Ex-Bukit Merah owner takes RM1b Lynas stake

By Shannon Teoh,  The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 — Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, part of the same group of companies which owned the Asian Rare Earth (ARE) plant in Bukit Merah, Perak, has taken a RM1 billion stake in Australian miner Lynas Corp, the Dow Jones newswire reported today.

The 9.99 per cent stake taken by Japan’s largest financial group comes despite uncertainty over Lynas’s rare earth refinery in Kuantan to start by year-end following a government review asking 11 recommendations to be met prior to licensing despite the plant being tagged safe.

Mitsubishi Chemicals, also part of the Mitsubishi Group, was forced to shut the ARE plant in Ipoh, Perak in 1992 following public protests over radiation pollution.

Nearly 20 years on, the company is still undertaking a RM300 million cleanup as radiation is still being linked to diseases such as leukaemia, which has killed seven in the neighbourhood in the past five years.

The move underlines Japan’s economic dependence on the material crucial for high technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and wind turbines after a diplomatic spat with China last year.

China controls more than 90 per cent of the current market but Lynas says the plant being constructed in the Gebeng industrial zone will meet one-sixth of global demand once fully operational.