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Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng/Kuantan, Malaysia


Australia’s Lynas Rare Earth Ltd. (formerly known as Lynas

Corporation) mines rare earth ore in Western Australia, which it transports to a secondary processing plant in the port city of Kuantan Malaysia.

On March 8, 2011, a New York Times article revealed construction of a world-scale rare earth (RE) secondary processing plant in an industrial estate in Gebeng, near the Port of Kuantan, Malaysia. The plant is 100% owned by Australia’s Lynas Rare Earth Ltd. (formerly known as 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.

 In 1992, the WA government granted Lynas’s predecessor Ashton Rare Earth Limited conditional approval for a processing plant in Meenaar industrial estate 100km from Perth [1]. Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia approval stipulated numerous social and environmental conditions [2]. Mt Weld and Meenaar are ideal mining and refining sites —sparsely populated semi-arid lands with underground aquifers capable of supplying amber water. Choosing, instead, a Malaysian site, Lynas could avoid the stringent Meenaar conditions set by the WA government.

Today, LAMP is about 2 km from a residential population of 30,000 and 700,000 people live within a 5km and 25 km radius (including Kuantan city with over 400,000) respectively.

Malaysia’s last RE refinery, Asian Rare Earth (ARE) in neighbouring state of Perak, left a toxic legacy involving Asia’s biggest RE clean-up effort costing $100 million [3]. Partly owned and operated by Japan’s Mitsubishi Chemical in the industrial town Bukit Merah, nearby villagers and workers experienced miscarriages, birth defects and unusually high incidence of childhood leukaemia due to poor management of toxic and radioactive wastes, lack of occupational and public health and safety measures, and government inaction despite independent scientific evidence of dangers. ARE closed down in 1992 after 10 years of operation and strong popular actions and protests [4].

A peat mangrove [5] — theoretically protected by law [6] — sits adjacent to the Lynas refinery. The Lynas refinery went ahead without public knowledge, consultation or impact assessment on the peatland, its biologically rich estuary and floodplains, and the marine and coastal ecosystems of the South China Sea, just 5 km from the refinery [7]. Pitched as a ‘green’ supplier of materials for low-emission technologies vital to tackling climate change, it is ironic that Lynas has located its refinery in this rich tropical peatland, which stores huge amount of carbon dioxide emitted whenever burnt in the drought season, exposed or disturbed. Instead, this landscape should be protected for mitigating climate change and offering adaptive ecosystem services to local communities [8] [9].

Malaysia’s biggest ever environmental campaign [10] — described as the country’s “most far reaching experience with a popular environmental resistance” [11] — evolved as local, Australian and international environmentalists became alarmed by the secrecy surrounding the refinery, the fast-tracked approval, a 12-year tax break granted Lynas as a Malaysian government foreign direct investment incentive, the vulnerable social and ecological environment in which the refinery had been placed and prior experience of tragedies with Bukit Merah [12][13].

On May 15, 2011, about 100 people organised by DAP Kuantan gathered at the refinery to demonstrate before police moved in to arrest four individuals stretched out on a banner showing a radioactive symbol. The four were DAP Pahang publicity secretary Chow Yu Hui, organising secretary Lee Chin Chen, Khor Hui Ying and Thing Siew Shuen [23].

On June 22, 2014, thousands of protestors organized by NGO Himpunan Hijau (¨green assembly¨) gathered outside the Kuantan facility when guards began violently disrupting the crowd. 16 protestors including Australian-based activist Natalie Lowrey were arrested and detained in a Kuantan prison while two others were hospitalized after guards beat them. Her arrest became high-profile, inciting worldwide protests and a petition signed by 15,000 people calling for her release [21] [22].

In December 2018, a newly elected government demanded that Lynas ship back its refinery waste to Australia by September 2019 or else they would not have their license renewed. This caused the company´s stock price to fall by more than half [20]. In August 2019, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad extended Lynas´operating license by 3 years under the condition that Lynas stop importing radioactive materials by July 2023 [25]. In response, protestors continued mobilizing, such as chemical enginer turned activist Moses Lim, who brings up concerns that "[The radioactivity] will be passed through our children and our children's children [24].

On April 28, 2021, thanks to the joint efforts of Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL), Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth), Aid/Watch Australia and political parties such as the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), Lynas failed an environmental impact analysis for a proposal to build a permanent toxic and radioactive waste dump in a water catchment in a rainforest reserve. The proposed waste dump would be sited in a forest on Bukit Ketam that feeds two rivers that Kuantan uses to supply 90% of the population with drinking water [25].

However, a new site in a peat swamp is now being developed for the waste dump.  The dump has been awarded to a company GSSB owned by the Regent of Pahang.  GSSB has no experience in building a municipal landfill, let alone a radioactive waste dump that requires scientifically robust isolation of the hazardous materials of the waste.  Aid/Watch and Malaysian groups are advocating for the 1+ million tones of radioactive waste to be removed  from Malaysia.  Under Western Australian guideline for this type of waste, Lynas must return it to its mine site in Mt Weld to be managed under a low-level radioactive waste management plan.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng/Kuantan, Malaysia
State or province:Pahang
Location of conflict:Region surrounding Gebeng Industrial Estate, Kuantan
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Chemical industries
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Rare metals
Industrial waste

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].

