Australian rare earth miner Lynas Corp (ASX: LYC) said Friday that three individuals in Malaysia had filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s decision to renew the company’s operating licence last year.
The miner, the world’s only major producer of rare earths outside China, isn’t the only one being sued. Other individuals targeted include the Prime Minister of Malaysia, 27 other Ministers and Cabinet members, the Government of Malaysia and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board, Lynas said.
The court case questions the processes followed by the government in reaching its August decision to allow the miner to continue operating in the country, under certain conditions, including identifying a Malaysia-approved site for a permanent disposal of the waste Lynas generates at its plant.
The Sydney-based miner agreed to start extracting low-level radioactivity from the ore mined at its Mt. Weld operation, before shipping it to Malaysia for final treatment.
The cracking and leaching plant, to be built this year in Kalgoorie, Australia, will perform the first step of concentrate processing in 2021. The facility 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 Western Australia.
The company, which controls just over 10% of the global rare earths market, has also revealed plans to build a separation facility in the United States.
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. Beijing also controls 90% of a $4 billion global market for materials used in magnets and motors that power phones, wind turbines, electric vehicles and military devices.
The series of announcements came after increased opposition and scrutiny to its Lynas Advance Material Plant (LAMP) in Malaysia. Environmental groups and local residents feared the impact the low-level radioactive waste the refinery generates could have on the health of those living nearby, and to the environment.
Lynas said its Malaysian subsidiary and LAMP have been the subject of four independent scientific reviews, including two probes by the International Atomic Energy (IAEA) and a report by the current Pakatan Harapan Government’s independent scientific committee. All of them, it said, have concluded that Lynas Malaysia is low risk and compliant with the country’s laws and regulations in effect.
The company will face the fresh case against it on January 21.