Rare Earths are a unique group of fifteen chemical elements in the periodic table known as the Lanthanide series.
Rare Earths are essential for many hundreds of applications. Their versatile yet specific; metallurgical, chemical, catalytic, electrical, magnetic and optical properties have given them a level of technological, environmental and economic importance considerably greater than might be expected from their relative obscurity.
Rare earths underpin technologies that are fundamental in satisfying three key social trends.
Rare Earths support the uptake of energy efficient initiatives through their unique physical and chemical properties. This allows them to protect the environment by lowering energy consumption and improve lifestyles through energy efficient applications that save money, without sacrificing comfort and reliability.
Rare Earths are playing a pivotal role in greenhouse gas reduction through their unique application in automotive catalytic convertors, hybrid vehicles, wind turbines and energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.
The digital era is gathering pace; broadband access, digital television, digital cameras, and digital music are around us at home and on the move.
Lynas is an Australian company with a strong set of values, which include operating in a safe, honest, candid and transparent manner, as well as always to respect and contribute to the communities in which we live and work. Our vision is to be the global leader in rare earths for a sustainable future.
The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant is a simple but state of the art chemical plant. It operates at atmospheric pressure and temperature so there is no possibility of high pressure explosions. There will be no significant exposure and no health or safety risk from Lynas emissions to air.
The rare earths concentrate used by the facility is classified by independent authorities as safe, non toxic and non hazardous. The facility will be the most modern of its type in the world and will incorporate state of the art environmental protection designs and systems.
Lynas met all the regulations and approvals in both Australia and Malaysia. In the end Lynas preferred Malaysia for a number of important reasons.
Gebeng is a well established and well designated industrial park with access to good port facilities, high grade chemicals, a well educated and skilled workforce.
Gebeng also has reliable power and utility supplies and very good infrastructure. Finally Malaysia was chosen because the investment climate here in Malaysia is favorable and competitive.
Rare earths have unique chemical properties that make them a vital component of energy efficient technology. This technology is at the heart of products such as hybrid cars, wind turbines and low power lighting. So rare earths are important for a cleaner, greener future.
The demand for rare earths is set to grow and supply may become limited. China currently dominates the world production of rare earths, however by using high quality rare earths concentrate from Australia, Malaysia has an opportunity to become an important, world supplier. In fact Malaysia could supply up to a third of the world's rare earth future needs.
Everyone is entitled to ask questions on our Lynas Corporation Facebook page. We're committed to giving answers.
We welcome the community asking questions about the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng. It's important to us that the communities we live and work with understand we care about them and their environment. We know that people want to know more so we're happy to answer more questions.
What are rare earths?
Rare earth elements are found in many parts of the world. What's rare is to find them in large, accessible quantities. Mount Weld in Western Australia is the richest known deposit of Rare Earths in the world. Rare earths are often difficult to extract and a project can take many years to develop – sometimes decades. Rare earths are vital to efficient, green technology such as hybrid vehicles, wind power generation, low-energy lighting and energy efficient flat-screen displays.
What standards are being applied to the LAMP?
International standards are being applied to the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP), and we have fully endorsed and applied these standards from the start.
An independent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world's pre-eminent authority on radiation safety, confirmed the LAMP as safe and posing no threat or impact on the health and safety of the local population.
Prior to commencing construction, Lynas also completed a detailed year-long Environmental Impact Assessment and Radiological Impact Assessment. Both assessments and regulatory approvals are on the public record showing the LAMP to be safe.
A Temporary Operating License for the LAMP was approved by Malaysia's Atomic Energy Licensing Board in February 2012.
Why build a processing plant in Malaysia and not Australia?
Lynas came to Malaysia for economic reasons and its proximity to customers. Gebeng has a well-established, designated industrial park with access to good port facilities, high-grade chemicals, a well-educated and skilled workforce, reliable power and utility supplies and very good infrastructure.
Malaysia has a clear legal framework, strict and clear regulations and a government with a vision for value added industry. Lynas met all the regulations and approvals to build a processing plant in Australia, but chose Malaysia because it makes better business sense to be close to global customers.
Is the Lynas rare earth concentrate radioactive?
Rare earth elements are not radioactive themselves. The mineral concentrate contains low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material. Mineral concentrates with naturally occurring radioactive material are regularly transported around the world for processing.
The levels of naturally occurring radioactivity are so low that the Lynas rare earths concentrate is not classified as radioactive by the International Atomic Energy Agency transport regulations. It is classed as non-hazardous according to criteria of the Australian Safety and Compensation Council.