With respect to hazardous and radioactive wastes, the refinery processes require copious chemicals and reagents, such as concentrated sulphuric acid, magnesium oxide, hydrochloric acid and phosphoric acid. Moreover, large amounts of water and natural gas are required to extract the REOs. Through the processes of flue gas desulphurisation, water-leach purification and neutralisation underflow, flue gas and water wastes are generated. [16]

The expected waste from LAMP operating and producing at full capacity was 100,000 cubic meters of waste gas and 500 cubic meters (or tonnes) of wastewater every hour and, annually, 64,000 tonnes of radioactive gypsum waste containing 106 tonnes thorium and 5.6 tonnes uranium (both radioactive) and around 215,000 tonnes of supposedly non-radioactive gypsum. It is unlikely that this level of waste could be contained at the current facility were the refinery to work at full capacity year in year out. [Table 5.5.1 and 5.5.2 in 17].

Moreover, given that Lynas did not follow best practices by establishing a pilot plant, it is quite likely that gypsum, waste gas and wastewater produced might contain other contaminants neither identified by Lynas and the Department of Environment (Malaysia), not the Atomic Energy Licensing Board and International Atomic Energy Agency.

In fact, annual REO production reached 8,799 tonnes to the end of the financial year 30 June 2015, a considerable improvement on the 3965 tonnes in the year prior. [18, p. 2]. Furthermore, for the financial year ending 30 June 2016, Lynas produced 12,360 tonnes of REO, including 3897 tonnes of niodymium-phraseodymium [19, p. 3].

Project area:130Ha
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectTotal 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 Rare Earth (Ltd.) formerly known as 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 (MOSTI)
Malaysian Government's Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB)
Malaysian Minister for Environment and Climate Change
Malaysian Parliament Select Committee
Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority
Western Australian Government (mining regulations and royalties)
Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment Malaysia
Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)
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 — Aid/watch Australia -
BADAR (Balok Anti-Radioactive and Rare Earth group)
Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly) —
Stop Lynas Coalition —

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
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:Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Development of a network/collective action
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Public campaigns
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Media based activism/alternative media
Shareholder/financial activism.
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions


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, Soil contamination
Potential: Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, 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)
Court decision (undecided)
Violent targeting of activists
The company invested a lot in public relations to polish up its tarnished image. It has played geopolitical conflicts between the West and China to gain further financial resources to expand its operations to Texas in the USA and Kalgoorlie in Australia, while putting pressure on Malaysia to accept the raw deal and its toxic radioactive waste.
Proposal and development of alternatives:Lynas, the owner of the secondary processing plant in Kuantan should:
- adopt established international best practice radioactive waste and pollution management approaches.
- uphold its own legal undertakings to remove the radioactive waste from Malaysia, and return it to its Mt Weld Mine site to be managed under Australian standard and guidelines.
- adhere to IAEA recommendations to make its monitoring data and EIAs publicly accessible to be transparent and accountable.
- Clean up polluted sites and its pollution
independent and transparent monitoring measures.
- refrained from issuing legal threats to the media and its critics to try to silent them
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The massive quantity of radioactive waste generated and accumulating by the plant has beed a serious source of hazards. By contracting a politically linked company GSSB for the construction of the waste dump, Lynas has essentially secured powerful support for its radioactive toxic legacy to remain in Malaysia against public outcry and disapproval.

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. Lynas remains under scrutiny

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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

[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.

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

[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.

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

[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)

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

[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).

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

[10] Stop Lynas (campaign) Site

[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)

[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.

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

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

[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.

[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 —

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

[20] Law, Y. Radioactive waste standoff could slash high tech's supply of rare earth elements, Science (2018)

[21] Bonacci, M. Australian mining activist released from Malaysian prison, Green Left (2014)

[22] Cox, L. Activist held in Malaysian jail after rare earths protest, The Sydney Morning Herald (2014)

[23] Ong, S. Four arrested during protest against Lynas rare earth plant, The Star (2011)

[24] Lipson & Hemingway. Australian mining company Lynas gets permission to dispose of radioactive waste in Malaysia, dividing locals, ABC News (2019)

[25] Rare-earths giant Lynas wins new Malaysia license at a cost, The Edge (2020)

[26] Boyle. Malaysia: Lynas’ plan for permanent radioactive waste dump rejected, Green Left (2021)

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Image of Anti-Lynas campaigners

Meta information

Contributor:Anitra Nelson and Lee Tan, Australian Environmnetal Justice, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University — [email protected]
Last update09/12/2016
Conflict ID:2167



Anti-Lynas campaign poster

Save Malaysia — Stop Lynas