Sunday, April 22, 2012

Understanding the Lynas Rare Earth Plant in 13 questions..

Seems like so much risk, so little benefit... why do we still want it?

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 5,000 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 has offered 12 years tax break to 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. shareholders 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 country. 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.*

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We are frustrated too...

An interesting email by a frustrated CEO of Nature Alert. We are frustrated too. The gaharu issue in Penang is never ending. We just stumble upon a gaharu camp few days ago in the catchment area of upper Botanic Gardens, Penang. We decided not to report. We have lost hope of any action to be taken even if we have reported. This time it is in the Penang Water authority's jurisdiction. The last time when we reported the issue in Bkt Mertajam in Jan 2009, more trees were cut when visited the area again within 2 weeks. This is how fast they would act if they make a gain. So, by not reporting, at least the illegals will be doing it with caution. Yes, when they saw us, they cabut. If you report, trees will be chopped anyway. The authority won't get any buta kopi and our forest continues to be poached but at least we are not making some people richer. Picture of the gaharu camp taken on 11 Apr 2012.

Will Perhilitan ever turn over a new leaf?
April 12, 2012

FMT LETTER, From Sean Whyte, via e-mail

During the past twelve months we have filed over 30 illustrated reports with the NRE and Perhilitan, detailing illegal wildlife trading and cruelty to animals in zoos. Most remain uninvestigated.

The good news is, in some of the worst cases Perhilitan has acted against zoos such as Johor and Saleng by confiscating animals and in the case of Saleng closing down the zoo – not before time.

None of which would have happened without massive public pressure being exerted on Perhilitan. Mind you, Perhilitan still show great affection and leniency towards A’famosa, the golf resort-cum-zoo which, inflicted over a period of some 12 months some of the worst cruelty on orangutans we have ever seen.

The bad news is, Perhilitan rarely prosecutes anyone for anything. We have first-hand reports of offenders paying regional Perhilitan officers not to prosecute them, but back at head office no one wants to know.

We see and report on protected species of wildlife openly on sale in pet shops. Perhilitan does nothing.

We report such issues directly to minister Douglas Embas and as far as we know and all the evidence suggests, he does nothing about them either.

We even report the NRE and Perhilitan to MACC. They make promises on which they never, ever, deliver. So much for an anti-corruption office.

Despite repeated requests from a myriad of NGO’s, the minister, NRE and Perhilitan all still refuse to answer probing but entirely legitimate questions over their handling of the case against Anson Wong. Rightly or wrongly, but it’s hard to imagine any other motive, their silence implies they have something they want to hide. They appear to think by saying nothing, their critics will go away; they could not be more wrong.

Prime Minister Najib is aware of all this but chooses to turn both a blind eye and a deaf ear to it.

Nowadays we copy all our reports concerning illegal wildlife on sale in Malaysia, to Interpol, the international police agency. It’s only a question of time before whoever in Malaysian government is protecting Anson Wong and his cohorts, feels the long arm of the law when he or she travels through another country. That day can’t come soon enough.

Sean Whyte is the CEO of Nature Alert

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Washing Machine is Polluting Our Waters!

Look like our earth will be doomed as every household has one washing machine. Our clothes especially from the cheap china made fabrics are mostly recycled from "plastics". Right here in Penang, there are many cottage industries breaking up recycled plastic into fibers for export to China. And this is how we are actually wearing plastics! And these plastics eventually get washed down into the sewage system and out into the mighty oceans.
Read the frightening article below:-

How Your Washing Machine is Polluting The Oceans
by Paul Canning

A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology has found that washing machines are a major source of microplastic pollution in the oceans.

Bits of plastic contain potentially harmful ingredients which go into the bodies of animals and could be transferred to people who consume fish. Ingested microplastic can transfer and persist into their cells for months.

The scientists, led by Mark Anthony Browne, a biologist with University College in Dublin, looked for microplastic contamination along 18 coasts around the world and tracked down its likely source.

Much of the clothing people wear today is made with polyester, acrylic, rayon and various other synthetic textile materials. The scientists found that more than 1,900 fibers can rinse off of a single garment during a wash cycle, and these fibers look just like the microplastic debris they found on shorelines.

The authors suggest two possible solutions:

· Washing machine manufacturers should look at ways to reduce the release of fibers into wastewater.

· Research into methods for removing microplastic from sewage.

Another solution is to promote clothing made from natural fibers such as organic cotton, linen, wool, silk and hemp.

Watch AlJazeera report:

Read more: