Protesters at the Lynas office in Sydney. Photo: Wolter Peeters
MALAYSIA'S Parliament has given the all-clear to Lynas' controversial processing plant, despite a boycott by opposition members.
A parliamentary select committee said the Australian rare earths miner could operate under a temporary licence as long as it adhered to health and safety recommendations, including continued monitoring of radiation.
The plant, which will process ore shipped from Esperance, Western Australia, has angered nearby residents as well as anti-mining groups concerned about radioactive materials naturally present in rare earths.
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Lynas' executive chairman Nicholas Curtis said the company would comply with the recommendations.
"We are committed to working in a safe and sustainable manner," he said.
Thousands of anti-mining protesters are expected to rally outside the plant in Gebeng, about 250 kilometres north-east of Kuala Lumpur, on Sunday to oppose the decision, according to Free Malaysia Today editor Kabilan Kandasamy.
''The anti-Lynas support groups are disappointed over what they see as a partisan view taken by the [parliamentary committee] chairman even before releasing the findings,'' he told BusinessDay.
One analyst, who did not want to be named, said the protests would be in vain. "The point at which protests could have had an impact has now passed," he said. Patersons Securities analyst Andrew Harrington said it was more positive news for Lynas, which had also been boosted by the dismissal of a court case against it in April. ''The company has been in a situation where there has been a lot of hurdles in front of them, and I think the last bunch of announcements point to the fact that those have all been resolved in their favour,'' he said.
Lynas shares opened strongly on the news, with first sales at $1.075, but slid to close steady at $1.015.
A senior official from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology told a press conference in Beijing yesterday that more than 40 per cent of rare earths available for export under the country's quota system were not taken up by Chinese exporters last year.
The vice-minister of industry and information technology, Su Bao, said this showed there was adequate supply of the material on the international market.
China has just issued a white paper that defends its export control of rare earths on environmental grounds, and urges other countries not to ''politicise'' the issue.
The paper argues that the government policy is intended to protect China's fragile environment and says its control of the industry is consistent with its obligations under membership of the World Trade Organisation. The US, the European Union and Japan filed complaints in March with the World Trade Organisation challenging Beijing's policy of curbing the export of rare earths. Mr Su told the press conference the government would invest 4 billion yuan ($A600 million) on cleaning up the environmental mess associated with rare earths mining. It would close down polluting producers and phase out old technology used in the extraction of the raw materials.