KUALA LUMPUR: The presence of rare earth refinery Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Malaysia bodes well for the government's efforts to turn the country into a regional manufacturing hub for energy efficient vehicles (EEV).Lynas Corporation Ltd chief executive officer Eric Noyrez said lanthanum, a chemical element used for the production of hybrid and electric vehicle batteries, is the second largest element produced at LAMP, after cerium.
"It is a very big opportunity for Malaysia. As the supply chain is here in Malaysia, it will make the country a more attractive place for operating further downstream business," he told Bernama in an interview.
He said as more Governments including Malaysia pushed for cost-efficient system in cars, it would boost the requirement for rare earth elements.
The Government via the newly-announced National Automotive Policy 2014 (NAP 2014) has earmarked fresh automotive investment under the EEV programme that is intended to elevate Malaysia's automotive industry to an EEV hub for Southeast Asia.
Noyrez said the existence of LAMP in Malaysia has already attracted some of its customers to consider Malaysia and Southeast Asia as their location for expansion.
He said the fact that Lynas is operating in Malaysia also benefited the other Southeast Asian countries and pushed them to think strategically to attract investment and downstream activities.
Meanwhile, on the outlook for the rare earth industry, he said the demand for rare earth has grown tremendously for the last 15 years despite zero growth in mining operation and no new discovery in rare earth ore in the past 20 years.
Noyrez said although China is the biggest producer of rare earth materials, the country is also the single largest user of the materials to support its industries growth.
"What does that mean for us? That means there's a room in the market for us to support the demand growth," he said.
He said once the plant operates at full capacity of 22,000 tonnes of rare earth oxide equivalent, it would account for almost 20% of the global rare earth demand.
Currently, the LAMP plant in Gebeng, Kuantan produces over 700 tonnes of rare earth oxide equivalent, catering to 54 companies globally with its main customers in the Asia Pacific, Europe and North America.