Malaysia is looking to Australian rare earth processor Lynas Corporation in an attempt to tap the Chinese dominated industry.
Prime Minister Najib Razak seeks to attract high-technology and boost the economy out of a “middle-income trap” through the establishment of the country’s first processing plant. The Sydney-based company had been trying to secure a license to operate a plant in the country since 2002 but its move had been delayed by environmental protesters who feared that waste material from the refining process might be difficult to dispose of.
The Malaysia Atomic Energy Licensing Board granted a temporary operating license on Wednesday after the parliamentary committee declared the facility environmentally safe two months ago.
Lynas chief executive Nicholas Curtis told the Financial Times that production would start in October. Lynas plans to ship rare earth ore mined in Australia, the world’s largest deposit, to the Kuantan plant.
Rare earths are used in hybrid vehicles, mobile devices and even ballistic missiles and fighter jets. China accounts for more than 90% of rare earth mining and processing.