What are rare earths?
Rare earth elements are found in many parts of the world. What’s rare is to find them in large, accessible quantities. Rare earths are often difficult to extract and a project can take many years to develop – sometimes decades. Rare earths are vital to efficient, green technology such as hybrid vehicles, wind power generation, low-energy lighting and energy efficient flat-screen displays.
What standards are being applied to the LAMP?
International standards are being applied to LAMP, and we have fully endorsed and applied these standards from the start. The LAMP meets rigorous health, safety and environmental regulations which are some of the highest in the world.
Why build a processing plant in Malaysia and not Australia?
Lynas came to Malaysia for economic reasons. Gebeng has a well-established, designated industrial park with access to good port facilities, high-grade chemicals, a well-educated and skilled workforce, reliable power and utility supplies and very good infrastructure. Lynas met all the regulations and approvals to build a processing plant in Australia, but chose Malaysia because it makes better business sense to be close to global customers.
Is the Lynas rare earth concentrate radioactive?
Rare earth elements are not radioactive themselves. The mineral concentrate contains low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material. Mineral concentrates with naturally occurring radioactive material are regularly transported around the world for processing. Because the mineral concentrate used by LAMP has such low levels of radiation, it is classified as safe, non toxic and non hazardous by all international standards.
What about the waste?
One of the LAMP residues contains very low levels of Thorium. Lynas is neither extracting nor concentrating the Thorium, so the low level of radiation remains the same – from raw material through transport, processing and waste.
Is LAMP the same as the rare earths plant in Bukit Merah?
The LAMP is completely different to the Bukit Merah rare earths plant. The Bukit Merah plant processed “monazite” from the waste of tin mines, which is very different to the rare earths we are processing. There are now much higher standards in place which mean Bukit Merah could never be repeated.
What about radiation?
Even though low-level radiation is part of daily life and all around us we understand the concern and have rigorous processes to limit any exposure. There is low-level radiation from sunlight, from appliances such as televisions, radios, mobile phones, computers and light globes and from basic medical procedures. Exposure to our rare earths poses no more risk than these everyday occurrences.
Is Lynas meeting the highest regulations and standards?
Lynas complies with Australian, International and Malaysian standards – and that’s the way it should be. It should also be known that many Malaysian standards are equivalent to, or exceed international standards.
What environmental protection will the LAMP facility have?
The LAMP is a simple chemical processing plant operating at atmospheric pressure. The plant meets rigorous regulations in water treatment, emissions and storage and handling of waste, which are some of the toughest in the world.
How will local soil and groundwater be protected?
We built the waste residue storage facility above ground, and lined it with high density plastic lining and a clay layer. Monitoring equipment has been installed to detect and mitigate the risk of any leaks. In the unlikely event of a spill of a substance like acid in the process areas, the spill will be contained within a raised concrete containment area, and then safely removed.
What about emissions to air?
Lynas handles material with very low levels of radiation. These materials are classified as safe, non toxic and non hazardous. There is no significant exposure or health risk from emissions to air. To demonstrate this, Lynas has installed specialised air monitoring equipment on site and in town.
How will you handle the waste?
Lynas stores and handles materials safely on site. This has been verified by independent, expert review. The review team were encouraged to find that Lynas is investigating safe ways to recycle and re-use its by-products so as to minimise waste from the plant.
Do Australian regulations prevent rare earths processing plants from being within 35 kilometres of residential areas or is that just a myth?
There is no such regulation in Australian law or even international law. The nearest town to Lynas’ Mount Weld mine is Laverton, which is 35 kilometres away. This distance has not been mandated and has nothing to do with regulations.
Would Lynas ever consider importing rare earths concentrate without a licence?
Lynas is a highly respected and law-abiding publicly listed company. It respects and complies with all Malaysian Government conditions, regulations and limitations. Lynas has no plans to import rare earths concentrate until a licence is granted. Lynas imports equipment and construction materials on a regular basis.
Did Lynas leave Terengganu for environmental reasons?
Lynas received approval from the Malaysian authorities – the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) and the Department of Environment – for its original proposed site in Terengganu. Lynas met all the environmental and regulatory requirements so environmental reasons were not behind the decision to leave Terengganu.
