Fight over Lynas processing plant gets physical

A scuffle broke out between a Malaysian government minister and anti-Lynas protestors yesterday as environmental battles continue to hamper the company’s rare earth project.

It happened while Deputy Science Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah was giving his assurances to the group that the rare earth processing plant was safe, The Star reported.

"The Lynas factory is as safe as a kicap (soy sauce) factory,” he told the group of protestors.

"I can take you all for a site visit to see the facilities. Expenses will be fully sponsored by the ministry.”

His statement angered the group who questioned Diah on the plant's permanent disposal facility and environmental issues.

"Why are you defending Lynas? Just answer our questions," said Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas chairman Tan Bun Teet.

Abu Bakar responded by saying that it is his duty to protect Lynas as it is the Atomic Energy Licensing Board's, which issued the company its temporary operating licence.

"And the board comes under my ministry. So I have to protect it,” Diah said.

Shoving and pushing ensued between Diah and some members of the protest group.

The scuffle lasted for around 15 minutes until Diah’s security officers stepped in.

Malaysia's Atomic Energy Licencing Board granted Lynas approval for its processing plant in Kuantan in February 2012 .

However court battles and protests against the project have continued to rage with Save Malaysia Stop Lynas worried the plant will emit radioactive pollution, threatening both human health and the environment.

In September Lynas Corporation beat analyst predictions and won a temporary operating licence for its processing plant in Malaysia. However, in October the Malaysian High Court extended the suspension of Lynas' temporary operating licence until early November.

Protests broke out in Malaysia and also took place outside the company’s head office in Sydney in November amid concerns from the Greens that radioactive waste from the plant would be shipped back to Australia.

In January the miner won a further injunction to stop processing at the plant.

The company said that "there remains no injunction or stay preventing Lynas from continuing to carry out its operations at its Malaysian plant.”

The win came less than a month after the miner began ramping up processing at the LAMP.

Shares in Australian rare earths miner Lynas Corporation rose in May following the re-election of Malaysia's coalition, reducing uncertainty around further regulatory hurdles at its controversial plant.

Lynas is on track to meet its second quarter target of producing 11,000 tonnes per year from its processing plant.