Malaysia’s restrictive orders hampers Aussie miner Lynas’ growth plans

Uncertainties surrounding Australian rare earths miner Lynas Corporation Ltd’s future in Malaysia have hampered efforts to plan expansion, its chief executive said, as reported by Reuters.

Lynas’ next stage of growth will require additional investments beyond merely squeezing more capacity out of its existing asset, the CEO told Reuters this week.

Lynas’ $800 million plant on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia began operations in 2012 after long delays caused by legal challenges and environmental disputes.

These challenges were in focus this week when local politicians raised concern over the potential impact of Lynas’ low level radioactive residues on the surrounding community and environment.

Early this week, Malaysia’s Energy and Environment Ministry said the miner must comply with new conditions regarding waste management, ahead of the expiry of two licences next year, including the export of its low level radioactive residue, a ruling that caught the miner by surprise.

Lynas had expected that an environmental audit of its Malaysian plant released this week would go before parliamentary review before any ministry decisions were made. The announcement by Malaysia’s environmental ministry sent Lynas’s shares tumbling, when Lynas responded in a statement that it would now consider its legal options.

Lynas’ plant has been running at full capacity since 2016. It has invested more than 35 million ringgit ($8.4 million) for enhancements made over the last year, and the plant is now able to operate beyond its original capacity.

They are now able to operate at around 140 per cent of the original design, and it comes from improving the efficiencies, optimising the design and making sure our recoveries are better. The company has been looking into ways to reduce its radioactive waste as well, a move the government audit recommended.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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