Are there any similarities between the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) and a nuclear plant?
The LAMP is a simple chemical processing plant and there is no comparison between it and a nuclear plant. Lynas’ processes and operations are not unusual in the chemical industry, and the facility is similar to other plants in the Gebeng industrial park.
How will Lynas protect the surrounding swampland and water table?
The site preparation work has been extensive. Two metres of top soil were removed and replenished. Piling and reinforcement of the construction exceeds requirements. The Residue Storage Facility is built above ground level, with high-density plastic lining and a clay layer. Monitoring equipment was installed to detect any risk of leakage and is monitored 24 hours a day.
I heard the LAMP might cause radioactive rain. Could that happen?
The LAMP will not cause radioactive rain. There is no significant exposure or health and safety risks from emissions. But to allay concerns, Lynas has installed European air monitoring equipment onsite and in town to measure and clearly demonstrate that the facility will cause no harm.
What measures are being taken to prevent the river from being polluted?
Thorium has a very low level of radiation and is extracted from processed water. The extraction method is a well-known and proven chemical process. Once extracted, thorium is contained in a specially designed Residue Storage Facility that meets all international standards for safe storage and handling.
Has Lynas carried out all the proper studies on radiation exposure?
Lynas included a radiation exposure study (for external and internal radiation exposure) in all its Radiation Impact Assessments, as per AELB and international requirements.
Will the Pahang tourism and fishing industries and small- and medium-sized businesses be affected by the Lynas operation?
A Radiological Impact Assessment has been carried out and submitted to all the regulating authorities. The assessment confirms that the LAMP will pose no radiological risk to the public or the environment. The assessment estimates exposures of 0.002mSv/year. To put that into perspective, international and Malaysian laws allow public exposure of 1.0 mSv/year. The LAMP will have around 500 times less exposure than what is considered safe by international standards, so there will be no risk.
Can radon and thoron easily travel long distances and cause health problems?
The International Atomic Energy Agency conducted an independent review of the LAMP’s assessed emissions to air, water and land. The review concluded that the LAMP does not present a public health exposure risk. It is important to note that radon and thoron are gases with very short half lives, and cannot travel thousands of miles and cause health problems. However, to address public concerns, Lynas has installed two Aerosol Monitoring Systems (AMS) onsite and in Kuantan to continuously monitor, measure and clearly demonstrate to the community that the facility will cause no harm.
What benefits does Lynas bring to Malaysia and Kuantan?
The new LAMP will bring substantial benefits that will be felt by all Malaysians and the entire Malaysian economy. The facility will create nearly 2,700 new jobs. The total value of contracts available to Malaysia is RM 1.2 billion, of which RM 513 million is set aside for locally based contractors in the Kuantan area. The capital investment to build the LAMP is also substantial at RM 2.3 billion. After the initial capital investment, operating expenditure will total RM 600 million every year for the life of the facility. The export revenue generated for Malaysia will be an additional RM 8 billion, which will filter right through the Malaysian economy and benefit all Malaysians.
Is thorium concentrated during the production process?
There is no concentration of thorium in the production process and Lynas neither extracts nor concentrates thorium content. The concentration of thorium remains the same, as does the non-hazardous and low-level radiation.
Does Lynas use Malaysian and international standards to classify by-products or does it use Chinese standards?
Lynas has always adhered to international and AELB standards in the handling and storage of residues. Only one of the Lynas residues contains a very low level of radiation at 6 Bq/g. This is well within acceptable international standards. In contrast, the residue from some Chinese facilities is 74 Bq/g. There is no comparison between the two.
Does Australia require waste to be returned to the mine?
There is no such law in Australia. There are many examples of mineral concentrates containing naturally occurring radioactive material that are transported across Australia and around the world. Waste residue is not required to be returned to the point of origin when it can be safely stored, reused or recycled onsite.
Will Lynas be managed by Malaysians?
Lynas Malaysia is staffed and managed by Malaysians. The team comprises Malaysian and international technical experts, including five staff members with specific experience in the rare earths industry.