Lynas Corporationâ€™s rare earth plant in Gebeng has won recognition as a â€œstate-of-the-art facilityâ€ from an international expert who toured the plant on Tuesday.
Alastair Neill, the executive president of Dacha Strategic Metals, was among four international experts who spoke at a symposium on rare earths in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
The four later visited the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) where they were hosted by respresentatives from Lynas Malaysia including its managing director, Mashal Ahmad.
Neill, who has 20 years of industry experience to his name, told FMT that he has seen rare earth plants in China, Japan and France, and none of them have come close to the LAMPâ€™s â€œworld-class statusâ€.
â€œYou will not find any facility of this calibre in the world,â€ he stated. â€œThe LAMPâ€™s technology, with regards to environmental protection and monitoring, is unparalleled. And the attention to detail is very impressive.â€
â€œThe radiation expert in our group took a look at the plantâ€™s two monitoring equipment units and recognised them as one of the best in the market.â€
Asked if they had discussed the permanent disposal facility (PDF), Neill replied he understood that the facility wasnâ€™t a mandatory requirement but that Lynas was nevetheless prepared to construct it.
The identification of a permanent disposal facility was one of the five conditions attached to Lynasâ€™ temporary operating licence (TOL) which was approved by the Atomic Energy Licencing Board (AELB) in February.
AELB had assured the public that Lynas would only be issued the permit once it complied with the additional safety requirements. But the regulator said last month that a PDF would not be necessary if Lynas was able to recycle all its waste.
Neill, who had first visited the plant in its construction phase, also noted that the completed structure was of â€œtop qualityâ€.
His observation flies in the face of the harsh criticism from Lynasâ€™ detractors of the LAMPâ€™s alleged shoddy workmanship and poor safety standards.
â€œLynas has put in place a state-of-the-art facility with equipment of the highest quality,â€ Neill stated. â€œItâ€™s one thing to say youâ€™re safe and another to make sure you are. Lynas has done the latter.â€
While he was non-committal on whether the fears of the Malaysian public were unfounded, he stressed that the LAMP was not an operating nuclear plant and that such comparisons should not be made.
â€œThe success of the LAMP will not benefit Lynas alone but also open up potential for Malaysia to become a future hub for industry knowledge and rare earth-related industries,â€ Neill added.
â€œUniversiti Malaya Pahang already has a pro-active rare earth programme and when you merge education and a thriving industry, you will create a platform to expand economic growth.â€
Strong opposition from anti-Lynas groups has forced Lynas to delay firing up its plant despite already having received orders that will cover its first 10 years of production.
The LAMP is expected to supply 11,000 tonnes in its first year of operations and eventually rise to 22,000 tonnes.