Malaysia puts brakes on license to rare-earth plant

Malaysian government holds back on issuing a license previously granted to Australia-based company's facility, saying it will review claims from activist groups over environmental and safety concerns.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

A Malaysian court has decided to hold back a license previously granted to a rare-earth plant operated by Lynas, and delay issuing it for a month while it reviews whether it should be blocked following claims over possible radioactive leaks. 

Australia-based Lynas had received a temporary operating license for its US$800 million plant last month and was targeting to begin production this month, Reuters reported Wednesday. However, the company confirmed in a statement the launch would be delayed and gave no new timeline.

Lynas' rare-earth plant, the biggest outside China, had been ready for operations since early-May but had been embroiled in environmental and safety disputes with activists in Malaysia since construction commenced two years ago.

Activists linked to environmental group Save Malaysia Stop Lynas, asked the court to suspend the license until two judicial review cases--challenging the government's decision to allow the plant to operate--were heard. According to the group's blog, the Kuantan HIgh Court extended the suspension of Lynas until Nov. 8, 2012.

Lynas, however, said its plant was safe and should not be compared to a rare-earth plant in Malaysia that was shut by a unit of Mitsubishi Chemicals in 1992, following complaints from residents who blamed the facility for birth defects and a high rate of leukemia cases.


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