Malaysians protest Australian factory over radiation concerns

Hundreds of Malaysians staged a protest walk to parliament in Kuala Lumpur, the federal capital, to denounce the construction of a rare earth factory in the east coast of Pahang.

The protesters chanted slogans calling on the government to consider the health and safety of the residents in the vicinity as thorium is the radioactive element found in almost all rare earth deposits.

Rare earth metals are crucial to technology such as the Apple iPhone but the environmental hazards have made other countries wary of rare earth processing.

Lynas Corporation, an Australian company which is set to construct the rare earth plant, said it chose Malaysia due to cheap labour and existing infrastructure.

The recent massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan has also added fears about the plant which faces the Pacific Rim’s ring of fire, the world’s most active volcanic region.

As Japan seems to be losing battle to save one of its nuclear reactor after the quake, its government has admitted that radiation from the nuclear site and melting fuel rods were serious.

A rare earth factory constructed by Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan was forced to shut down in the Northern state of Perak as at least eight cases were linked to leukemia.

If the construction goes ahead, the rare earth factory would become the largest rare earth processing plant in the world.

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