Some way to go for Lynas to get full licence, says Mustapa

Posted on February 9, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

-themalaysianinsider.com-

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 – The government does not expect to grant Lynas a full operating licence soon for its rare earth refinery in Kuantan as it has yet to fulfill all pre-conditions, said Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed today.

The Minister of International Trade and Industry was responding to a question in a press conference on whether the east coast refinery would break China’s stranglehold on the world’s commercial supply of rare earth, a crucial component of high tech products.

“There is some way to go,” said Mustapa. “Lynas has been given a pre-operating licence and not a full-fledged licence. The Atomic Energy Licensing Board has imposed five conditions.”

He added that he does not see the Lynas plant making a “big dent” on the global supply of rare earth.

“It’s too early to pre-judge, it’s too early to say. The government only issued a pre-operating license,” he said.

The refinery in Malaysia’s east coast has drawn international attention due to its potential to disrupt China’s near monopoly on the world’s supply of rare earth.

Countries such as Japan were reported to have been concerned over the stability of rare earth supplies from China given the importance of the product which is widely used in high tech gadgets.

Some had accused China of curtailing exports of rare earth due to political reasons although others maintain that China had to cut down on rare earth mining and refining activities due to the damage it has been inflicting on the health and environment of local communities.

The Lynas plant near Kuantan has been fiercely opposed by many members of the public due to concerns over the low level radioactive waste that would be generated although government officials say that they would not compromise on public safety.

The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) said on February 3 that Lynas could not fire up its controversial plant until it fulfils the conditions of the pre-operating licence within the next 10 months.

These include paying the first of five instalments on its US$50 million (RM155 million) deposit to the government and the appointment of an independent third-party assessor by AELB, which Lynas will pay for.

It added that even once all these conditions have to be fulfilled, the Australian mining company will have to obtain a separate permit to import the raw material from Mount Weld, Australia.

Lynas will also have to specify a site for a permanent disposal facility (PDF) within the 10-month time frame or risk having its pre-operating licence revoked.

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