PETALING JAYA, August 14 — A radiation expert warned the government that reviving tin mining was more dangerous than allowing Lynas to continue rare earths processing here.
Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported Dr Looi Hoong Wah, a fellow of the Malaysian Academy of Medicine and a specialist in radiology and radiotherapy, as saying that tin tailings were nearly 50 times more radioactive than waste from Lynas Malaysia’s rare earths processing plant in Pahang. Tin tailings are waste produced from a mine ore.
Dr Looi Hoong Wah, a fellow of the Malaysian Academy of Medicine and a specialist in radiology and radiotherapy, told FMT the radioactivity from monazite in tin tailings was 284 becquerels per gramme, whereas the waste from Lynas gave out six becquerels per gramme, about the same level of radioactivity from phosphorus fertilisers used in agriculture.
Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources Xavier Jayakumar announced last May that the Cabinet had approved a plan to revive tin mining in order to exploit the high value of the product on today’s market.
When asked about Lynas’ proposal to use old mines in Pahang as a permanent disposal facility (PDF) for its waste, Looi reportedly said almost all of Malaysia’s former mines were strongly contaminated with heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, chromium, nickel, copper, thorium, and uranium.
He reportedly said it would be best for Lynas to conduct a survey on the chosen site and its environment before using it.
“It should then publish the result. Critics then cannot blame the company or the government for contaminating the areas around the future PDF site,” he said.