Malaysia asks Australia's Lynas for waste plan before license renewal

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia is waiting on Australian miner Lynas Corp’s plan to manage low-level radioactive waste from its rare earths processing plant ahead of a license renewal, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday.

Lynas, whose operating license at the an $800 million plant is up for renewal on Sept. 2, has been embroiled in a long-running dispute with Malaysia over how to deal with waste at the plant.

“We are giving this condition to Lynas that they should have a plan for dealing with the waste,” Mahathir told reporters. “We are waiting for them to tell us how they will do that, whether they find a place where they can deposit the waste or not.”

Lynas is the only major producer of rare earths outside of China. The company, which said last month it was confident its license will be renewed before the deadline, declined to comment on Thursday.

Malaysia’s environment ministry set conditions in December for Lynas to remove its waste stockpiles before it would renew its operating license.

The ministry said in parliament last month that a decision will be announced in mid-August.

In May, Lynas CEO Amanda Lacaze said the company had submitted a proposal with two options for clearing out its current waste.

These included identifying how the waste can be processed and reused as a soil enhancer, as well as how and where the company would build a permanent disposal facility.

Australia has ruled out taking back the residue.

Reporting by Liz Lee in KUALA LUMPUR; Additional reporting by Sonali Paul in MELBOURNE; editing by Richard Pullin