May 1, 2012 (Source: smh) — Australian miner Lynas Corporation has vowed to ”shut down” some of its most vitriolic opponents in the long-running fight over the company’s proposed Malaysian processing plant.
The Sydney-based rare earths miner confirmed that defamation proceedings were under way in the Malaysian legal system over claims made about the safety of the plant, which will process ores shipped from Western Australia. The defamation proceedings have targeted an independent media outlet known as Free Malaysia Today, while separate proceedings have also been lodged against a protest group known as Save Malaysia Stop Lynas.
Lynas boss Nick Curtis declined to reveal the exact nature of offending material, but said some recent claims had crossed the line between debate and defamation.
“The specific comments we won’t go into, but they are in our opinion and our legal opinion, targeted and defamatory and those comments should be shut down,” he said.
Legal letters seen by BusinessDay show that Lynas is unhappy about suggestions it misled investors, as well as suggestions that the processing plant will threaten the health of communities and the environment. The Lynas processing plant has proved highly controversial in Malaysia, with protesters expressing fears that the local community and environment will be threatened by wastes from the plant.
The debate has become a factor in Malaysian domestic politics, with some members of the parliamentary opposition vowing to reject the plant should they win power. Lynas has countered the claims by saying its plans have been approved by both Malaysian and International Atomic Energy agencies, and Mr Curtis said the defamation action was not an attempt to stifle free speech. ”What we are hoping to achieve is clarity that the debate about Lynas’ plant in Malaysia must be based on fact and the real issues.”
But the protest groups said they would fight on, and that Lynas was taking advantage of differences between the defamation laws that exist in Australia and Malaysia.
Unlike Australian law, Malaysian law dictates that companies of more than 10 employees can be defamed.
Curtin University media law expert Joseph Fernandez said defamation actions were common in Malaysia especially among the rich and powerful. A former Malaysian newspaper editor, Associate Professor Fernandez said, unlike Australia, there was no cap on damages in Malaysia.
Lynas shares closed 1.5¢ higher at just over $1.12 last night.