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March 31, 2023

Malaysian films target Aussie rare earth plant

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Satirical Malaysian short films depicting cat-sized cows and mutant produce have been screened to take aim at an Australian miner’s planned rare earth plant after they proved a hit online.

Miner Lynas is building the facility in Pahang state, which is set to become one of the few sources outside China to process rare earths and produce metals used in high-tech equipment from missiles to mobile phones.

Lynas has insisted the plant, which will process rare earths imported from Australia, will be safe, but critics say radioactive waste could leak and harm people and the environment.

Liew Seng Tat and other young Malaysian filmmakers screened the series of four short films in the capital Kuala Lumpur on Sunday to raise further awareness.

Liew’s film Welcome to the Radioactive Village (above) was uploaded on YouTube earlier this month and has already had more than 20,000 views.

The 14-minute clip shows a decimated village where a cow has shrunk to the size of a cat and villagers must wrap themselves in bubble wrap and aluminum foil as protection from “toxic mushroom rain”.

In another clip full of black humour, a woman shows how to cook contaminated blue-coloured carrots and squid with fish head, dishing up a meagre meal for her guests.

The film, called Love Dish and co-produced by Chua Thien See, was watched online more than 26,000 times over three weeks. The cook is played by an opposition MP at the forefront of the anti-Lynas protests.

Following public pressure, Malaysia invited a panel from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assess the project earlier this year and said it would not allow the plant to open until Lynas has met all of the panel’s safety requirements.

Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, secretary-general of Malaysia’s international trade ministry, said the government was still reviewing the project and will make its findings public.

Government officials say the project has been unfairly targeted by critics, while Sta Maria said that Lynas needed to engage the public more.

Lynas says that any waste would be placed in safe, reliably engineered storage cells to avoid leaks.

The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) was originally scheduled to start processing rare earths in the third quarter of 2011.


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