Malaysia considering rare earths firm Lynas’ request to operate during MCO

The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant is seen in this general view taken in Gebeng, Pahang July 23, 2019. — Reuters pic
The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant is seen in this general view taken in Gebeng, Pahang July 23, 2019. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — Malaysia will decide within five days whether to allow rare earths miner Lynas Corp Ltd to operate its processing plant during the country’s partial lockdown that runs until April 28, the industry ministry told Reuters on Wednesday.

Australian company Lynas, the world’s largest rare earths producer outside China, said earlier it had applied to the Malaysian government for “critical industry” status as its products are essential to the supply chains of key industries in the country, including medical devices. Its shares rose on news of the request.

Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry has not classified rare earths among essential businesses allowed to operate with certain conditions during the restrictions imposed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Still, it is considering Lynas’s request, the ministry told Reuters. “All applications by companies will be evaluated and results will be given within five days,” it added.

Lynas’s Mt Weld mine in Australia has been running with only essential staff and its Malaysian processing plant shuttered on March 23, days after the government announced restrictions on movement and non-essential business, which have now been extended to April 28.

Lynas produced 4,465 tonnes of rare earths oxides in the quarter ended March 31, compared with 5,444 tonnes last year. Sales revenue tumbled 10 per cent to A$91.2 million (RM255 million).

However, strong demand from customers in Japan, Europe and the United States helped it reduce reliance on China for sales of the elements used in everything from iPhones to military equipment, Lynas said.

Production of Neodymium Praseodymium or NdPr, used to make high-strength permanent magnets found in ventilators, computers and wind turbines, fell 14 per cent to 1,369 tonnes. Demand concerns from the virus crisis have also hit NdPr prices, Lynas said. — Reuters

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