Demonstrators march 300km on foot to protest rare earth plant in Malaysia

Nearly 10,000 people have taken to the streets of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur to protest the opening of a rare earth refinery which is set to commence operation next month.

Chinese state media agency Xinhua reports that the protest rally was staged at the center of Kuala Lumpur in Independent Square on Sunday, with many demonstrators marching 300 kilometers on foot from Kuantan in the state of Pahang where the refinery is situated.

The plant is operated by Australia-based miner Lynas Corporation (ASX:LYC), and is expected by the company to start generating revenue in the first quarter of 2013.

The marchers are protesting against the potential health effects of the refinery, asserting that it will generate radioactive waste which is hazardous to human health.

Environmental activist group Himpunan Hijaua has staged demonstrations against the construction of the controversial plant ever since Lynas obtained a manufacturing license from the Malaysian government two years ago.

Authorities recently rejected efforts by the group to overturn a temporary operating license issued to Lynas by Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board.

Investor optimism remains undiminished, however, with the stock gaining 30% over the past five trading sessions and sources informing Fairfax that that only change of government could scupper the company’s plans.