Rare earth miner Lynas’s shares slumped yesterday on speculation that it had been refused a licence to import ore into Malaysia for processing, as protests against its plant continued.
Lynas shares fell up to 13 per cent after the government’s announcement before rebounding slightly to close 9.92 per cent lower at $1.09 as the company raced to clarify the claims.
Malaysia’s ministry of international trade and industry and the ministry of science, technology and innovation issued a joint statement yesterday to reaffirm that Lynas had not yet been given permission to import ore.
The statement was made after protesters had incorrectly claimed the miner planned to start importing this month.
Lynas also moved to assure local residents the claims were inaccurate, as it was still working with the government to obtain a pre-operating licence before it could proceed with shipments.
Lynas plans to process ore from its West Australian mine at a plant in Kuantan, in central Malaysia.
The company’s plans have been vehemently opposed by local Malaysians, leading the government to commission an International Atomic Energy Agency review of the $200 million ($194m) processing plant.
Residents have held noisy protests near the plant, fearing a repeat of health problems associated with a Mitsubishi refinery that closed in 1992.
Rare earths, a group of 17 elements, are not radioactive in themselves but nearly all rare earth ore deposits contain a slightly radioactive element called thorium in varying concentrations.
The IAEA report did not find any non-compliance with international safety standards but it did identify 10 areas of improvement that were needed before the next licensing phase of the project.
The report found that the company needed to improve its engagement with locals, a point executive chair Nick Curtis has previously conceded.
Malaysia’s government has previously said that it would ensure that Lynas complied with the atomic agency’s recommendations, and until then it would not allow the company to import raw material from its Mount Weld mine in Western Australia.
Despite the community opposition, Curtis said in August he was confident the company would be in production in Malaysia by the end of the year.
On September 30 Lynas said the first feed of concentrate at the Malaysian plant was still scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year.
“Lynas has received all required approvals to construct the Lynas advanced materials plant, and is in the process of applying for all pre-operation and operation approvals,” the company said. It added that the concentration plant in WA had started feeding ore on May 14 and was performing well.
Lynas, which opened its Mount Weld mine in August, the first rare earth mine in Australia, has already allocated about 70 per cent of its 11,000 million tonnes from stage one of its project.