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Australian rare earths miner Lynas Corp saw it's shares leap 12% on Friday after comments from Malaysia's new prime minister about the upcoming environmental review of its processing plant in the country. Lynas shares had fallen 27% on concerns the company's plant would be closed.

 Lynas Rare Earth

There has been intense speculation that Malaysia's newly elected government could close down Lynas' six-year-old are earth processing plant. The Australian company is the only processor outside of China of the rare earths used in industrial magnets. 

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made the point Friday that the committee reviewing the plant was not being directed solely by anti-Lynas members Chairman Fuziah Salleh and Wong Tack. Both have been both long time opponents of Lynas.

"There are other members on the committee. They can give their opinions. It's not as if they are being dictated by these two people," the PM  told reporters.

Shares in Lynas closed 9.9% higher on the Australian Stock Exchange after being up as much as 12% on the day.

A report in Malaysia's The Star newspaper also wrote of a more conciliatory comments from Fuziah on Friday. Fuziah said that her environmental audit committee acknowledged Lynas and its employees were important stakeholders in the review. She added that the report on behalf of Malaysia's government would be made transparent. These comments were made earlier in the week.

Fuziah had said earlier this week that the review would focus on the plant's radioactive waste emissions.

Lynas Map

The LAMP, Kuantan, Malaysia

The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) is one of the largest and most modern rare earths separation plants in the world. The LAMP is designed to treat the Mt Weld concentrate and produce separated Rare Earths Oxide (REO) products for sale to customers in locations including Japan, Europe, China and North America. Lynas operates in Kuantan, Malaysia The LAMP is located in the Gebeng Industrial Estate near Kuantan, Malaysia, close to the Kuantan deep-water port.

The plant is built on a 100 hectare site that is adjacent to established manufacturers of key chemical reagents within the industrial estate, and has access to a skilled labour force and excellent infrastructure including water and electricity, chemical and gas supplies. The plant was designed to comply with the modern safety and environmental practices to support our aim of providing a sustainable supply chain of rare earths.

Lynas is committed to engaging with and being a respected part the local community in Kuantan. We employ more than 600 people from the local community. The LAMP has been designed and built in two phases, with full Phase 2 capacity capable of p​roducing up to 22,000 tonnes per annum of separated REO products. Commissioning of the LAMP started in late 2012. Currently, the most valuable product produced at the LAMP is praseodymium/neodymium, NdPr. From mid-2015, the LAMP has been operating at approximately 75% of its NdPr production capacity, with three out of four SX5 (NdPr and LaCe separation) trains in operation.

There are three steps in the processing of the Mt Weld concentrate:

​1. Cracking and Leaching ​​​Mt Weld concentrate, which is essentially rare earth phosphate mineral, is mixed with concentrated sulphuric acid and cracked at a high temperature to convert the rare earth phosphate minerals to rare earth sulphate. Water is added to the rare earth sulphate in the leaching stage and impurities in the form of iron phosphogypsum are removed. The solution is neutralised to provide rare earth solution as feed to solvent extraction. ​ Mt Weld kilns.pngTwo out of the four 60 metre long gas fired kilns where the rare earth concentrate/acid mixture is "cracked" to become rare earth sulphate suitable for water leaching.​

 ​​2. Solvent Extraction Solvent Extraction (SX) employs two liquid phases (organic and aqueous) and is carried out in liquid-liquid counter current SX trains to progressively separate the rare earths into groups and individual elements. The main products are light rare earths including praseodymium/neodymium - PrNd; cerium - Ce; lanthanum - La; LaCe - lanthanum cerium solutions, and medium/heavy rare earths (samarium, europium, gadolinium – SEG and other Heavy Rare Earths – HRE) solutions.​ SX5 train.png One section of mixer settlers from SX5 train. NdPr is separated from LaCe. Each SX5 train has 110 stages (4 sections). Three out of four SX5 trains are currently in operation.

3. Product Finishing In the final stage of the process, the rare earth elements in the solution are precipitated as solid carbonates or oxalates. Some are then calcined (cooked) to the respective oxides. The LAMP produces NdPr oxide, Ce carbonate, Ce oxide, LaCe carbonate and LaCe oxide, and SEG oxide.  

Source: Mining Weekly , Lynas Corp

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