Lynas sets start date for Malaysia rare earths output amid protests
SYDNEY Nov 20 (Reuters) - Australia's Lynas Corp expects to start processing rare earth minerals from a plant in Malaysia next month despite opposition from environmentalists over health concerns, the company said on Tuesday.
The plant should be nearing full production of the minerals used across a range of high-tech products from mobile phones to state-of-the-art weaponry by mid-next year, according to Lynas chairman Nick Curtis.
Setting the timetable lifted Lynas shares, which have been hammered by concerns the plant was facing more delays, more than 8 percent to A$0.69. The broader market was up about 0.5 percent, extending an overnight rally on Wall Street.
Activists linked to the group Save Malaysia Stop Lynas staged a protest during the company's annual general meeting in Sydney on Tuesday following the decision by a Malaysian court to lift a suspension on a temporary operating licence for the plant.
"By the second half of calendar 2013, we expect to be moving towards full production capacity and have a business that has the potential to deliver sustainable and predictable earnings," Curtis told the meeting.
The $800 million plant -- the world's biggest outside China -- has been ready to fire up since early May but Lynas has been delayed by environmental and safety disputes.
Massive quantities of super heated sulphuric acid are required to separate the rare earth elements from impurities found in the ore.
The company says its plant is safe and is not comparable to a rare-earths plant in Malaysia that was shut by a unit of Mitsubishi Chemicals in 1992, after nearby residents blamed the plant for birth defects and a high rate of leukemia cases.