Lynas OK to operate controversial rare earths plant in Malaysia

Australia's Lynas Corp (ASX:LYC) said on Wednesday it has received a temporary operating licence for its long-delayed and controversial $800 million rare earths plant in Malaysia.

The permit, which allows Lynas to start operating as early as October, ends nine months of legal battles sparked by safety concerns surrounding the company's plans to process rare earths in the Asian country.

The plant in eastern Pahang state has also become a political issue in Prime Minister Najib Razak's home state, with elections coming up in the middle of next year.

"Like everyone at Lynas, I am eagerly anticipating the safe commencement of operations at the LAMP (Lynas Advanced Materials Plant) and being able to supply our customers with product," executive chairman Nicholas Curtis said in a statement.

Malaysia's Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) granted the temporary licence for the plant to begin operations for an initial two-year period under strict safety requirements.

"Receiving this licence from the AELB is a significant milestone for Lynas," added Curtis.

Only last month analysts from Foster Stockbroking told investors to get rid of their shares in the company, as they didn’t see an end in sight for the ongoing problems that have forced the company to halt its the LAMP operations.

Critics of the project believe that allowing the $230 million refinery will jeopardize Malaysian’s well being and the environment. Supporters argue that the plant can help stabilize rare earth prices as it will be the first in years outside China, which has restrictions on rare earth exports.

Image: Demonstrators during a protest in Kuala Lumpur against the plant. By Ali Mufti / Shutterstock.com