Malaysia Clashes With Lynas on Need to Export Rare-Earth Waste

Four Malaysian ministers issued a second joint statement, insisting Lynas Corp. (LYC) must export residue from its new rare earths refinery under terms of its temporary operating license.

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s cabinet discussed the issue yesterday after Lynas Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Curtis said on a conference call Dec. 11 that the Australian miner isn’t required to export waste from the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant, or LAMP, in Pahang under its temporary permit. It only needs to come up with a plan for permanent disposal, he said.

“There will be no change in the government’s position to demand Lynas to remove the residue generated by LAMP out of Malaysia, consistent with the conditions stated in the temporary operation license,” the ministers said in the statement. “The government will ensure that all related government agencies will closely monitor the operation of LAMP.”

Lynas belatedly began production last month after a series of court victories against local residents wanting to block the plant on fear of contamination. The miner, which is developing the world’s largest rare-earths processing facility in Malaysia, has repeatedly insisted the refinery is safe.

The Southeast Asian nation’s trade and industry, science, environment and health ministers said in a Dec. 10 statement Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board is empowered to suspend or revoke Lynas’ permit and order an immediate halt to operations if it doesn’t export all residue, including products made from waste.

iPods, Hybrids

Lynas plans to convert waste materials into commercial products that could be sold locally or overseas, Curtis said. Its shares have fallen 43 percent in Sydney this year and closed down 0.8 percent to 60 cents yesterday.

The first phase of the plant, capable of processing 11,000 metric tons a year, was completed in September. Rare earths, 17 chemically similar elements, are used in Apple Inc.’s iPod music players, in addition to flat-screen televisions, magnets and hybrid cars.

“The cabinet reaffirmed the joint statement,” the ministers said yesterday, stressing that public health and safety was its highest priority.

To contact the reporter on this story: Barry Porter in Kuala Lumpur at bporter10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net

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