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Lynas mulls legal action as Malaysia conditions licence renewal

Lynas Corporation’s Mount Weld mine is in Western Australia.(Image courtesy of Lynas Corp.)

Australian rare earths miner Lynas Corp (ASX: LYC) said Wednesday it was considering legal actions against the Malaysian government over the new conditions imposed on the company to renew its licence for a processing plant on the country’s east coast.

The miner, one of the world’s main suppliers of rare earths outside China, said it was disappointed with the government’s intention to impose new requirements, as it contradicts an earlier statement issued in October, which stated that the cabinet would review the Review Committee’s report before any decisions were announced.

Among the conditions set by the Energy and Environment Ministry, Lynas must remove radioactive waste collected as a result of its activities over the past six years.

“[The resolution] appears to be policy based on politics, not policy based on science,” chief executive Amanda Lacaze said in the statement. “However, we are confident we are well placed to manage potential changes and our long-term investment thesis remains strong.”

Shares in Lynas fell by a quarter on the news, closing Wednesday in Sydney 22.41% lower at A$1.64.

Late on Tuesday, the country’s Energy and Environment Ministry added yet two conditions for Lynas’s licence renewal in 2019, including that it would have to export all the radioactive waste generated by its A$1bn processing plant in Kuantan.

The six-year-old facility — known as the Lynas Advance Material Plant (LAMP) — was the centre of relentless attacks from environmental groups and local residents while under construction in 2012. They feared about the impact the low-level radioactive waste the refinery generates could have on the health of those living nearby and the environment.

Lynas mines rare earths, crucial in the production of magnets, in Western Australia, but processes them in Malaysia.

The company’s storage licence for radioactive residue in the province of Kuantan is up for renewal in September 2019, while its approval for non-radioactive waste storage is valid until February 2019.