Malaysian rare earths Lynas plant gets go ahead

Malaysians protested against the Lynas rare earths facility
Image caption The rare earths facility has sparked widespread opposition from local people

A Malaysian court has given Australian company Lynas authorisation to start production at a controversial rare earths processing plant.

The $800m (£502m) facility near the city of Kuantan had been ready to begin operations in May, but protesters successfully gained a suspension order.

The site has faced strong opposition from local residents who are concerned about the risk of radioactive waste.

Rare earths are metals used to make everything from mobile phones to TVs.

There are 17 rare earths in total, such as lanthanum and cerium, and their production is currently dominated by China. They often have to be extracted from rocks which also contain the radioactive element thorium.

Lynas insists the facility will be safe.

Rare earths analyst Mark Busuttil of JP Morgan said it was still not yet known if Lynas will be able to start production.

A lawyer for the protesters said they would be appealing the decision to allow production to start at the facility.

"At this point it feels like it's still a little early to say they're definitively going to be able to operate the plant," he said.

In recent years China has been accused by the European Union, US and Japan of deliberately limiting its export of rare earths. The Lynas facility is supposed to be play a key role in reducing China's dominance of the metals.

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