Lynas picks West Australian city for rare earth processing site

PETALING JAYA: Lynas Corporation will be building its new cracking and leaching plant in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, to extract low-level radioactivity from materials before they are shipped to Malaysia.

“Lynas’ Kalgoorlie cracking and leaching plant will upgrade the Lynas Mt Weld rare earth concentrate that is currently exported to the Lynas rare earth processing facility in Malaysia,” the Australian firm said in a statement yesterday.

The world’s second largest producer of rare earth, Lynas has been mired in controversy for several years in Malaysia with environmentalists and politicians calling for the company to close its plant in Gebeng, Pahang, due to health concerns over the waste produced.

While it is highly prized as a critical component in everything from mobile phone screens to fighter jets due to its high electrical conductivity, rare earth’s by-products include radioactive elements such as thorium, uranium and heavy metals.

While Putrajaya agreed to renew Lynas’ licence to operate in the country for another six months on Aug 15, one of the conditions was that it had to construct and start operations of an overseas cracking and leaching facility – the main processes to remove the radioactive waste – within four years.

Lynas said Kalgoorlie was selected from two shortlisted locations in the region following extensive due diligence, with the town providing close proximity to the Lynas mine at Mt Weld as well as a skilled workforce and a rich history in the mining and processing industries.

Lynas is also looking to explore opportunities for next-stage processing (upstream solvent extraction) in Western Australia.