Australian Lynas to shut down Malaysian opponents with lawsuit

Australian rare earths miner Lynas Corporation (ASX:LYC), has filed a defamation action against Malaysian protestors and opponents over their criticism of the company's rare earth plant (LAMP), which will process ores shipped from Western Australia.

According to Brisbane Times, Lynas action at the Kuala Lumpur High Court targets mainly independent media Free Malaysia Today and blog-based opinionated opposition group Save Malaysia Stop Lynas.

Although the company's exact argument has not been disclosed, Lynas chairman Nicholas Curtis said last month the ongoing debate about the safety of LAMP in Malaysia was undermining both the project and the country’s international investment reputation.

LAMP has been under attack from residents, environmentalists and even filmmakers since Lynas it started building it in 2010.

“This concerted political campaign, which is based on misinformation, is sabotaging the science- based, regulatory process established in Malaysia and confidence in that process,” Curtis said.

"The specific comments we won't go into but they are, in our opinion and our legal opinion, targeted and defamatory and those comments should be shut down," he told Brisbane Times today.

Last month, analysts from Foster Stockbroking said market confidence was building in Lynas, after the Malaysian High Court's dismissed complaints against the company. However, there is still an outstanding appeal against the plant to the Malaysian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, whose resolution could change Lynas’ plant fate.

Critics of the project believe that allowing the US$230 million refinery will jeopardize Malaysian’s well being and the environment. Supporters, on the other hand, remark it is set to become one of the few sources outside China to process rare earths and produce metals used in high-tech equipment from weapons to cell phones.

Malaysia’s government recently instituted a Parliamentary committee, expected to report by the end of June, aimed at raising awareness of the controversial plant, rather than deciding on matters such as the approvals process and ongoing operations.

Currently, more than 90% of rare earths metals are processed in China, country that has increased export restrictions on these elements as, it claims, needs to guarantee supplies for the internal market and protect the environment. The policy has generated protests from foreign manufacturers who rely on Chinese rare earths. They argue China’s restrictions aim to raise rare earth prices artificially to give its own producers higher profits.

LAMP, originally scheduled to start processing rare earths in the third quarter of 2011, could help stabilize rare earth prices.