KUALA LUMPUR — November 28, 2018: Lynas Coporation Ltd’s battle for survival in Malaysia has taken another twist after two of the rare-earth producer’s leading critics intensified their efforts to shut down its refinery in Gebeng, Kuantan.
In her latest vitriol, Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Fuziah Salleh claimed that the Australian company was trying to manipulate the market by temporarily halting its operations which will shore-up the price of rare-earth minerals.
Fuziah, who is also the Kuantan MP, described Lynas’ decision as a double whammy because it will be compounded by China’s decision to significantly cut its rare-earth exports, which experts said will translate into a 40 per cent price hike. China is the world’s largest rare-earth minerals producer
“If Lynas chooses to shut down its plant temporarily, it is entirely its prerogative, whether it is to save cost or to respond to market conditions strategically to increase its profit margins,” said Fuziah in a statement yesterday.
While Fuziah seems to be under the impression that the temporary production halt was done at the company’s whims and fancies, Lynas had in its quarterly report published on October 24 explained the rationale for the decision.
According to the report, production of rare-earth minerals had to be halted because of several pending approval matters, including the company’s request to increase its annual production limit.
“If the approval is not received shortly, Lynas Malaysia will need to reduce production in the December quarter in order to stay within the calendar year limits,” reads an excerpt from the report, adding that the limit resets on every January 1.
Where Fuziah merely issued a statement, the other leading critic, Bentong MP Wong Tack of the DAP, managed to stage a comeback as a leader of an official outfit to scrutinise Lynas.
Two days ago, Wong, who was dropped from the review committee that was tasked to review Lynas’ operations, announced that the Parliament had given him the go-ahead to chair a bi-partisan caucus to study the report submitted by the committee.
He was quoted as saying that the caucus will be studying the report and thereafter engage the Cabinet and make recommendations.