Malaysia renews licence of Aussie rare earths plant

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysia has extended the licence of a controversial Australian-run rare earths plant for three years, its operator said yesterday, despite concerns about the impact of radioactive waste it produces.

Lynas hopes its factory, which has processed rare earths from Australia since 2012, can reduce Chinese dominance in the market for the materials.

Rare earth minerals are used in everything from missiles to mobile phones, and Lynas is the only major producer of them outside China.

Environmentalists and some politicians are opposed to the plant on peninsula Malaysia’s east coast owing to health fears related to the waste, and a review into the operation was launched in 2018.

But the company confirmed Malaysian authorities had granted a new licence to operate until March 2023.

The previous licence expired last September, and Lynas was initially given a six-month extension.

“Over the past eight years we have demonstrated that our operations are safe,” said Lynas CEO Amanda Lacaze in a statement announcing the extension.

Lynas has to satisfy several conditions, including transferring some work that generates low-level radioactive waste to another country.