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Lynas Rare Earths Facility Malaysia (page 2)

Dec 14 2013: Lynas engineer drowns in pond at plant KUANTAN: An engineer of the Lynas rare earth plant drowned Friday in a pond at the plant in the Gebeng industrial area here, police said. Kuantan deputy OCPD Supt Abdul Aziz Ahmad said Mohamad Fadzli Mohamad Rafdzi, 33, is believed to have slipped and fallen into the pond at about 9am. A colleague, Sharizal Samsudin, 40, lodged a police report at the Gebeng police station, he said. Abdul Aziz said the police and firemen rushed to the plant and rescuers found Mohamad Fadzli's body in the pond at 2.40pm and sent it to the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital in Kuantan. Police did not suspect any foul play in the incident, he said.

Built on swamp country in land inundated by Monsoons.

Dec 8 2013: We heard from a reliable source that six of Lynas' Safety Officers quit on the spot last week. Apparently they have repeatedly reported their concerns of the plant defects - structural and equipment problems - to the management but no action was taken by Lynas. They also felt compromised when they could not understand the instruction manuals of the equipment and parts bought from China because they were written in Chinese. Lynas has not have them translated into English or Malay. Most of Lynas' staff are Malays as Chinese in Malaysia have largely refused to work for the company either because they are better informed of the risks or that they are under family and peer pressure not to work there. It has been raining all day today... I loath to think of the RSFs and the waste water discharge area and its diversion canal at the LAMP. Worse, I saw many locals fishing in the flooded peat swamp near Lynas!

Lynas Holding Dams Dec 5 13 2013 - before main flood deluge:

Worst case is as follows.

a) A flooded RSF was neither discussed in the risk assessment nor in the EIA.

b) If the liquid reaches the top level of the RSF "overtopping of the dam" will occur, that means that - water flows over the dam top, - the top material of the dam is washed away with the water, - further weakening of the dam occurs, water and material loss increases and flow rates increase.

c) In most cases in the past overtopping occurred on limited portions of the dam, so that the outflow occurs mainly in one direction.

d) The sludges that were last placed into the RSF can leave the RSF due to the high liquid flow rates. The consolidated "older" emplaced material will likely remain inside.

e) As the whole area around is more or less saturated with liquids from the heavy rainfall the liquid leaving the dam area spreads over a large area.

f) WLP sludge will sediment wherever the spreaded liquid reaches less turbulent flow characteristics.

g) Remediation will have to remove the upper 30 to 50 cm of sandy soil contaminated with sedimented WLP in the whole area affected from outflow, yielding large masses to be disposed.

See http://www.wise-uranium.org/mdaf.html for a complete list of dam failures, search this page for the word "rain" and you'll find lots of examples for overtopping.

See http://www.wise-uranium.org/stk.html?src=stkd01e&show=m for an animation of overtopped dams, especially slides 20 and 21.

Dec 7 2013: AELB No Risk Of Radioactive Leaks At Lynas From Kuantan Floods

"On Thursday, state news agency Bernama reported that over 38,000 people in Pahang have been evacuated from their homes due to severe flooding caused by heavy rain since last Sunday. On Wednesday, Bernama reported that Kuantan was almost paralysed, with power and water supply cut off in most parts of the state capital, with the town and its surrounding areas recording flood levels of between one to two metres."

Kuantan floods December 2013 - Image Source: Rare Earth Plant In Kuantan Not Flooded Lynas Says

I just saw in the Chinese newspaper the Managing Director of Lynas Malaysia proudly announced that the plant is operating as usual. He failed to explain how Lynas could dispose of its waste water when its draining canals are full and overflowing.... We took the photos BEFORE the real massive deluge which lasted for at least 12 hours, flooding a large part of greater Kuantan including the Lynas plant vicinity. Kuantan is still recovering from the flash flood. Massive volumes of rainwater bucketed down for 4 days! Worst ever flood for decades if not the worst - the government has NOT made any statement. Some MPs even joked about it because most people here voted against the Government....This country is terrible! The fire brigade did nothing, the traffic police was nowhere to be seen and motorists were not informed of floods on what road, etc... People were saved and rescued by their friends, neighbours and passers by.


April 2013: White smoke billowing out during testing of Lynas kiln. Apparently the gas treatment plant at this time had a failed gas filter. Gas emissions alternated between dark and white smokes every 10 minutes. We learnt later that Lynas let the kiln finish its job despite the failed gas filter.

February 2013: Acid fumes coming out from Lynas' acid mixer.

The LAMP is not in full-scale production due to many technical hitches. The gas treatment plant was not working properly and eventually it failed in early February. Gas data collected from an insider showed fluctuating readings. The Government authorities were informed but they took no action. A worker was seriously injured and he was sent away for treatment in Australia. Engineers working for other plants said there has been a sudden influx of ex Lynas engineers or current Lynas engineers looking for jobs to get out of Lynas despite attractive pay packets. Locals heard that the acid supplier located next to the LAMP is facing financial problems and that its welding work has been corroding away. Malaysians are in the thick of the country's biggest ever election campaign with the opposition coalition gearing up for a tough battle. Many people are hoping for a change of government. The government was believed to have issued citizenship to migrant workers to get them to vote for the ruling parties in the coming election.

January 28 2013: Summary Of Criticial Assessment of LAMP Plant Lynas by Oko Institut (Germany)

January 28 2013: Complete Critical Assessment of LAMP Plant Lynas by Oko Institut (Germany)

January 28 2013: Rare earth refining in Malaysia without coherent waste management concept (Press Release)

Rare Earth Refining In Malaysia Without Coherent Waste Management Concept (Press Release)

The facility for refining Australian ore concentrate rich in rare earth metals of Lynas Corporation in Malaysia has several deficiencies concerning the operational environmental impacts. The environment is affected by acidic substances as well as from dust particles, which are emitted into the air in substantially larger concentrations than would be state-of-the-art in off-gas treatment in Europe. The storage of radioactive and toxic wastes on site does not prevent leachate from leaving the facility and entering ground and groundwater. For the long-term disposal of wastes under acceptable conditions concerning radiation safety a sustainable concept is still missing. These are the results of a study of Oeko-Institute on behalf of the Malaysian NGO SMSL.

In its facility in Kuantan/Malaysia Lynas refines ore concentrate for precious rare earth metals. These strategic metals are applied for example to produce catalysts, Nickel metal hydride batteries, permanent magnets. A number of emerging key- and future-technologies depends from the supply of these rare earths. The ore concentrate to be refined in Malaysia additionally contains toxic and radioactive constituents such as Thorium. The NGO commissioned Oeko-Institute to check whether the processing of the ore leads to hazardous emissions from the plant or will remain as dangerous waste in Malaysia.

Storage of wastes insufficient

The storage of wastes, that are generated in the refining process, shall be stored in designated facilities on the site, separately for three waste categories. According to chemist and nuclear waste expert Gerhard Schmidt, there will be problems with the pre-drying of wastes that is of a high Thorium content. “Especially in the wet and long monsoon season from September to January, this emplacement process doesn’t work”, says Schmidt. “The operator has not demonstrated how this problem can be resolved without increasing the radiation doses for workers”.

Additionally the storages are only isolated with a one-millimeter thick plastic layer and a 30 cm thick clay layer. This is insufficient to reliably enclose the several meters high and wet waste masses. “For the long-term management of these wastes Lynas has urgently to achieve a solution”, claims Gerhard Schmidt, and adds: “in no case those wastes should be marketed or used as construction material, as currently proposed by the operator (Lynas) and the regulator (AELB/MOSTI). According to our calculations this would mean to pose high radioactive doses to the public via direct radiation”.

Mass balance for toxic constituents incomplete

One of the most serious abnormalities is that in the documents relevant data is missing, which prevents reliably accounting for all toxic materials introduced”, says project manager Gerhard Schmidt. “So it is not stated which and to what amount toxic by-products, besides Thorium, are present in the ore concentrate. Also in the emissions of the facility via wastewater only those constituents are accounted for that are explicitly listed in Malaysian water regulation, but not all emitted substances.” The salt content of the wastewater is as high that it is comparable to seawater. This is discharged without any removal into the river Sungai Balok.

Scientists question the issued licenses

The scientists at Oeko-Institute evaluate the detected deficiencies as very serious. Those deficiencies should have been already detected in the licensing process, when the application documents were being checked. However the operator received a construction license in 2008 and a temporary operating license in 2012.

Especially for the safe long-term disposal of the radioactive wastes a suitable site that meets internationally accepted safety criteria has to be selected urgently. A consensus has to be reached with the affected stakeholders, such as the local public and their representatives. “If it further remains open how to manage those wastes in a long-term sustainable manner, a future legacy associated with unacceptable environmental and health risks is generated”, considers Schmidt. “The liability to prevent those risks and to remove the material is so shifted to future generations, which is not acceptable.”

Strategic role of rare earths

Rare earths are important metals that are used in future technologies such as efficient electro motors, lighting and catalysts. In its study from 2011 "Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling" Oeko-Institute showed that no relevant recycling of these metals is performed so far. Albeit recent positive developments in this direction: satisfying the prognosticated global requires the extension of the worldwide primary production. For many years rare earth metals were exclusively mined and refined in the People’s Republic of China. By pointing to their own needs, China finally followed a restrictive export policy. Additionally, the mining and refining of rare earths there is associated with high environmental impacts. To establish additional primary production of rare earths outside China therefore makes sense. However, high environmental standards have, of course, to be met. But this is not the case in one of the first new facilities to be operated outside China, as this study of Oeko-Institute on the Lynas plant demonstrates.


