Malaysia to monitor Aussie rare earths plant

By the Associated Press | February 3, 2012 | 2:05 AM EST

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian authorities say they will appoint an independent monitor to ensure public safety amid protests over its move to approve a rare earths plant by Australian miner Lynas Corp.

The Atomic Energy Licensing Board on Wednesday granted Lynas a two-year license to operate the first rare earths plant outside China in years. Malaysia hopes the $230 million plant will spur growth but public protests have escalated over fears of radioactive contamination.

A group representing villagers and civil groups plans to seek a court order to halt the project.

Agency director-general Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan sought Friday to quell protests, saying an independent monitor would be appointed this month and production would be closely scrutinized.