Background: An Australian company called Lynas Corporation is building the world's largest rare earth extraction plant at Gebeng near the city of Kuantan in Malaysia. This project is very controversial in Malaysia because of fears about possible negative health, environmental and economic impacts once the plant begins operation.
Methods: Material was gathered through mass media reports, official Lynas Corporation publications and press releases, and public statements as well as personal communication with opponents of the plant.
Results: Lynas Corporation, backed by public authorities such as the government of the state of Pahang of which Kuantan is the capital city, claims that the plant is not a threat to public health; the wastes generated can be disposed of safely; and that the economic benefits will be substantial. Critics argue that the wastes produced will be in huge amounts and they will be a grave threat to health because the wastes would include radioactive thorium and uranium. Critics also claim that the methods of waste processing and disposal being proposed by Lynas Corporation are deplorable and irresponsible. Furthermore, contrary to the assertions of Lynas Corporation, the economic benefits are dubious because of the twelve year tax holiday granted by the Malaysian authorities, the low number of jobs that will be created, and the negative impact that the project is already exerting on property values in the Kuantan region.
Conclusions: Citizen resistance to the project is ongoing and fierce. In mid-March 2012, the project is still at an impasse. A "temporary operating license" has been granted by the Malaysian authorities but the situation remains unclear because the Lynas plant is still under construction and opponents are taking legal action in order to stop it from operating when it is finished. It remains to be seen if this relatively rare mobilization of "people power" in politically authoritarian Malaysia will be able to defeat state-backed transnational corporate power.