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“Today marks another step forward and we appreciate the strong support from the Australian Government and the Western Australian Government to grow the critical minerals industry in the Kalgoorlie region.”

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The Kalgoorlie plant, expected to begin construction in 2021, is part of Lynas’ response to pressure over its Malaysian cracking and leaching plant, which has been met with fierce political and community opposition over how the company deals with low-level radioactive waste.

The new plant will remove radioactivity from materials drawn from its Mt Weld mine, which will then be sent to Malaysia for final treatment.

Federal Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said the new facility would bring value-adding back to Australia and draw more value from Australia’s mineral resources.

“This project will create good regional jobs and provide an economic boost for surrounding local businesses,” she said.

While the news was welcomed by Ord Minnett analyst Dylan Kelly, he said the announcement last week of a permanent disposal facility (PDF) for its controversial waste in Malaysia was more significant as it set the path for a long-term renewal of its licence to operate in the country.

“Despite scientific consensus that water leach purification (WLP) is ‘inherently low risk’ its presence in Malaysia has been endlessly politicised,” he said.

“With a significant cost and plan agreed by the stakeholders, we believe this issue should now be put to bed.”

The news of the PDF still drew controversy from the company’s local critics.

Local MP Fuziah Salleh said the Pahang government should have been the one to announce details on the selected site in Bukit Ketam and not Lynas.

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In another local report, State Housing and Local Government Committee chairman Abdul Rahim Muda said the Atomic Energy Licensing Board would choose the site for the PDF and this was yet to be finalised.

Rare earths have grown in prominence since early last year given their widespread use in everything from weapons manufacturing to electric vehicles, with supply dominated by China.

Fears over a supply imbalance has prompted the United States to scramble to secure the materials, and spurred plans to fund the construction of processing facilities in the country.

Lynas Corp (ASX:LYC) shared were down 2.3 per cent after lunch to $2.14.

With Reuters

Hamish Hastie is WAtoday’s business reporter.

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