Ten residents living in Gebeng, Kuantan, that had challenged the Atomic Energy Licensing Board’s (AELB) authority for approving a temporary operating licence (TOL) to Lynas Corp’s rare earth mining plant there was rejected by the court as it claimed it was already looked into by governmental bodies.

According to the Malaysian Insider, Justice Rohana Yusuf said the case was thrown out as a parliamentary select committee (PSC) and the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister were already looking into the same issues raised by the residents.

“The House of Parliament are pursuing the same exercises through the PSC… they are the proper channel to look (into) and deliberate on complaints and grievances,” she was quoted in her ruling here.

The judge also said if the findings of the minister differ from the court’s, this would result in “confusion and embarrassment”.

The residents had filed a suit on February 17, seeking a court order to cancel AELB’s approval of a TOL on Jan 30. The lawyer representing the residents said his clients would file for appeal.

Despite persistent protests by residents living in Kuantan, Pahang, the AELB has granted Lynas Corp a TOL to operate its rare earth mining plant here, but said it could be suspended or withdrawn and further applications will not be considered if conditions stipulated by the board were broken.

Australian mining company Lynas Corp has said it is set to begin operations in a few weeks’ time, in the midst of increasing pressure on the company and the Malaysian government to close down its controversial rare earth mining plant.

The Star reported that the first phase of the plant is 97 percent complete, and all Lynas needs is the temporary operating licence (TOL) that the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board had approved but is yet to be issued.

“The licence has been approved but we have yet to receive it. Lynas has already fulfilled all the conditions stipulated for the licence to be issued and we are just waiting. We hope it can be issued very soon because we need to start operations,” Mashal Ahmad, the managing director of Lynas’ Malaysian chapter, was qouted as saying.

He also said that Lynas looked forward to be called up to give explanations to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) formed to investigate on the company’s operations in Kuantan, Pahang in West Malaysia. “The faster, the better,” Mashal said.

The PSC was formed following public pressure that Lynas’ rare earth mining plant could cause radioactive contamination to the residential areas nearby. Pressure groups had claimed that the synthetic gypsum that Lynas would produce from its plant in Kuantan would be an additional source of radiation to locals.

Lynas was supposed to start its operations last year, but it was delayed and the company was only granted a temporary operating licence in February of this year.

However, the AELB director-general said the board had decided to withhold the issuance of the TOL granted to Lynas until the hearing of an appeal by a group of residents to the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister is settled on April 17.