The mouth of the Balok River Pahang, Malaysia. Do people drink from the Balok River? How many Malaysians eat seafood from this region and will this seafood suffer from the impacts of a poorly sited rare earths facility and associated pollution released into the Balok River? What happens if rare earth facility floods in heavy rains?

Swamps serves as bio-filters or sponge absorbing most metals, due to the presence of high organic carbon. In fact, many mining operations create swamps to remove metallic contaminants from their waste water rendering them to be safe for discharge. But such "bio-filters" are harvested at regular intervals and burnt and the residues disposed off properly. The question that begs to be answered, what will be Lynas strategy after the organic "carbon" in the Balok swamp has absorbed all the pollutants dissolved in the waste water discharged into the Sungai Balok. This must be addressed; otherwise The Balok Swamp will be a cesspool of all the pollutants discharged by LAMP. The whole bio-ecology will be destroyed. At the moment, Malaysians are not well focused on the value of swamps. In fact many view them as eye sores and breeding grounds for mosquitoes etc. But awareness of the value of these eco-habits will increase as they are very necessary for the survival of much marine life and part of our food chain. There is a practical problem to harvest the Balok Swamp in comparison of planted water reeds and weeds to act as bio-filters. Therefore it is likely Lynas is planning to turn the Balok Swamp into a cesspool of radioactive and other toxic chemical wastes. Lynas must be made to address this issue. It is suprising that AELB and DOE have granted the TOL without Lynas disclosing details for this. At least, this is not in the public dormain, despite of AELB claim to public transparency.

The Swamp is a natural habitat of much swamp life including fish, prawns and crabs. They will be contaminated rendering them no longer fit for human consumption. Much of the pollutants from LAMP are radioactive namely Thorium, Uranium and most of the Rare Earths esp Cerium. Annual waste water discharge could contain from 5,500 to 9,900 Tonnes of REO; 54.4 tonnes of Thorium Oxide and 1.02 tonnes of Uranium Oxide. Over the minelife (total years of operation) the total such pollutants could be 128,000 to 231,000 tonnes of REO; 1.300 tonnes Thorium Oxide and 23.8 tonnes of Uranium Oxide. Potentially, with such large amounts of radioactive contaminants, Lynas must not be allowed to proceed.

LAMP, according to Lynas, is going to consume 0.5 million tonnes of chemicals annually. Lynas has never presented mass balances for such chemicals either. I suspect much will report in the waste water discharge as well. Lynas could neutralize the acids but must remove the toxic material as well especially the phosorphurus and organics. Otherwise, these will contribute to the pollution of the Balok Swamp as well. Phosphorus will result in algae blooms.

DOE must be made answerable where it did not object to such issues.

These people understand understand the risks.

Pantai Balok (Balok Beach will be at risk). Tourism industry could suffer consequences. International wind surfing reputation of Malaysia also at risk.

Rough map of Balok River Catchment, Pahang Malaysia.

December 2012 Flooding

December 24 2012: Site already almost at storage capacity

December 24 2012: Sediment laden water already leaving site

December 24 2012: How much spare capacity does this site have in terms of drainage?

Drainage almost at full capacity already.

Culverts already stretched to capacity.


December 2012: Balok River receiving polluted water plume from Lynas site.

December 2012: Balok River receiving polluted water plume from Lynas site.

Sediment laden polluted water already leaving site.

That's flood water covering site. Poor site location - built on swamp.

Site flooding

Swollen Balok River

January 2012

January 2012: Retention dams already gorged with monsoon water. These dams are supposed to settle out numerous toxins once the plant is in operation. Not much freeboard. How much more rain is required for the dams to overtop their walls?

January 2012. Retained water already leaching into carpark.

Lynas site early 2011. Site is approximately 200 hectares in size.

Google Earth image of Lynas site 13 June 2007: Note drainage lines in swampy terrain

Google Earth image of Lynas site 28 February 2011:

The Lynas site can be seen far above the earth - red outline in this Google Earth image.

Photo taken early December 2011, after a couple of days of rain just outside of the Lynas plant - the flooded areas are discharge drains of the plant. The solid waste retention ponds which Lynas said are safe semi-permanent waste disposal units for its radioactive waste, are lined only with 1.6mm HDPE plastic sheet on top of a layer of so-called impermeable soil. Most of the contractors had no idea they were building a rare earth plant initially....! The monsoon has only just started.

December 2011: This is the main drain for Lynas waste water - which flooded recently after only 2 days of rain.

December 2011: The flooded waterways where Lynas will be discharging its waste water.

February 2012 Construction Shots of Lynas Site Gebang, Malaysia. Still Much Work To Be Completed