Malaysia protests rare earth processing plant
Australian miner gets thumbs up from judge, loses court of public opinion
Despite promising “Zero harm and sustainable development” and winning a court case permitting it to build a rare earth processing plant, Australian rare earth miner and processor Lynas Corp has failed to win favor from Malaysians who fear its investment will saddle the country with toxic waste.
Lynas’ base is West Australia, where its Mount Weld mine the company says it sits on “the richest known deposit of rare earths in the world.” Rare earths are essential in the manufacture of many high-technology products. China has noticed this and also the fact that it holds the lion’s share of the world’s rare earth resources. The People’s Republic has been accused of hoarding that stash, to drive up prices and help it control production capacities.
Lynas therefore promotes itself as the world’s “first new source” for rare earths outside China.
Mount Weld is, however, in the middle of nowhere.
The same cannot be said of Kuantan, the Malaysian locale where Lynas plans to build a rare earth processing plant, a type of facility residents and Australian supporters say, in online campaigns, will result in “millions of tonnes of toxic radioactive waste left behind”.
Residents took Lynas to court in Malaysia, resulting in the suspension of its operating licence. That decision was overturned yesterday.
Lynas’ statement to the Australian Stock Market (PDF) expresses disappointment that while it won the case, it must now fight another over its radiation safety measures, but says there is now “…no injunction or stay preventing Lynas from carrying out operations at its Malaysian plant.”
Save Malaysia Stop Lynas, a Malaysian protest group, says it will “… fight until the end to Stop Lynas for a better and safer Malaysia.” ®
It's purely historic. Earth elements got their name from chemists who found it extremely hard to extract the metals from their oxides. The rare earths had similar chemistry but were thought to be rare at a time when chemists were largely confined to looking at what came out of European mines. The majority of the then-known rare earths were extracted from gadolinite which was known only in a single mine in Ytterby not far from Stockholm.
Gadolinite was originally thought to be a tungsten ore but the great Swedish chemist Johan Gadolin discovered it was something else. He was a bit worried he was going to turn chemistry upside down 'It is not without great trepidation I dare speak of a new earth because they are right now becoming far too numerous for it seem to me rather fatal if each of the new earths should only be found in one site or one mineral.' Gadolin discovered four new elements in gadolinite (named after him) - erbium, terbium, ytterbium and yttrium, all named after the town itself. Later, the same ore also revealed holmium (named after Stockholm) and thulium (from Thule), whilst euxenite again from the same mine, was the original source of tantalum/
Remember me if you win on 'Pointless'.
Re: Miseducation, misguidance and hearsay
Oh there's an overarching term for all those three, propaganda.
Between UMNO's apparent stranglehold on the English language press in M'sia (seriously, look at even a supposedly serious paper like the NST, it reads more and more like the Star every week. Malayisan Star, not the UK one, I doubt they'll have Polly from Pahang topless any time soon.) you can't actually get anything close to decent local news in Malaysia. The closest I can find is generally the Straits Times from Singapore and that's not exactly an unbiased source.
There's lots of commentary in the papers about the Lynas plant indeed and I am pretty sure no more than half of the authors could name you three elements from the periodic table.
I'll stop there before I get off on one of my rants. Suffice it to say that Malaysia might be the home of my people, but I'm damn glad I don't live there.
However Anonymous because I want to go back next year for a holiday and some proper durians. And char hor fun.
Damn right char hor fun.
Re: Miseducation, misguidance and hearsay
Only these three things? The first thing that crossed my mind was that if the processing plant is so wonderful, why is the company not building it in Australia?