KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — The High Court here heard today that there is no need to appeal against the nuclear regulator’s approval of Lynas’ provisional licence as the decision was fundamentally illegal.
Lawyer K. Shanmuga, representing 10 Pahang residents who have challenged the Atomic Energy Licensing Board’s (AELB) decision, said this was because an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study had not been prepared prior to the approval.
The need for a detailed EIA before such an approval was given to the Australian miner’s rare earths plant is clearly stated in the Environmental Quality Act 1974, a fact confirmed by the Department of Environment (DoE) on June 20, 2011, he said.
“There’s no dispute Lynas does not have a detailed EIA so we are saying the entire approval is illegal and therefore you don’t need to appeal.
“You can come for judicial appeal and the court must quash the approval,” he told reporters after making his submission to judge Datuk Rohana Yusuf in chambers.
The Pahang residents filed a suit against the AELB and two others on February 17 alleging that the radiation watchdog had issued Lynas Corp a temporary operating licence (TOL) for its RM2.5 billion plant in return for a slice of the firm’s revenue.
All 10 residents live within 3km to 18km of the controversial plant in Gebeng, near Kuantan, which has stoked fears of radiation pollution.
The suit seeks a court order to cancel the AELB’s approval of the TOL on January 30.
Also named were the DoE’s director-general of environmental quality and Lynas’ local subsidiary Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers had earlier raised a preliminary objection on the grounds that the residents should first exhaust other avenues of recourse, including appealing to the science, innovation and technology minister.
The ministry, led by Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili, overseas AELB’s operations.
The judge fixed the next open court hearing for April 4.
She also directed AELB to file an affidavit explaining what Lynas will be allowed to do under the TOL as information on the provisional licence could only be gleaned from press statements and the media at this point.
Earlier this month, Lynas said it will fire up its refinery by the second quarter of the year.
The Sydney-based miner is looking to break China’s 90 per cent chokehold on the supply of rare earth metals needed to manufacture high-tech products such as smartphones, energy-efficient light bulbs and hybrid cars.
Lynas expects to generate some RM8 billion annually from its operations here.
The government last week announced it would form a nine-man Parliamentary Select Committee to look into the Lynas issue, which would hear “scientific views based on fact” from all parties.