been ‘active within the community,’ and cited various meetings with local community groups, NGOs and academics.
He maintains that the Malaysian plant poses no health risks and that natu- rally occurring radiation in the waste will be reduced to almost zero and made into roadfill, fertiliser and the like.
‘Waste that doesn’t get used ends up in temporary storage ponds next to the plant,’ he said. ‘These have leak detec- tors and are lined and raised. It’s not a simple “pond”.’
Anti-Lynas seats won in Malaysia
Yet ABC reported last year that candidates ‘running on an anti-Lynas platform won a raft of seats around the plant, in the May general election’.
Bloomberg listed Lynas as the worst performer this year among its index of 11 rare- earths producers and explorers and it lost more than $107 mil- lion last financial year. Lynas’s processing plant in Malaysia started producing late last year, according to Mr Jury.