Lynas and Malaysia ink deal to sell rare earth waste, attract customers
Australian rare earths miner Lynas Corp (ASX: LYC) has signed a memorandum of understanding with a Malaysian government agency to collaborate on several key projects, including attracting downstream industries and customers to the South East Asian country.
Under the agreement, Lynas, the world’s largest rare earths producer outside China, will also work with state agency MARA Corporation to commercialize certain waste residues from the company’s plant for use in agriculture.
The agreement represents a welcome sign of support from local authorities to Lynas’ operation in Malaysia, where the company has faced intense pushback from green groups. Most of the claims against the miner are linked to environmental concerns over low-level radioactive waste management and disposal at Lynas’ plant in Kuantan.
Late last year, Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) told Lynas it had to remove 450,000 tonnes of waste stockpiled at the local facility by Sept. 2., when the company’s license was up for renewal.
The government, however, extended in August the firm’s license, a move that sparked protests from activists and politicians even though it set tougher terms and gave it only six extra months.
The Sydney-based miner has already committed to building a first-stage processing plant in one of two preferred sites in Western Australia, where its Mt. Weld mine is located. Downstream processing activities, however, will remain in Malaysia.
The need for a decision, so far pointing at Kalgoorlie as the place to build the cracking and leaching plant, was accelerated after the government gave Lynas four years to have it ready or else see its license revoked.
Lynas is also sweating on a permit to increase imports of concentrate. Tat material is separated at its $800 million plant into elements that are vital for the making of permanent magnets used in electric vehicles, energy efficient consumer devices, as well as in the aerospace and defence industries.
The company recently flagged a possible scaling back in production into the year-end, pending the import license.
It also disclosed that it had been stockpiling output amid concerns that Beijing would stop exporting rare earths to the United States, which imports about 80% of its needs from China.