by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) Oct 4, 2012
A Malaysian court Thursday postponed until next week a hearing on a temporary operating licence granted to Australian miner Lynas Corp for a rare earths plant, an activist said.
The decision to postpone the hearing to next Wednesday further delays the start of operations at the $800-million facility, which has been dogged by protests from environmentalists and residents over concerns about radiation.
Lynas secured the operating licence in early September but Kuantan High Court in eastern Pahang state, where the plant is based, put it on hold later that month after an appeal by activists.
Environmental group Save Malaysia Stop Lynas, which is spearheading the case against the miner, said its lawyers Thursday called for the hearing at the Kuantan court to be delayed so they could answer affidavits filed by Lynas.
"The court has postponed the hearing to October 10. The interim stay on the temporary operating licence continues until that date," group spokesman Tan Bun Teet told AFP.
The court was expected to rule on the application by three individuals to permanently stay the operating licence at next week's hearing, he said.
Activists and local residents have vowed to shut the plant -- the biggest outside China -- which has emerged as a controversial issue in the country's national elections, which must be held by the middle of next year.
China currently supplies about 95 percent of the world's rare earths, used in high-tech equipment from iPods to missiles, but Lynas hopes the Malaysian plant will help it break the Chinese dominance of the market.
The plant will process material from Lynas' Mount Weld mine in Western Australia.
Lynas has insisted the plant is safe, and any radioactive waste it produces will only be low-level and not harmful to human health.
But opposition politicians and environmentalists have expressed fears that radioactive waste it produces can seep into the ground and water, harming the environment and people's health.
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