April 10, 2019 / 3:17 AM / 5 months ago

Malaysia groups protest over Lynas rare earths plant

KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 (Reuters) - Malaysian environmental and civic groups called on the government on Wednesday to suspend a rare earths processing plant operated in the country by Australia’s Lynas Corp over concerns about toxic waste.

More than 200 protestors rallied outside parliament in Kuala Lumpur before handing over a letter that called on Malaysia to suspend Lynas’s operating licence and to ensure it removes “toxic waste” from the country, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by Reuters.

“A responsible government must suspend Lynas’s operating licence, impose heavy fine and order the company to remove its toxic waste and clean up its contamination to as far as it has spread in the environment,” the statement, which was signed by 61 groups, said.

The protest underlines the problems faced by Lynas as it talks with the government over the renewal of its operating licence in early September. It is also trying to fend off a $1.1 billion takeover offer by Australia’s Wesfarmers.

Lynas is the only major producer outside China of rare earths, which are crucial for making products such as computers and mobile phones.

The company mines ore in Australia and ships it to its processing plant in Malaysia, but the government and some local residents are concerned about the growing amount of low-level radioactive residue being kept in storage.

Lynas was not immediately able to provide a comment. (Reporting by Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur; writing by Melanie Burton in Melbourne; editing by Richard Pullin)

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