How Rare Earth miner Lynas became a political
football in Malaysia
Malaysian language here
In November 2012, Malaysian
opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim passed a handwritten note to Australia's Foreign
Minister Bob Carr asking for help in the Malaysian general elections due in
Bob Carr responded: "Well the Malaysian elections are a matter for the Malaysian
people. It's very hard for Australia to do anything about how they're run, as
hard as it would be for Malaysia or another government to have a say in how
Australian elections are run. We're not the election authority for Malaysia."
The official Australian Government
position on the Malaysian election is that Australia cannot interfere in the
politics of another country. However, one of Australia's minor political
parties, The Greens, are now taking an active role in the politics of another
country by supporting the "Stop Lynas" campaign to halt the operations of
Australian rare earth miner Lynas Corporation LYC:ASX
Background - who is Lynas & what do they do?
Lynas Corporation is an Australian
rare earth miner, with it's mine located in Mt Weld, Western Australia and it's
processing plant, called Lynas Advanced Minerals Plant (LAMP), is suitably
located in the heavy industrial area of Gebeng in Malaysia.
According to The Earth Institute of
Columbia University: "Life in the 21st century wouldn’t be the same without rare
earth metals. Cell phones, iPads, laptops, televisions, hybrid cars, wind
turbines, solar cells and many more products depend on rare earth metals to
function. Will there be enough for us to continue our high-tech lifestyle and
transition to a renewable energy economy?"
Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP)
Prof Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz said "Malaysia was well positioned to become a
rare earth hub because the country has 0.03% of the world’s rare earth reserves
and, with Lynas providing the rare earth feedstock, can attract downstream
industries to locate their factories here. ... Through Lynas, Malaysia can meet up to 20% of the global demand."
Lynas will account for approximately
1% of the entire GDP of Malaysia according to the International Islamic
Is the real issue the environment or political
change in Malaysia?
"Environmental group Himpunan Hijau
says “bringing down the regime” will be its focus next year as it started this
morning a protest drive convoy from Gombak here to Gebeng, Pahang to mark its
last public offensive of the year against the controversial Lynas rare earth
plant in Gebeng. “After this, Lynas will not be our focus anymore. But to
destroy the threat, we must look hard to prevent further corruption and abuse of
power,” Himpunan Hijau chairman Wong Tack told The Malaysian Insider yesterday."
31 December 2012
Fuziah Salleh is the Vice President
of People's Justice Party (KeADILan or PKR) in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR)
opposition coalition in Malaysia. She has gained some political traction since
2008 with the Lynas issue when she showed the locals 20 year old photos of
alleged casualties from an old Mitsubishi rare earth miner.
Fuziah co-founded the political activist group called "Save Malaysia Stop Lynas"
(SMSL) which has presented it's environmental case in numerous court actions
they've brought seeking to halt the Lynas operation. To date the Malaysian
courts have found in favour of Lynas which has recently started operations under
a TOL (Temporary Operating License).
"Lynas' safety was verified by six independent bodies, including the United
Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world's highest
authority for atomic energy."
The environmental concerns raised by
Fuziah and the SMSL have either been found to be baseless in the Malaysian
courts, or have been/or are being addressed by Lynas as they meet their
obligations under the IAEA and/or the Malaysian government's Atomic Energy
Licensing Board. Various options and alternatives for the waste management have
been/are being explored by Lynas as they go through the stages of the
multi-tiered approval process to gain a full operating license.
The AELB confirms that Lynas has complied with all health and safety
standards required of the company to date. A site licence and a construction
licence have been issued accordingly. The next stage in the multi-tiered
approval process requires Lynas to apply to the AELB for a pre-operating
The Lynas ore has only a small
fraction of the radioactive thorium compared to the old Mitsubishi ore which was
sourced from tin mine tailings - Nick Tsurikov, an acknowledged Expert in Mining
Radiation Hazards  said: "Lynas will have to process a minimum of about
100-150 times ... to get anywhere close" to levels of radiation of the old
Mitsubishi plant, which was built 25 years ago.
