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Lynas Refinery in Kuantan, Malaysia

Prompting Malaysia’s biggest environmental campaign, Australian Lynas Corp’s large rare earth refinery, established in Gebeng, produces toxic waste close to 30,000 residents, peat land, a bio-rich estuary, floodplains, and marine and coastal ecosystems.


On 8 March 2011, a New York Times article revealed construction of a world-scale rare earth (RE) refinery project in an industrial estate in Gebeng, near the Port of Kuantan, Malaysia. The refinery is owned by Australia’s Lynas Corporation, which owns and operates a mine and concentration plant in Mt Weld (Western Australia, WA)— 800km from WA’s capital, Perth — shipping the ore concentrate 2,899 nautical miles (5,370 km) from Fremantle Port to the Kuantan plant for extraction and processing into RE oxides.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lynas Refinery in Kuantan, Malaysia
State or province:Pahang
Location of conflict:Region surrounding Gebeng Industrial Estate, Kuantan
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral processing
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Rare metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Initially, expected production from Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Phase 1 was 11,000 tonnes rare earth oxides (REO) and, in Phase 2, operating at full capacity 22,000 tonnes of REO [14] from an annual import of 66,000 tonnes of Western Australian RE concentrate, a level of production from the Mt Weld concentrator requiring around 240,000 tonnes ore [15].

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Project area:100Ha
Level of Investment:Total assets in 2014–2015 were around A$850mn [18, p. 47]. This figure does not include reductions associated with considerable debts meaning net assets were valued at less than $200mn in the financial year ending mid-2015 [18, p. 47].
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:08/03/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Lynas Corporation from Australia
Ashton Rare Earth Limited from Australia
Asian Rare Earth from Australia
Mitsubishi Chemical from Japan
Relevant government actors:Malaysian Ministry of Sciences, Technology and Innovations
Malaysian Government's Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB)
Malaysian Parliament Select Committee
Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority
Western Australian Government (mining regulations and royalties)
Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment Malaysia
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - Two official reviews at the request of the Malaysian Governemnt
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Save Malaysia Stop Lynas —
Friends of the Earth Malaysia (Sahabat Alam) —
Stop Lynas Australia —
BADAR (Balok Anti-Radioactive and Rare Earth group)
Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly) —
Stop Lynas Coalition —
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
small local tourist operators
property/land owners
senior citizens
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsRadiation hazards and risks
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsRadiation exposure health hazards and risks for workers and communities
Air pollution from noxious gases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsLivelihood impacts on people gaining an income from fishery and tourism
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Violent targeting of activists
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:The refinery should adopt best practice radio-active waste and pollution management facilities, and independent and transparent monitoring measures.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The campaign managed to attract a lot of international media attention and stopped bigger contracts being pursued by major buyer. Lynas share values plummeted due to negative publicity and financial risks and because prices of rare earth elements dropped.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[10] Stop Lynas (campaign) Site
[click to view]

[19] Lynas Corporation Ltd, Financial Report for the Year ended June 30, 2016.
[click to view]

[5] Rozainah M.Z and Mohamad M.R. (2006) ‘Mangrove Forest Species Composition and Density in Balok River, Pahang, Malaysia’, Ecoprint 3

[16] BRS (2011), Section 3.4 ‘Description of Process’ in Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) Radiological Impact Assessment, Revision 2, (December 2011) Bandar Baru Bengi: Bangi Ray Services.

[3] Bradsher, K. (2011) ‘Mitsubishi Quietly Cleans Up Its Former Refinery’ New York Times, 8th March.
[click to view]

[6] Wood, L. J. (2007) ‘Marine Protected Area Global: A Database of the World's Marine Protected Areas’, Sea Around Us Project, United Nation Environmental Program (UNEP)- World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) & World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
[click to view]

[9] International Peat Society (2008), ‘Peatlands and Climate Change Policy’
[click to view]

[4] Poh, L.K. (2015) ‘In Search of Environmental Justice in Malaysia: The Cases of Broga and Bukit Merah’, PhD Thesis for University of Brighton, June.

[1] Government of Western Australia (1992) ‘Environmental Clearance for Rare Earth Mine’, Media Release, 10 November
[click to view]

[12] CAP (1993) Wasted Lives – Radioactive Poisoning in Bukit Merah, Penang, Malaysia, Penang: Consumer Association of Penang.

[13] Wada, Y. (2013) ‘A Radioactive Thorium Pollution Case in Malaysia: Asian Rare Earth Incident Revisited’, Power Point Presentation for the Rare Earth Symposium, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 31 May.
[click to view]

[14] Lynas Corp Ltd, The LAMP, Kuantan, Malaysia’, accessed 24 October 2016
[click to view]

[15] Lynas Corp Ltd, ‘Mt Weld, Western Australia’, accessed 24 October 2016
[click to view]

[17] Environ Consulting Services (2008) Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment and Quantitative Risk Assessment Report of the Proposed Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) within the Gebeng Industrial Estate, Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia, prepared for Lynas Corporation, January 2008

[18] Lynas Corp, Annual Report 2015, Lynas site —
[click to view]

[7] CAP (2012) ‘AELB not adhering to IAEA recommendations on Lynas’ — Consumer Association of Penang
[click to view]

[8] Murdiyarso, D., Kauffman, J.B., Warren, M., Pramova, E. and Hergoualc’h, K. (2012) ‘Tropical wetlands for climate change adaptation and mitigation: Science and policy imperatives with special reference to Indonesia’. Working Paper 91, Bogor, Indonesia: Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

[2] EPA-WA (1992) ‘Report and Recommendations on the Proposed Rare Earths Mining and Beneficiation at Mt Weld, Laverton and Secondary Processing at Meenaar, near Northam’, Bulletin # 646, Perth: Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia.

[11] Cooke, F. M. and Hezri, A.A. (2013) ‘Environmentalism in Malaysia: Movement Structure and Agency’ in P. Hirsch (Ed.) The Routledge Handbook on the Environment in Southeast Asia (In Press 2017)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Image of Anti-Lynas campaigners
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Anitra Nelson and Lee Tan, Australian Environmnetal Justice, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University — [email protected]
Last update09/12/2016
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