Protests over Malaysia rare earth plant gain steam
Thousands or Malaysians protested over the weekend against a rare earth plant which locals fear will produce radioactive waste harmful to them and the environment, according to media reports.
The rallies are the biggest yet against Australia miner Lynas which has almost completed building a controversial plant near the seaside town of Kuantan in eastern Pahang state to process rare-earth ores imported from Australia.
According to the Associated Press, Lynas hopes to begin operations within months, producing an initial 11,000 tonness of rare earth a year and effectively breaking the Chinese stranglehold on the materials.
China currently supplies about 95 percent of world demand for rare earth, which are used in high-tech equipment from iPods to missiles and have seen prices soar in recent years.
But more than 5,000 people, many wearing green and holding banners reading "Stop pollution, stop corruption, stop Lynas," gathered in Kuantan, chanting "We want Lynas to close down."
With national elections due in a matter of months, outspoken opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim also attended the protest who said the plant should be relocated "in the middle of the desert."