This Lynas corporate video shows
that their waste is no more harmful than table salt commonly sold in Australia:
With their environmental concerns
failing to stand up under close examination, Fuziah Salleh's and the
Malaysian opposition party PKR's campaign is now turned from an environmental
campaign to a purely political campaign in the lead-up to the Malaysian general
election in 2013.
"Respected Malaysian Nuclear Physicist Defends Lynas Plant - Datuk Dr Looi Hoong
Wah, a respected Malaysian nuclear physicist and consultant physician, has
defended the beleaguered rare earths processing plant of Australian rare earths
miner Lynas Corp. in Kuantan, saying the allegations being spread by its
opponents are fabricated lies that bear relations to the country's upcoming
"PAS warned its own nuclear expert
not to comment on the Lynas rare earth processing plant after he tried to
reassure the public that the facility in Gebeng Pahang poses no radiation or
health risk. Dr Che Rosli Che Mat, who is the PAS MP for Hulu Langat holds a PhD
in nuclear science. He revealed in a recent interview that he was last year
gagged by his own party after he spoke out over the plant, which he says is says
is being used by opponents in a baseless scare campaign."
SMSL says that: "Opposition leader
Anwar Ibrahim has pledged the opposition would scrap the plant if it wins
national polls next year"
Former Prime Minister of Malaysia,
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has written about Lynas: "It would be a great loss to
Malaysia if misguided people prevent us from extracting and using the high clean
electrical capacities of rare earth. Just as the lithium ion batteries in the
cellular phones is not harmful even when we carry them everywhere in our pockets
and put them to our ears, the mining and extracting of rare earth from Malaysian
earth will not harm us in any way."
In Malaysia, there are overwhelming
calls for Fuziah Salleh to apologise to Lynas
 Overwhelming calls for Fuziah to apologise to Lynas - New Straits Times
Have the Australian Greens shot an 'own goal'?
In their eagerness to assist the opposition PAS party in Malaysia, an Australian left-wing political party, The Greens have joined the Stop Lynas campaign intent on severely damaging the global rare earth industry vital for electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines, and which is being touted as a safer alternative to uranium for electricity generation (see further discussion below). As an ethical investor in this green technology and an avid environmental campaigner, I can only view this as a stunning 'own goal' by The Greens.
To quote a Greens statement on Lynas: Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said: "The
Australian Greens are adding our voice to Stop Lynas campaign." and "The Australian Greens support Save Malaysia - Stop Lynas in their efforts."
On the 18 Dec NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge @ShoebridgeMLC sent the following statement on twitter:
Lynas - using classic Australian resource company tactic of sh**ing in someone else's nest -- http://tinyurl.com/csqrjwj #newmatilda
Why are the NSW Greens' state members attacking a West Australian/Malaysian company? Who is in who's nest, Shoebridge?
Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown moved in the Senate in March 2012:
That the Senate-
(i) the public protests in Malaysia against the establishment of a rare earth processing plant by the Australian company Lynas Corporation Ltd,
(ii) the protests are supported by the Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, and
(iii) the concerns of the protestors include the radioactive by-product that will be produced by the plant and disposed of in Malaysia, the lack of benefit to the local communities particularly given the 12 year tax break granted to the project and the threat from the plant to the local environment, including the Balok River; and
(b) calls on the Australian Government to report to the Senate by Thursday, 1 March 2012 on what assistance has been provided to Lynas Corporation Ltd and what due diligence has or will be done on Lynas Corporation Ltd.
The Green's motion was soundly defeated in the Australian Senate after failing to gain support from the major parties. Note that the motion makes no mention of a Waste Management Plan - it is "against the establishment of a rare earth processing plant" - and the motion places emphasis on "Malaysian
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim".
The actions of the Australian Greens raises a number of questions:
Why has an Australian political party joined a foreign political campaign seeking to "Stop Lynas" - a law abiding Australian company?
Why are the Greens seeking to destroy 20% of the global rare earth industry, which is essential to green technology?
Why are the Greens interferring in the politics of Malaysia? If this was one of the major Australian parties, the ALP or the LNP, this would be making national news in Australia, with the Greens no doubt being the loudest opponent.
