Rare Earth Race Heats Up with Lynas One Step Closer to Finishing Line

Breaking news across the wires this afternoon is that Lynas Corp.’s (ASX: LYC) Advanced Material Processing (LAMP) facility in Malaysia is 97% complete and that it will be operational in three weeks. With shares trading at AUD$1.06 and a market capitalization of AUD$1.83 billion, this is definitely positive news as it brings the global rare earth element (REE) industry one step closer to having an alternative supply source of REE and more specifically a source outside of China for the first time in nearly two decades.

The only outstanding issue is the temporary operating licence (TOL), which as readers of RareMetalBlog know all to well, has been the subject of much debate after being granted then was requested to be withdrawn by various groups opposed to the LAMP facility. The issue of REE processing residue generated by the LAMP facility has also been a topic of much debate.

While this topic is often presented with many misconceptions about health, safety, radiation and thorium intertwined, it is one that can be addressed favorably. Lynas has reported that the waste from its rare earth processing facility in Malaysia will not be hazardous and that radioactive residue can be recycled for use in commercial applications. This will significantly reduce the amount of waste that needs to be disposed and ultimately means that the facility will not need long-term storage of its processing wastes. Lynas has further indicated that its REE processing residue can be turned into gypsum.

A media briefing was held on Tuesday and the latest update according to Datuk Mashal Ahmad, Lynas Malaysia managing director is that, “The licence has been approved but we have yet to receive it. But Lynas has already fulfilled all the conditions stipulated for the licence to be issued and we are just waiting.” He also added that further delay in obtaining this licence could spell financial losses for suppliers; result in product shortages for customers; and impact future investors.

The Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak proposed the creation of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) in March to help raise awareness concerning Lynas’ rare earth project; to address misconceptions about its radiation effects; and raise awareness about the project’s contributions to the country’s economic growth. The PSC does not have any power to decide on approvals and plant operations.

Eric Noyrez, President and CEO of Lynas was also present in the media briefing and expressed optimism at meeting the  members of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to rectify any misleading information being spread about the LAMP facility. He said, “We have no intention to dump the waste (from LAMP) as we see money in them and have developed the technology to turn them into saleable items. All these have been done at both laboratory and pilot scales, using between 100 and 200 tonnes of the raw material.” He added that REE processing residues from the LAMP facility will be converted into fertilisers, plaster boards, other hardcore base for road construction and other potentially economically viable products. Based on these applications the need for creating a permanent disposal facility site will not be necessary as all residue will be used as inputs in other goods.

The REE race to production just got faster…

Disclaimer: Lynas is a sponsor of RareMetalBlog.
*Prices taken at 3:15 PM EST on 2012-04-04