By Echha Jain
(Reuters) -Australia’s Lynas Rare Earths said on Friday it planned to shut all operations in Malaysia on a temporary basis, except a mixed rare earth carbonate processing plant in the December quarter, with minimal volumes of the raw material processed during the interim shutdown.
Shares of the miner closed 1.9% lower, after falling as much as 2.7% to A$6.24 mid-trade, the stock marked its lowest since May 3.
Lynas’ Malaysian operations have been a sore point for the company, with the country’s government raising concerns about the radiation levels from cracking and leaching for the last couple of years and Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim warning of a policy to ban exports of rare earth raw materials.
It will implement an upgrade to its downstream operations at Lynas Malaysia to increase production of neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) to about 10,500 metric tons per annum.
This upgrade will be essential if the company’s Malaysian operating licence is updated to allow the continued import and processing of Lanthanide concentrate, it said.
As a result of the upgrade, the company projects lower rates of production of NdPr in Lynas Malaysia during the March quarter with maximum production rates of approximately 300 metric tons per month (tpm) growing to 750 tpm in the June quarter.
During the short-term shutdown, which starts in mid-November to complete upgrading works, key personnel from the Malaysian cracking and leaching plant will be deployed to assist with the start-up process of its rare-earths processing facility in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.
Lynas, whose operating licence in Malaysia had been extended until January 2024, said application for a stay to allow it to operate on a normal basis in Malaysia while administrative and legal appeals are heard and decided has been listed for hearing in November.
The world’s largest producer of rare earths outside China also reported a 21.8% drop in its first quarter sales revenue to A$128.1 million ($81.04 million). It missed a consensus estimate of A$159 million, according to Barrenjoey.
NdPr production for the quarter came in at 1,526 rare earth oxide tonnes (REOt), compared with 1,045 REOt a year earlier.
($1 = 1.5808 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Echha Jain, Adwitiya Srivastava and Roushni Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Jacqueline Wong)