A person who spent several hours on a long-haul commercial flight or having an x-ray taken will receive a higher dose of radiation than he or she would from the Lynas Rare Earths concentrate.
What about the waste?
Lynas is absolutely confident that by-products of the LAMP will be recycled and reused in commercial applications, and will not require long-term storage.
Acid cracking and leaching of the rare earths concentrate at the LAMP will produce three solid residues, or Synthetic Mineral Products, each of which has commercial application.
One of the plant residues from the water leach process contains very low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). When mixed with hydrated lime and other additives it is transformed into Iron PhysphoGypsum and has commercial application as a component in synthetic road base. Commodities containing NORM are also regularly used as construction materials and in building products such as plasterboard.
Is LAMP the same as the rare earths plant in Bukit Merah?
No. The LAMP is completely different to the Bukit Merah rare earths plant. The Asian Rare Earth plant used the waste from tin mining as its raw material. This contained high levels of thorium, which was the source of high levels of radiation, and which ultimately led to this plant's closure.
By contrast, the Lynas raw material contains naturally occurring low levels of thorium which are 30-40 times lower than tin mine tailings and 45-100 times lower than the residue created by processing of the tin mine tailings.
What about radiation?
The levels of naturally occurring radioactivity are so low that the Lynas rare earths concentrate is not classified as radioactive by the International Atomic Energy Agency transport regulations. However we understand the concern and have rigorous processes in place to keep exposures as low as possible in accordance with the established international guidelines. Exposure to our rare earths poses no more risk than everyday occurrences such as having an x-ray or taking a long-haul commercial flight.
Is Lynas meeting the highest regulations and standards?
Lynas complies with Australian, International and Malaysian standards – and that's the way it should be. It should also be known that many Malaysian standards are equivalent to, or exceed international standards. The LAMP has consistently met the highest safety standards from the world's pre-eminent authority on radiation safety, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Malaysia's Atomic Energy Licensing Board. Lynas will continue to comply with the requirements of the Malaysian Government regulatory authorities in relation to the LAMP.
What environmental protection will the LAMP facility have?
The LAMP is a simple chemical processing plant operating at atmospheric pressure. The plant meets rigorous regulations in water treatment, emissions and storage and handling of waste, which are some of the toughest in the world.
How will local soil and groundwater be protected?
Lynas places hydrated residues in a safe, reliably engineered, elevated Residue Storage Facility that is designed so that there is no possibility of any leakage of material into the environment. This facility is monitored and regulated by both Lynas and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board to ensure full compliance within the approved conditions. This includes continuous air and water monitoring.
What about emissions to air?
Lynas handles material with very low levels of radiation. There is no significant exposure or health risk from emissions to air. To demonstrate this, Lynas has installed specialised air monitoring equipment onsite and in the township of Kuantan.
How will you handle the waste?
Lynas stores and handles materials safely on site. This has been verified by independent, expert review. Lynas places hydrated residues in a safe, reliably engineered, elevated Residue Storage Facility that is designed so that there is no possibility of any leakage of material into the environment. This facility is monitored and regulated by both Lynas and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to ensure full compliance within the approved conditions. This includes continuous air and water monitoring.
Lynas is subject to strict conditions by the AELB. One of these conditions refers to the end of life of the plant – Lynas must obtain a decommissioning licence, which includes the permanent, safe storage of any of the remaining residues that cannot be recycled or reused. Lynas has agreed to place funds with the Malaysian government to ensure safe management of any remaining residues as required by the AELB.
Lynas is absolutely confident that by-products of the LAMP will be recycled and re-used in commercial applications, and will not require long-term storage.
Do Australian regulations prevent rare earths processing plants from being within 35 kilometres of residential areas or is that just a myth?
There is no such regulation in Australian law or even international law. The nearest town to Lynas' Mount Weld mine is Laverton, which is 35 kilometres away. This distance has not been mandated and has nothing to do with regulations.
Would Lynas ever consider importing rare earths concentrate without a licence?
Lynas is a highly respected and law-abiding publicly listed company. It respects and complies with all Malaysian Government conditions, regulations and limitations. Lynas has fulfilled the conditions set by the Atomic Energy Licensing Board for the Temporary Operating License and are waiting for it to be issued. Lynas has no plans to import rare earths concentrate until a licence is issued. Lynas imports equipment and construction materials on a regular basis.
Did Lynas leave Terengganu for environmental reasons?
Lynas received approval from the Malaysian authorities – the Atomic Energy Licensing Board and the Department of Environment – for its original proposed site in Terengganu. Lynas met all the environmental and regulatory requirements so environmental reasons were not behind the decision to leave Terengganu.
