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Malaysia to suspend construction of the world's largest rare earths processing plant

Australia Corporation Linus was constructing industrial zones of rare earth gabion factory in Kuantan, Malaysia's. Currently, the project has been suspended by Malaysian government because of environmental issues in the local controversy and the publ

 
PRLog - Aug. 17, 2011 - XIAMEN, China -- Along a few little "Linus's (Lynas)" signs, correspondent found the construction of the factories which was owned to Linus in the gabion factory zone in Kuantan, Malaysia. It is located in a remote corner, several kilometers away from the other plants. From the wetlands around we can see traces of marsh filling plant. After communicate with two securities reporter went into the construction of the world's largest rare earth refinery.
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Once the investment of $ 230 million, estimated annual production value of about $ 1.7 billion factory was built, the production of the rare earth plant will annually produce 22,000 tons of rare earth to meet the world's approximately 1 / 3 of the demand in the world trade market of rare earth. And this structure will have a significant impact. Currently, the project has been suspended by Malaysian government because of environmental issues in the local controversy and the public reacted strongly to the construction.
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Main building factory been completed

Kuantan, state capital of Pahang, is about 260 kilometers north-east away from Malaysia's capital Lumpur, with hundreds of thousands of people mainly in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism. And even after the establishment of gabion oil industry after the industrial zone been developed, the city remains a quiet, soothing life. But this NO.1 rare earth refinery in the world has broken the calm.

After 10-minute drive from the first pass of the factory, we came to the core built-up area with this dust, roaring machines, a large number of workers in the busy. The main factory building has been completed, a dozen buildings forms together into one piece of area, a tower standing in the central buildings, and a large green rectangular concrete vault which should be the storage of tailings areas. A large open space been seen is reserved for future expansion of the size of the land.
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Rare earth materials are the essential supplies for the development of national high strategy of defense and cutting-edge technology. In the identified 35 strategic elements of the 21st century of United States and selected 26 high-tech elements of Japan, all the rare earth elements are included. Currently more than 90% of rare earth supply on the international market is from China. China's rare earth production in 2009 was 12 million tons, accounting for 97% of global production. Curtis, president of Linus, said that the world's rare earth high-tech product manufacturers are keen to a supply of long-term stability, so the refinery could provide them a stable source in long-term outside of China.

Radiation and tailings disposal coming into a problem

Refining plant will be mining rare earth minerals from Australia after the construction. There are those Malaysia who believe, rare earth plant been built near the river and the sea could damage the environment. Kuantan residents accused the Australia of putting a "low radiation dumping ground in Malaysia." Many people said that since there is rare earth mine in Australia, why wouldn’t they build refineries locally?

Environmental experts from Malaysia that the most important reason of the choice stems from Malaysian low-cost environment, and the Malaysian Government’s much-needed investment in rare-earth so to launch its huge market. And that brought Linus of a 12-year tax holiday.

Currently there are two contentions on the earth plants: First, whether the rare plant can control the radiation generated in the production process. And the second, how to handle and preserve the rare earth tailings extracted from the rare earth. ChenWen, chairman of "Save Malaysia" Committee, told reporters that the factory’s operating period is 20 years, but it has a storage area only for 10 years of tailings. Moreover, earth in the plant is geological soft which means it might lead to leakage of harmful ingredients stored in the storage room.

Malaysian government has decided to suspend the project, and invited the IAEA experts to conduct the surveys and assessments. According to the expert group's report in late June, the rare earth plant is in line with international radiation safety standards, but only after the Malaysian Government and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board could ensure the plants to meet the 11 recommendations of rare earth, could the factory be put into operarion. Malaysia IAEA director Abdul Aziz told reporters that the Atomic Energy Bureau take the public health issues as the top priority,so only if Linus could full implement these 11 proposal, will  the quasi-government issue an operating license and all-weather monitor plant operations.

Environmental costs of development can not be ignored

Malaysia Trade General Chamber of Commerce Huang Hanliang said that, as a developing country, due to the fact that the environmental measures and technical standards in Malaysia are relatively low, rare earth plant construction could damage the environment and health if there is no absolute certainty. Idriss, president of Malaysia environmental organization "Friends of the Earth”, criticize that it is another example of transnational corporations taking use of lax environmental regulations and weak enforcement in developing countries so as to reap the economic benefits of developing countries.

The dispute of rare plant construction in Malaysia in this time, in fact, is another test of how to avoid the economic development model to develop under the cost of energy and the damage to the environment, so as to seek for a sustainable economic development. It is understood that, in Pahang of Kuantan, where once depended on timber harvesting industry as the main economic growth but with the later timber reducing the state's economic growth slowed, the slow economic growth could be one of the reason for why the Pahang government invite such factories to settle down in local.

Many local experts believe that Malaysia's economic development should give more consideration to optimizing and upgrading industrial structure, and transforming from low value-added production to production of high value-added products, and improving its productivity, thus to have a stronger international competitiveness. Bin Haining, dean of Malaysia University of Science Civil Engineering, said that, behind the economic growth, we can not ignore the conservation and environmental protection of non-renewable resource. And he pointed out that we shouldn’t just aim at short-term economic growth, regardless of the treatment costs that is required after the destruction of the environment and the serious impact in future life.

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