Do the Greens have a "social license"?
The Greens claim that Lynas has "no social licence" to operate in Malaysia  - presumably this novel term "social license" means that a company must gain the support of the majority of citizens before conducting it's business.
Following the hung parliament in 2010, the Australian Greens negotiated with the ALP to form a minority government with a condition that they implement an Emission Trading Scheme (colloquially called the Carbon Tax) despite more than 80% of Australians voting at the general election for parties that had a 'no carbon tax' policy including the ALP, and a resounding two thirds of Australians opposing the ETS in all polls taken at the time.
It would seem that the Australian Greens only support the notion of a 'social license' if it does not apply to themselves.
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said: "There is no social licence for the controversial processing plant to go ahead."
"The Nielsen poll says two thirds of Australians do not support the tax, which came into effect on Sunday."
"The latest Nielsen poll shows two thirds of Australian voters oppose the tax."
Is Bacon selling porkies?
According to Australian left-wing social activist Wendy Bacon's website, she was invited to an event in
December 2012 hosted by Greens MP Jamie Parker gathering support for their "Stop Lynas" campaign. She has recently written a couple of stories concerning Lynas Corporation containing a number of factual errors and exaggerations, and has quoted sources discredited by experts to back up her claims. Despite claiming on her website: "If you see any factual errors in my work please contact me. I welcome comments." Recalcitrant Wendy Bacon has to date failed to correct any of the factual errors brought to her attention.
17 Dec 2012 The Toxic Waste That's Not In Our Back Yard
19 Dec 2012 Lynas' Waste Plans A Toxic Pipe Dream
The Rare Earth "Smuggler"
Bacon writes in paragraph 10 that Lynas "successfully smuggled the concentrate into the plant".
The word "smuggle" is usually associated with drug or people smugglers, both illegal activities. Smuggle is defined as 1. Move (goods) illegally into or out of a country: "cocaine smuggling". 2. Convey (someone or something) somewhere secretly and illicitly. Illicitly is "Not sanctioned by custom or law; unlawful".
Did Lynas actually smuggle the ore into Malaysia as Bacon claims? Has Lynas acted illegally? It is impossible to believe Bacon's claim of smuggling given the fact that the ore was given a police escort from the Gebeng port to LAMP (which, by the way, Lynas did not request
- it was provided after threats by SMSL).
Number of Protestors Multiplied by Four
Bacon claims "by the time it reached the capital had swelled to 20,000 people"
which on the face of it, gives the protest some credibility. However, other media reports between 5000-10000 people.
Channel NewsAsia says "Estimated 5,000-strong crowd at #StopLynas rally in KL"
Malaysian TV reports "Some 5,000 activists rallied in the Malaysian capital
The Malaysian Bar which is providing legal assistance to the many SMSL court
actions has put the number at 10,000 protestors.
The maximum number quoted in a live coverage report of the protest by the SMSL
group says: "At 5.44pm, a crowd of about 10,000" people"
At best, Bacon has doubled the number of people given by the most ardent of SMSL
supporters, and she has quadrupled the number given by the local Malaysian media who would undoubtedly base their figure on eye witness accounts.
Is this Science or Art?
Bacon bases her science on a NTN report written by Lee Bell BA MA which she
claims is written by a "qualified environmental scientist". There are no other qualifications given on the NTN report other than the two arts degrees which brings into serious doubt whether her "scientist" is indeed "qualified".
The accuracy of Bell's report is questioned by Nick Tsurikov "It appears to me
that yet again in some cases the data and regulations have been misquoted and/or misinterpreted, which effectively negates the conclusions made in the report."
Retrieved on 25 December 2012 from
Tsurikov is well respected in the Australasian Radiation Protection Society  and The Western Australian Government's Radiological Council 
If such a respected expert as Tsurikov notes that the NTN report is "misquoted
and/or misinterpreted" we must immediately question Bacon's story. We will of course be watching to see if Bacon attempts to
'discredit' or 'badmouth' Tsurikov.
