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Australia, Malaysia to meet over rare earths on June 20

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Australian and Malaysian government officials are due to meet later this month, a state mining spokesman confirmed and the plan for Lynas Corp's controversial rare earths waste storage in the country is likely to be at the top of the agenda.

[MELBOURNE] Australian and Malaysian government officials are due to meet later this month, a state mining spokesman confirmed and the plan for Lynas Corp's controversial rare earths waste storage in the country is likely to be at the top of the agenda.

Bill Johnston, Western Australia's minister for mines, will meet Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia's energy minister, in Perth on June 20, a ministry spokesman told Reuters.

Australia's Lynas, which is the only proven producer of rare earths outside of China, is waiting to get an operating licence for its Malaysian processing plant renewed before it expires in September.

The global spotlight has fallen on rare earths in recent weeks after state media in China suggested that the country could halt exports of the minerals critical to US defence and other industries. China produces upwards of 85 per cent of the strategic metals.

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Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last Thursday he expected Lynas's operating licence to get renewed when it expires in September.

However, Malaysia's energy ministry wants to discuss ways to manage the radioactive waste from Lynas Corp's rare earth processing plant in Malaysia, including its removal, a ministry spokesman told Reuters last week.

Australia has already ruled out taking back the low-level radioactive residue produced by Lynas's US$800 million Malaysian processing plant, the push by Malaysia shows that its new government remains divided over Lynas's future in the country.

Malaysia's environment ministry had set conditions in December for Lynas to remove its waste stockpiles before it would renew its operating licence, conditions that were "in tact" a ministry spokesman said on Friday. 

REUTERS