Malaysia gives rare earth processer Lynas 6 more months to become radiation-free

Iman Muttaqin Yusof
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia gives rare earth processer Lynas 6 more months to become radiation-free Uniforms and safety helmets are seen at a Lynas Advanced Materials Plant in Gebeng, Pahang, Malaysia, July 23, 2019.
[Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

Malaysia’s government announced Monday that it gave rare earth miner Lynas at least six more months to ensure that its processing activities in the country are free of radiation, saying the minerals are critical for a variety of global high-tech industries.

With the extension, the company that extracts rare earth ore from Australia and sends it for processing at its Malaysian facility, can keep bringing in raw material that contains natural radioactive materials until year’s end, said Chang Lih Kang, minister of science and technology.

“Taking into account the impact of this decision on the global rare earth supply chain, I have agreed to extend the operation period of the cracking and leaching (C&L) plant until Dec.31, 2023,” he said in a statement about the part of the facility in Pahang state that was originally scheduled to be shut on July 1. 

“Therefore, effective Jan. 1, 2024 … Lynas is no longer allowed to import raw materials containing natural radioactive substances to Malaysia,” the minister added.

Chang had earlier said that since 2012, Lynas had produced about 1.08 million metric tons of radioactive waste in Malaysia. This amount was expected to reach 1.2 million metric tons by July.

In February, although the government had not allowed the cracking and leaching part of the plant to operate beyond July 1, the Pahang facility itself was given a fresh three-year license.  

On Monday, responding to the extension for the cracking and leaching plant, Lynas said it would continue to seek a legal review.

“Malaysia offers legal avenues for the review of the license conditions,” it said in a statement.

“Lynas has made significant investments in its Malaysian facility and will seek review through these processes in respect of the conditions to ensure that Lynas is treated fairly and equitably as a Foreign Direct Investor and as a significant employer and contributor to the Malaysian economy.” 

Lynas last month announced that it was considering either a temporary shutdown of its operations in Malaysia or a significant reduction in production if the license conditions that forbid the import and processing of a chemical called lanthanide concentrate were enforced after July 1.

Lynas’ Malaysian plant had broken China’s near-monopoly on processing elements vital for defense and aerospace industries. China controls 80% of rare earth production. Lynas is the world’s largest rare-earth producer outside of China.

Rare earths – 17 minerals such as cerium, lanthanum and neodymium – are used in electronics and objects such as jet-fighter engines, Tomahawk cruise missiles and space-based satellites. smart phones.

With tensions running high between Washington and Beijing, the supply of rare earths to the United States and its allies is seen as critical.

But one Malaysian environmentalist group. Save Malaysia, expressed disappointment that Lynas’ cracking and leaching facility was granted an extension.

“Though we, Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas noted with regret that considerable considerations have been granted to Lynas to extend its operation till the end of this year, we hope there will be no further extension after that date,” the group’s chairman, Tan Bun Teet, said in a statement on Monday. 

“At the same time, we hope the ministry and Atomic Energy Licensing Board will monitor closely the radioactive wastes that would be generated during this extended period and have them managed effectively and safely.” 

The group also urged the ministry to ensure that Lynas fulfills its commitment to ship out waste residue if it fails to identify a suitable site for a permanent disposal facility.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.