Whilst still discussing qualifications, one shareholder on the social media raised the question of Bacon's qualifications to which she replied "I am still a Professor at UTS" Her adamant assertion that she is 'still a Professor at UTS' is legitimately questionable considering she has retired from UTS, according to their website.
Before leaving Bacon's qualifications, reference should be made to her Wikipedia
page where it is stated: Bacon enrolled in graduate law school in 1977. Upon graduation in 1979 she applied to join the NSW Bar, but was rejected on character grounds as an unsuitable person. In his judgment Justice Reynolds stated that the decision was "a question of whether a person who aspires to serve the law can be said to be fit to do so when it is demonstrated that in the zealous pursuit of political goals she will break the law if she regards it as impeding the success of her cause".
Does Social Activism trump Investigative Reporting?
Bacon's twitter profile lists her interests as (in order): "social activism,
investigative reporting". Can an
investigative reporter maintain their objectivity in covering a story whilst having a 'social activism' agenda? Surely the writings of the activist are better classed as 'propaganda' especially when considering the obvious bias and truth benders contained in the Bacon articles.
The definition of propaganda is 1. Information, esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view. 2. The dissemination of such information as a political strategy.
Bacon opens her story with 'Australian-owned company Lynas is quietly shipping rare earth to a processing plant in Malaysia'. When your
corespondent quizzed Bacon about her story's lead, she responded
@Wendy_Bacon "Reporting the truth. Lynas told me had to act secretly to avoid protest action."
- unfortunately the fact that SMSL had threatened the ore shipment was not included in her stories.
Bacon's 2nd paragraph is: If a manufacturing plant involving radioactive materials moved into your community, one of the first things you would ask is, "what’s going to happen to the waste?" Long time Lynas watchers know that the protestors have only recently brought the waste issue to the fore - protests up until recently have been focused on the hazards, real or imagined, of the operating plant. Bacon's assertion of "insufficient planning for waste disposal has sparked local opposition" is actually an after-thought by SMSL, and has only recently been the subject of The Greens statements about Lynas and is not "one of the first things" asked.
None of these Greens press releases issued during 2012 ask about the Lynas Waste Management Plan:
5th January 2012
3rd February 2012
1st March 2012
It is not "one of the first things" that "Stop Lynas" asked, as Bacon would have
you believe ... in fact Lynas is complying with the 'multi-tiered approval process" laid out by Malaysia's AELB
The AELB confirms that Lynas has complied with all health and safety standards required of the company to date. A site licence and a construction licence have been issued accordingly. The next stage in the multi-tiered approval process requires Lynas to apply to the AELB for a pre-operating licence.
Indeed, even "into your community" and her follow up "residents of Kuantan" is
questionable given the fact that the Lynas LAMP is suitably located in the heavy industrial area of Gebeng. Are there really any residents in a heavy industrial zone mainly comprising of petro-chemical giants?
The journalism course at UTS where Bacon used to teach includes the well-known
fact that a story loses the majority of readers after the first two paragraphs.
It's not until the 13th paragraph that Bacon gives any time to the Lynas perspective, and then only to criticise it ("But this is far from true" she writes immediately following the first quote she includes from Lynas). In journalism parlance, that is called "bury the lead" which is defined as 1. To begin a story with details of secondary importance to the reader while
postponing more essential points or facts.
A problem for Bacon whilst she wears her social activist hat whilst claiming to
be an investigative reporter is that her left-leaning writings are just as guilty of bias as the right-wing journalism of some mainstream media that she regularly criticises. Two wrongs don't make a right.
Claiming the moral high ground
The SMSL crew continually attack anyone who tries to counter their wild
exaggerations and outright lies on the social media saying that we are doing that for the money. Ironically Bacon's stories on the fledgling New Matilda website carry advertisements and the reader is encouraged to "crowd fund" their writings. Apparently making money from rare earths or investments is bad, but asking for donations is good.
Bacon wrote the following: "As a reporter, this was the first time I had experienced hate messages via twitter. These were posted by Lynas supporters. I can understand why shareholders and employees could be anxious but that doesn’t mean that the truth should not come out about the LAMP project."
