Friday, April 20, 2012

Understanding the Lynas Rare Earth Plant

Q1: What is rare earth (RE) ?

Rare earth (RE) is just a metal, as ordinary as other metals like iron,
silver and gold. The difference between them is we don’t encounter RE in
daily life, e.g. you don’t wear RE bracelets, you don’t build the bridge
with RE. It’s precious, valuable and essential for many high-tech
industries.

Q2: Who is LYNAS ?
LYNAS is the owner of the RE Mine and Gebeng plant, incorporated and listed in Australia. LYNAS (M) Sdn. Bhd is wholly owned by LYNAS Inc.

Q3: Where does the RE come from ? What is it like ?
Like other metals, RE is found in ore ( rock ) in West Australia.
The ore is mined, cleaned and crushed into sand or powder form, before being
shipped to Kuantan. The journey is about 5000 km.

The size of a single grain of powder can be 100 times smaller than the
diameter of a strand of hair.

Q4: Why do they take the RE from Australia and process it here ?
The official statement said that Australia cannot provide high-skilled
manpower, and that Australia cannot supply enough water, acids and natural
gas to process RE.

Q5: What do we get in terms of income ?
Malaysia was offered 12 years tax break by LYNAS, which means they do not
pay us anything during the first 12 years of operation.

Eventually, all revenue generated here will probably be channeled back to
the LYNAS Inc. share holders in Australia, and not to LYNAS (M) Sdn. Bhd.

Q6: What do we get in terms of job opportunities ?
Only a total of 350 employees are needed, including expatriate, skilled and
unskilled workers. The number of employees in a mid-size supermarket is
greater than this.

Q7: What do we get in terms of new world-class technology ?
Malaysia is not a traditional, major RE-producing county.
Transferring RE processing knowledge to Malaysia does not considerably
benefit the country and its people.

Q8: So, what actually do we get ?
Save the “ Jobs created, new technology and sales revenue of chemicals,
water and natural gas ”, strictly speaking, in the first 12 years – Nothing ! Except large quantities of waste. To be more precise, 500 cubic meters / hour of waste water, 100,000 cubic meters/hour of waste gas and 280,000 tonnes / year of solid waste.

Q9: Is RE dangerous ?
Most RE metals are harmless, but in natural ore RE is normally mixed with
the radioactive substances. During the separation process, valuable RE
is extracted and exported to US, Europe and Japan, leaving behind harmful
substances in Kuantan.

Q10: How dangerous is it ?
The radioactive substances release radiation and two major toxic materials –
radon gas and lead. Radon is a colorless, odorless toxic gas. When it
gets into the human body through inhalation, it can damage cells and cause
cancer. As for lead, many years ago petrol gas been changed from leaded
to unleaded, as we didn’t want lead to be released to the air through our
car exhaust. Lead can harm the nervous system, and cause brain and blood
diseases. In short, two key hazards can be found in Gebeng RE plant -
the Radiation and the Toxic Materials.

Q11: Where and when can the radiation, radon and lead be found ?
The RE raw material (in powder or sand form ) arrives at the Kuantan port,
then gets transported to Gebeng by truck, where it is unloaded,
transferred and processed. Waste gas from chimneys, the waste water
disposed into the Balok River, the solid wastes that are stored in Gebeng
- possibly in all of the above we can find the radioactive substances,
which can emit radiation, radon and lead, wherever and whenever they are
present.

Q12: Mr. A lives in Balok, 3km from Gebeng. Mr. B lives in Kuantan, 30km
from Gebeng. Mr. C lives in KL, 300km from Gebeng. Can the radioactive
materials endanger them ?

In short, the answer is NO for all of them if they stay more than 100 metres
away from radioactive materials. But, the answer is YES for all three if
they consumed these harmful substances, even if they stay hundreds of
kilometres away. WHY ? The radiation emitted in Gebeng doesn’t travel
long distance to harm us, hence if you stand a short distance away from the
materials without consuming it, all you will get is a slight Radiation.

Radon gas and lead in general do not affect our body externally, as we are
protected by our skin. However, if these radioactive materials contaminate the solid waste, waste water and waste gas, they will be released to the atmosphere, water streams and eventually the food chain. Once the radioactive materials enter the human body via inhalation, ingestion and wound penetration, the radiation, radon and lead will be released inside the body and these can cause very serious consequences.

Q13: Why did they say that it is safe ? Why did they say that the
radioactivity is low? Who should I listen to ?
You decide who you should listen to ! It’s your life, it’s your family,
it’s your home. See above to understand why they said the radioactivity
is low. The media, authorities and LYNAS have failed to report the
consequences of consuming radioactive materials

The questions were answered by Dr. Lee Chee Hong, Chemical Engineering
Expert on Metals.

Extracted from http://www.loyarburok.com
Tags: Dr. Lee Chee Hong, Chemical Engineering Expert on Metals, Lynas, Rare Earth Plant, RE, Australia, Lynas (M) Sdn Bhd, Lynas Inc, Ore, Radon, Radiation, Toxic Materials, RE Raw Material, Kuantan, Gebeng

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