Lynas wins a battle, but war with Malaysians who oppose rare earth plant goes on
In what could be considered a slight victory for embattled Australian rare earths miner Lynas Corporation (ASX:LYC), the Malaysian High Court ruled today against a request to review a recent decision to grant the Lynas a temporary licence (TOL) for its processing plant.
Last week, Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) decided to postpone a decision on a two-year operating licence for the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP), until an outstanding appeal by residents to the science, technology and innovation minister has been completed.
In today’s decision Malaysia’s High Court said that since that appeal process is still unresolved, it would not be appropriate for the court to intervene in the matter.
The appeal to the Minister would be heard during this month.
While Lynas chairman Nicholas Curtis welcomed the decision, he said in a statement that the present controversy in Malaysia was undermining both the Lamp project and the country’s international investment reputation.
The company has been under attack from residents, environmentalists and even filmmakers since it started building the facility in 2010.
Critics of the project believe that allowing the US$230 million refinery will jeopardize Malaysian’s well being and the environment. Supporters, on the other hand, remark it is set to become one of the few sources outside China to process rare earths and produce metals used in high-tech equipment from weapons to cell phones.
“This concerted political campaign, which is based on misinformation, is sabotaging the science- based, regulatory process established in Malaysia and confidence in that process,” Curtis said.
He added that LAMP is “safe for everyone” and that his company looks forward to the day when that will be recognized.
Malaysia’s government recently instituted a Parliamentary committee in relation to the controversial plant, aimed at raising awareness of the project, rather than deciding on matters such as the approvals process and ongoing operations.
The group is expected to report by the end of June.
Currently, more than 90% of rare earths metals are processed in China. However, since the operations produce radioactive waste, Beijing has decided to restrict its rare earth mining.
LAMP was originally scheduled to start processing rare earths in the third quarter of 2011.