Lynas confident of licence renewal

The Lynas rare earths plant in Gebeng, Kuantan. (Reuters pic)

KUANTAN: Lynas Malaysia is confident of getting its operating licence renewed ahead of the expiry of the six-month licence on March 2.

At a press conference today, the rare earths company’s vice-president and managing director Mashal Ahmad said they also hoped to get a three-year licence extension, like they used to get.

Until the change of government in the 14th general election, Lynas had received a three-year operating licence extension for the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant here in Gebeng, Kuantan.

In August, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board renewed Lynas’ licence on condition that it move its cracking and leaching process out of the country and that it identify a site to construct a permanent waste disposal facility.

Mashal said they are confident of a renewal as they have fulfilled the conditions for the renewal.

“We are confident the Pakatan Harapan government will make a decision, based on scientific facts and the rule of law.”

He said if Lynas failed to get a three-year extension, like it did before, potential investors would be scared off.

In the past, he said German conglomorate Siemens had wanted to set up a manufacturing plant here due to the accessibility of rare earths produced by Lynas, the only rare earths processing plant outside of China.

But protests against Lynas, which he said had been confirmed to be safe by various local and international audits, including by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), made the company decide against coming here.

“Siemens needs rare earths for the windmills it makes. They have to buy Lynas’ products, regardless of where they manufacture, but the loss to Malaysia is that they didn’t make it here,” he said, adding that the investment, which was supposed to happen in 2011, was valued at US$1 billion and would have created some 1,000 jobs.

Mashal was speaking after an open day at its plant where it hosted the Malay Consultative Council (MPM) and other NGOs.

Among those who attended were MPM leaders Hanif Omar, Abu Zahar Nik Ujang, Abdul Aziz Rahman and Hassan Mad.

Malay Consultative Council secretary-general Hassan Mad (centre) says rare earths are a new economy that Malaysia should not miss out on.

Hassan, who is MPM secretary-general, said they viewed rare earths as a new economy for Malaysia and want to promote it.

“We should not miss out on this new economy. We are not promoting Lynas but the rare earths economy.

“Lynas happens to be the only rare earths producer here.

“The next target should be on how we can expand the industry, especially the downstream industries.”

Meanwhile, Aziz said that Lynas has been doing a good job where safety was concerned and this was evidenced by various reports from local and international bodies.

“The matter is being too politicised.”

Over 2,000 people attended the open day which also included a site visit and presentation by Lynas’ experts.