Are there any similarities between the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) and a nuclear plant?
No. The LAMP is a simple chemical processing plant and there is no comparison between it and a nuclear plant. Lynas' processes and operations are not unusual in the chemical industry, and the facility is similar to other plants in the Gebeng industrial park.
How will Lynas protect the surrounding swampland and water table?
The site preparation work has been extensive. Two metres of top soil were removed and replenished. Piling and reinforcement of the construction exceeds requirements. Lynas places hydrated residues in a safe, reliably engineered, elevated Residue Storage Facility that is designed so that there is no possibility of any leakage of material into the environment. Monitoring equipment has been installed to detect any risk of leakage and is monitored 24 hours a day.
I heard the LAMP might cause radioactive rain. Could that happen?
The LAMP will not cause radioactive rain. There is no significant exposure or health and safety risks from emissions. But Lynas has installed European air monitoring equipment onsite and in the township of Kuantan to measure and clearly demonstrate that the facility will cause no harm.
What measures are being taken to prevent the river from being polluted?
Thorium has a very low level of radiation and is extracted from processed water. The extraction method is a well-known and proven chemical process. Once extracted, thorium is contained in a specially designed Residue Storage Facility that meets all international standards for safe storage and handling.
Has Lynas carried out all the proper studies on radiation exposure?
Lynas included a radiation exposure study (for external and internal radiation exposure) in all its Radiation Impact Assessments, as per Atomic Energy Licensing Board and international requirements.
Will the Pahang tourism and fishing industries and small- and medium-sized businesses be affected by the Lynas operation?
A Radiological Impact Assessment has been carried out and submitted to all the regulating authorities. The assessment confirms that the LAMP will pose no radiological risk to the public or the environment. The assessment estimates exposures of 0.002mSv/year. To put that into perspective, international and Malaysian laws allow public exposure of 1.0 mSv/year. Exposure during a diagnostic medical examination in Malaysia is 0.28 mSv per exam. The LAMP will have around 500 times less exposure than what is considered safe by international standards.
Can radon and thoron easily travel long distances and cause health problems?
The International Atomic Energy Agency conducted an independent review of the LAMP's assessed emissions to air, water and land. The review concluded that the LAMP does not present a public health exposure risk.
Due to the very low content of uranium in concentrate it is not expected that radon will be generated in any significant measurable amounts. In addition it is important to note that thoron is a gas with a very short half-lifes, and cannot travel thousands of miles and cause health problems.
However, to address public concerns, Lynas has installed two Aerosol Monitoring Systems onsite and in Kuantan to continuously monitor, measure and clearly demonstrate to the community that the facility will cause no harm.
What benefits does Lynas bring to Malaysia and Kuantan?
The LAMP will bring substantial benefits that will be felt by all Malaysians and the entire Malaysian economy.
For example, the facility will create nearly 350 skilled jobs at the LAMP, plus a multiplier of 5-8 times that in secondary jobs through the economic ecosystem created by the plant.
The capital investment to build the LAMP is substantial at RM 2.2 billion and operating expenditure will total RM 600 million per year.
The export revenue generated for Malaysia will be an additional RM 3 billion per year, which will filter right through the Malaysian economy and benefit all Malaysians.
Is thorium concentrated during the production process?
There is no concentration of thorium in the production process and Lynas neither extracts nor concentrates thorium content. The concentration of thorium remains the same, as does the low-level radiation.
Does Australia require waste to be returned to the mine?
There is no such law in Australia. There are many examples of mineral concentrates containing naturally occurring radioactive material that are transported the world. Waste residue is not required to be returned to the point of origin when it can be safely stored, reused or recycled onsite.
Will Lynas be managed by Malaysians?
Lynas Malaysia is staffed and managed by Malaysians. The team comprises Malaysian and international technical experts, including five staff members with specific experience in the rare earths industry.
How will LAMP support Malaysia's stated '2020 Vision'?
Pemandu's Economic Transformation Programme outlines 12 national key economic areas where Malaysia seeks to grow to achieve high-income nation status in a way that is inclusive, sustainable and safe.
The LAMP will make Malaysia the go-to destination for nearly 33% of the world's rare earth element requirements. The LAMP will bring knowledge transfer and technology transfer, empowering Malaysian's with 21st century skills and experience in this emerging field.
LAMP will reap huge financial benefits to Malaysia, including:
• Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of capital cost of RM 2.2 billion
• Operating expenditure of RM 600 million per year
• Export revenue RM 3 billion per year
• Creation of over 350 skilled jobs at LAMP, plus a multipler of 5-8 times that in secondary jobs through the economic ecosystem created by the plant