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Kuala Lumpur (AFP) Sept 5, 2012
Australian miner Lynas on Wednesday said it had secured a temporary operating licence for its delayed $800 million rare earths facility in Malaysia and will begin production in October.
Receipt of the temporary licence will enable Lynas to commence the transport of rare earths concentrate and prepare for the first feed to kiln, which is expected in October, the firm said in a statement.
The plant in eastern Pahang state has been dogged by protests from environmentalists and residents over concerns of radiation for the past two years and they have threatened to organise a blockade of the refinery.
It has also become a political issue in Prime Minister Najib Razak's home state ahead of elections that must be held by the middle of next year.
"Like everyone at Lynas, I am eagerly anticipating the safe commencement of operations at the LAMP (Lynas Advanced Materials Plant) and being able to supply our customers with product," executive chairman Nicholas Curtis said.
The Lynas plant was ready to begin operations nine months ago but production was delayed due to strong public opposition with legal challenges by residents still pending.
Local MP and senior opposition figure Fuziah Salleh, who has driven the anti-Lynas movement, told AFP the move by the government showed complete contempt for the courts.
"Even though it is not illegal, it is completely unethical as they are jumping the gun," she said.
Andansura Rabu, who leads the Stop Lynas Coalition of residents, said he was shocked by the decision given the next court date is on Monday.
"We are thinking of that and will call a meeting on what to do next," he told AFP when asked if they would follow up threats of blockading the plant.
The refinery is set to become one of the few sites outside China to process rare earths -- metals used in high-tech equipment ranging from missiles to mobile phones.
Malaysia's Atomic Energy Licensing Board granted the temporary licence for the plant to begin operations for an initial two-year period under strict safety requirements.
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