KUALA LUMPUR, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- Malaysian government on Monday urged Australian miner Lynas Corp. to remove all residue of its rare earth plant from the country, amid increased efforts by environmental groups to stop the controversial refinery and the continuously attack on the government by opposition on the issue.
In a joint statement, International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Maximus Ongkili, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Douglas Unggah Embas and Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai warned Lynas that it may lose the temporary operation license if it fails to comply with the prerequisite to remove the residue from the country.
"As ministers responsible for portfolios directly associated with the Lynas project, we reiterate that public health and safety continue to be our utmost priority," said the statement, quoted by the official news agency of Bernama.
The statement came after media reports that the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant, which commenced operation a couple of days ago, would not be able to transport the residue out of Malaysia due to international rules and regulations.
The Atomic Energy Licensing Board, which granted the temporary operation license to Lynas in September, said the company may process the residue for export. It also reiterated that the operation of the refinery is under close surveillance.
While Lynas is trying hard to convince local communities of the safety of the plant, activists groups have stepped up effort to suspend the operation by organizing protests and bringing up legal issues.
Nearly 10,000 people marched to the center of capital city Kuala Lumpur late November to protest the rear earth refinery.
Meanwhile, the issue also provides opposition with ample ammunition to attack the ruling coalition of National Front, which would face a close race in the general election to be called by April.
The rare earth plant, one of the biggest outside of China, could produce metals worth more than 91 billion U.S. dollars a year that are used in making green technology products like wind turbine, mobile phones and flat screen television. However, it has been met with fierce opposition by environmental activists and residents for fear over possible radioactive contamination.