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Australia’s Lynas to upgrade Malaysian rare earth refinery amid dispute over operating licence

KUALA LUMPUR (AP) – Australian miner Lynas Rare Earths said yesterday that it will temporarily shut down most of its operations in Malaysia for upgrading as it deals with a legal battle with the Malaysian government over its operating licence.

Lynas said in a report to investors that a Malaysian court is set to hear in November its application for a stay to allow it keep operating while other administrative and legal appeals are being heard. It didn’t give an exact date.

The Lynas refinery in Malaysia, its first outside China producing minerals that are crucial to high-tech manufacturing, has been operating in central Pahang state since 2012. But it has been locked in a battle over concerns about radiation from waste accumulating at its plant.

Earlier this year, the government approved the renewal of Lynas’ licence for three years until March 2026. But it said Lynas must move its cracking and leaching processes – which produce the radioactive waste from Australian ore – out of Malaysia. It also is not allowed to import raw material with radioactive elements into the country.

It said Lynas has produced approximately more than a million metric tonnes of radioactive waste since 2012.

Construction vehicles are parked at the site of Lynas’ rare earths plant in Gebeng, eastern Malaysia in 2012. PHOTO: AP

Lynas insists its operations are safe and has sought to remove the conditions that it said marked a “significant variation” from the conditions under which it made the initial decision to invest in Malaysia. It has taken its dispute with the government to the Malaysian court and says it is prepared for any outcome.

Most operations at the Malaysian refinery will shut down for the next two months while Lynas prepares to ramp up its downstream operations, the company said.

It said the upgrade is essential if its licence is updated to allow the company to continue to import and process raw materials from January 1.

Lynas said it plans to also undertake further maintenance work on the cracking and leaching facility, if operation are allowed to resume as normal.

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