Despite the numerous factual errors contained in Bacon's stories, some of which have been pointed out to her and which she has thus far failed to correct, she continues to claim ownership of the 'truth' about LAMP. In the world of the social activist, 'the truth' is subjective.
Bacon writes "Discrediting sources is a familiar public relations tactic used by companies ..." and "Lynas badmouths its critics for exaggerating LAMP safety risks" and in the same story does the very same thing. In her attempt to claim the moral high ground, Bacon is discrediting and badmouthing her critics - something she accuses Lynas of doing in these same articles. On twitter, Bacon complained about people asking her questions and asked for advice from her followers - was she rallying her troops?
In the time that it took me to make a cup of coffee (literally) I was asked twice by one of Bacon's followers to provide my journalism credentials and articles that I had written. Other shareholder's profiles were immediately scrutinised by Bacon followers, with the length of time on twitter and our followers twittered and retweeted.
The many people who have taken Bacon to task on twitter over her biased reporting have been offended and abused by the SMSL, including the death threats to Australians in this video
Perhaps Bacon is oblivious to the fact that she is attacking a law abiding Australian company with these false accusations and exaggerations, and is undermining the value of shares owned by normal Australians who believe the facts that the Lynas rare earths will be crucial to the electric car industry and other green technology.
Bacon's audience is predominantly Australians unfamiliar with what is actually happening in Malaysia.
Correcting the misinformation being published under the banner of 'investigative reporting' is my main
motivation for writing this article. Certainly Wendy Bacon has done some good work in the past but this is not her finest hour.
Bacon declined an invitation to join the shareholder's forum where portions of this article were originally
published to discuss the issue with the Australian mum & dad shareholders of Lynas and why the Stop Lynas campaign seeks to destroy the value of their holdings.
On 21 Dec I published portions or this page on a sharemarket forum in response
to Bacon's erroneous stories and sent the following on twitter inviting debate:
@1EarthMedia Investigating the investigative reporter http://alturl.com/ysbu4
A look at errors & exaggerations in @Wendy_Bacon #NewMatilda #Lynas stories
Later that day Wendy Bacon sent the following tweet to me: @1EarthMedia False
statements in that post.
#Lynas #NewMatilda I'll be returning to this issue & this attack.
And again on Dec.22 @Wendy_Bacon sent the following tweet: @1EarthMedia
@rastus22 Seriously defamatory & false.
As a 38 year media veteran, including nearly 15 years as an editor/journalist
with the wire services and as a journalist for the Federal Attorney-General, I
am very aware of the defamation laws in Australia - it is my professional
opinion that this article is not even remotely defamatory. Why would a
"Professor of Journalism" and a qualified lawyer publish on twitter that my
examination of her writings are "seriously defamatory"? In my view she is
attempting to silence any criticism of her Stop Lynas campaign.
Our tête à tête on twitter has had
some humorous moments:
From me 21 Dec
@1EarthMedia Investigating the investigative reporter http://alturl.com/ysbu4 A
look at errors & exaggerations in @Wendy_Bacon #NewMatilda #Lynas stories
From Wendy Bacon 21 Dec
@Wendy_Bacon @1EarthMedia False statements in that post. #Lynas #NewMatilda I'll
be returning to this issue & this attack.
From Wendy Bacon 22 Dec
@rastus22 Seriously defamatory & false.
From me 27 Dec
@1EarthMedia Discussing the exaggerations & false statements in Wendy Bacon's
attack on #RareEarth miner #Lynas http://alturl.com/ysbu4 #Malaysia #AusPol
From rastus 27 Dec
@rastus22 @Wendy_Bacon @1EarthMedia Still waiting for you to 'return to this
issue and this attack' so you can show they were lies. all look true 2 me
From Wendy Bacon 29 Dec
@Wendy_Bacon @rastus22 @1EarthMedia Can you tell me what your connection is
with @Lynas. Resident? Shareholder? Something else?
From me 29 Dec
@1EarthMedia @Wendy_Bacon I don't know @Lynas & am wondering why you're
involving Steven Lynas from UK - the poor guy must be wondering too @rastus22
From Steven Lynas 29 Dec
@Lynas @1EarthMedia @Wendy_Bacon @rastus22 HAHAH Finally!! Thank you!
