Malaysia has approved Australian rare earths miner Lynas Corp’s (ASX: LYC) application to build a permanent disposal facility for waste treatment, a minister said on Tuesday.
The miner, the world’s only major producer of rare earths outside China, can now proceed with construction of the waste plant, on a site identified by the Pahang state government, Khairy Jamaluddin, science, technology and innovation minister said, The Edge Markets reported.
In August last year, the Sydney-based company was able to renew the operating license for its Malaysian processing plant for six months, subject to conditions that included identifying a site for a permanent facility to store its low-level radioactive waste.
Lynas was also asked to put forth a plan to set up a cracking and leaching facility overseas within four years of the license renewal.
The company said it had selected Kalgoorie, in Western Australia, as the place to build the plant, with first-step concentrate processing expected in 2021. The cracking and leaching plant is expected to be completed in late 2022 or early 2023.
Lynas said at the time it planned to explore opportunities for the next stage of rare earth processing (upstream solvent extraction) in the same state, where its Mt Weld mine is located.
The company, which controls just over 10% of the global rare earths market, secured last week US government funding to design a A$50m ($36m) processing plant in Texas.
The contract came amid growing concerns in Washington that China could use its dominance of the rare earths supply chain to pressure US arms suppliers. Beijing threatened in July to impose sanctions on American aerospace, defense, arms and security provider Lockheed Martin.
The facility would be the world’s only large-scale producer of separated medium and heavy rare earth products outside of China, which currently accounts for 70% of global production.
China also controls more than 60% of a $14 billion global market for materials used in magnets and motors that power phones, wind turbines, electric vehicles and military devices.