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Malaysia court rejects pollution suit against ARE

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(February 11, 1994) Malaysia's Supreme Court ruled on 23 December 1993 that there was no evidence that the local chemical joint venture Asian Rare Earth, in which Japan's Mitsubishi Chemical Co. has an equity interest, was contaminating the local environment and rejected a high court ruling that the firm cease operations.

(406.4018) WISE Amsterdam - Takashi Saito, a senior managing director of Mitsubishi said 24 December that the joint venture's claim that it was observing Malaysian law in running its plan was upheld by the Supreme Court. "We believe the ruling will help dispel residents' concerns."

ARE, for 35 percent owned by Mitsubishi and for the remaiming 65 percent by local businesses, is an ore refining company. It has been extracting rare earth since 1982 in the suburbs of Ipoh, Perah province. Rare earth is used in color TV tubes and contained in monazite which is found in tin ore.

In 1985, local residents filed a lawsuit at a regional high court seeking court injunctions to case ARE's operations and damage to health and properties because of improper handling of radioactive substances and natrium oxide. In July 1992, the high court upheld the suit and ordered ARE to suspend operations. ARE then appealed the case to the Supreme Court seeking overrule the lower court injunctions.

Omar said in his ruling that ARE was operating with licenses issued by the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the Atomic Power Licensing Commission. He said that under the 1984 Atomic Power licensing Law and 1988 radioactivity protection regulations, the licenses to ARE should have been revoked if the firm was operating in violation of the law and those rules.

The Supreme Court's ruling aside, Mitsubishi is tilting toward withdrawing from ARE, because operating in Malaysia for rare earth is less attractive than previously because of increasing production by China, industry sources said.

Source: greenbase, 6 January, 1994
Contact: Chin Oy Sum, Third World Network, 87 Cantonment Road, 10250 Penang, Malaysia