From rastus 30 Dec
@rastus22 @Lynas @1EarthMedia @Wendy_Bacon @rastus22 Confess to Wendy, Steven,
and all will be forgive .lol. nice bit of detective work there Wendy
From Steven Lynas 30 Dec
@Lynas @rastus22 @1EarthMedia @Wendy_Bacon The only rare earth mining I’ve done
was about 16 years ago when we buried a goldfish in the back garden
Rare Earths - a bane for mankind - or vital to a green future?
Thorium, one of the rare earth products being produced and sold by Lynas is
undergoing trials as a much safer alternative fuel for electricity reactors.
According to Wikipedia:
Some benefits of thorium fuel when compared with uranium were summarized as follows:
* Weapons-grade fissionable material (233U) is harder to retrieve safely and clandestinely from a thorium reactor;
* Thorium produces 10 to 10,000 times less long-lived radioactive waste;
* Thorium mining produces a single pure isotope, whereas the mixture of natural uranium isotopes must be enriched to function in most common reactor designs.
The same cycle could also use the fissionable U-238 component of the natural uranium, and also contained in the depleted reactor fuel;
* Thorium cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction without priming so fission stops by default in an accelerator driven reactor.
Norway Begins Four Year Test Of Thorium Nuclear Reactor
Thorium knocks on the door at San Diego’s American Nuclear Society confab
Thorium could prove a greener alternative to uranium in Canada’s nuclear plants
And for those who prefer to watch a video instead of a lot of reading:
Kirk Sorensen: Thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel
The expert that the Greens or SMSL don't want you to read
PAS Gagged Nuclear Expert Who Said Lynas is Safe
PAS warned its own nuclear expert not to comment on the Lynas rare earth processing plant after he tried to reassure the public that the facility in Gebeng Pahang poses no radiation or health risk.
Dr Che Rosli Che Mat, who is the PAS MP for Hulu Langat holds a PhD in nuclear science. He revealed in a recent interview that he was last year gagged by his own party after he spoke out over the plant, which he says is says is being used by opponents in a baseless scare campaign.
"They are frightening the public by saying that Lynas is a nuclear plant when its function is only to process natural materials like rare earths from Mount Weld in Western Australia," he said.
"The issue was brought up by PKR. I've kept quiet and even been given a warning by the PAS information bureau not to comment."
Che Rosli did not reveal who it was that asked him to keep quiet and said, as a PAS MP, he was prepared to toe the party line but as a scientist, he would not be gagged.
"I accepted it and have been silent, but this is unfair," he said.
"So finally, I decided, as a nuclear expert, I should come forward to speak."
Che Rosli said the Lynas operation involves material that is less radioactive than what is produced by traditional iron ore extraction and as such, it is totally safe. The waste material produced is of such low level radiation that it can be legally transported back to Australia without the need for safeguards.
Both the United Nations organ, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Malaysia's Atomic Energy Licencing Board gave the operation a clean bill of health after lengthy scientific reviews.
The news that Che Rosli was silenced by his own party will embarrass both PAS and Pakatan Rakyat and confirms the Prime Minister's weekend claims that the opposition is playing politics over the Lynas plant.
The Prime Minister said "the opposition parties will look for issues like this as capital to garner the support of the local community."
"We would not have given an operating licence unless we were convinced that the local community can accept that the project is safe," he said.
Che Rosli was publicly rebuked when he last year attacked those making uninformed comments about the Lynas plant but, up until now, he had not spoken about the internal party gag.
He said at the height of the misinformation campaign the plant was being described as a nuclear reactor. It is actually no more than a chemical refining plant extracting rare elements used in television sets, mobile phones and even wind turbines.
Last week a former professional activist from Melbourne brought a legal action in Malaysia aimed at stopping the Lynas plant from opening on schedule in mid-2012.
A delay that would hurt revenues dearly, as the plant has the potential to earn RM5 billion per year.
Others speaking out against Wendy Bacon's biased
stories attacking Lynas