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Update: Lynas responds to Malaysia’s six-month extension for rare earths processing plant

by Greg Klein | August 15, 2019, updated August 16, 2019

Lynas gets a six-month reprieve to continue rare earths processing in Malaysia

Lynas expressed confidence in meeting government-imposed conditions
for its rare earths processing facility in Malaysia. (Photo: Lynas Corp)

 

Even a six-month reprieve augers well for Lynas Corp, the company emphasized on August 16. The Malaysian government granted an extension the previous day after threatening to shut down a plant that refines and separates material from Lynas’ Mount Weld rare earths mine in Western Australia.

The government’s original conditions called for Lynas to render the mine’s output non-radioactive before shipping it to Malaysia and to remove the low-level radioactive waste that has accumulated since 2012. The deadline was September 2, the former licence expiry date.

Lynas said yesterday’s decision was consistent with a science-based government report released last December and the company remains confident of meeting conditions.

The decision’s only significant divergence from the report, Lynas stated, was the requirement that cracking and leaching operations be moved out of Malaysia within four years. Earlier this month CEO Amanda Lacaze said the company hopes to have a C&L facility operating in Western Australia by 2022, part of the company’s $500-million expansion planned by 2025. The new facility would allow Lynas to ship non-radioactive material to Malaysia for further processing and separating.

As for the presence in Malaysia of radioactive water leach purification residue—a reported 580,000 tonnes has piled up so far—the company has six months to find a location and obtain consent for a permanent deposit facility.

Although the government rejected Lynas’ proposal to convert WLP residue into soil conditioner for agricultural use, the company vowed to continue R&D into other possible outcomes.

“While we may have preferred a longer licence … the effect is essentially the same because under either structure there will be an administrative application for renewal,” Lacaze told a briefing for analysts and investors.

In a statement issued earlier that morning, she expressed optimism “that this decision will bring an end to the politicization of Lynas over the past year.”

Last May Lacaze emphasized Lynas’ determination to keep its supply chain separate from the involvement of China, which dominates all aspects of global rare earths production and processing. Considered critical elements by the U.S. for several uses including defence, REs figure prominently in the American-Chinese trade disputes. Consequently the U.S. has implemented policies to encourage production from domestic and allied resources and technology.

Read more about Lynas Corp.

Read more about rare earths, critical elements and the U.S.-China trade dispute.

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