Reuters today said the Malaysian energy and environment minister Yeo Bee Yin has delayed a visit to Australia to discuss rare earth miner Lynas Corp’s storage of radioactive waste in Pahang.
The trip, initially scheduled for this week, has been postponed “pending further developments”, a ministry spokeswoman said today.
Minister Yeo was due to meet Western Australia state’s minister for mines Bill Johnston on Thursday.
They were to discuss the removal of the radioactive waste from Malaysia, one of the conditions agreed by both parties in the agreement to renew the license for the controversial project.
Lynas is the only significant rare earth producer outside China and it was to resume operations after the Pakatan Harapan government came into power, striking a better deal for it to continue its operations in Malaysia.
The Pakatan Harapan partners in government, the Parti Keadilan Rakyat and the Democratic Action Party were against the Lynas project during ex-PM Najib Razak’s reign.
Malaysian green activists find themselves aghast and in disbelief that their government, the Pakatan, went forward with the project.
Johnston reportedly said Western Australia will not accept the waste.
There has been much confusion after Dr Mahathir announced his decision to go on with the Lynas project. The Energy Minister commented that nothing has been done yet and that she will go to Australia to discuss the matter.
The company’s license expires in September this year.
Dr Mahathir gave his approval for the rare earth plant to carry on its activities in Gebeng, Pahang last month.
Earlier this year Dr Mahathir had already given his tacit agreement, in private, to allow Lynas to continue its operations. There was no way Dr Mahathir was ever going to cancel the license and lose yet another business opportunity worth US$800 million.
The damage was already done with the Lynas project in which Malaysia lost one sq km of land as the area is still not safe, which also led to losses in terms of areas meant for development, said Dr M.
He said the radiation effects triggered fear among the community, Malaysia does not want a repeat of this.
With Dr Mahathir agreeing to the Lynas project, it is perhaps a turning point in the Malaysian-Australian relations. Dr Mahathir is known for his not so-pro Aussie stance and everyone remembers the 1992 outburst from the then Australian PM Paul Keating.