Malaysia police nab Australian, 15 protesters

June 24, 2014 - 7:21:46 am

KUALA LUMPUR:        Malay-sian police were holding an Australian activist in custody after she was arrested together with 15 others protesting against a rare earth plant accused of producing radioactive waste.

Activist Natalie Lowrey was detained on Sunday together with 15 Malaysians outside the plant of Australian miner Lynas Corp in the eastern state of Pahang, a district police official said.

The Malaysians have been released and could face charges later. But Lowrey remains in custody for “investigations,” the official said, declining to comment further.

Rare earths is a term used to describe 18 metals which are vital for many industrial and hi-tech processes such as the production of smartphones, hybrid car batteries, wind turbines, steel and low-energy light bulbs.

The Australian miner hopes the plant can help break the Chinese stranglehold on the market for rare earths. China accounts for 95 percent of global production of rare earths and is home to 23 percent of global reserves of such metals.

Malaysian anti-Lynas activist Tan Bun Teet said the arrests took place as some protesters broke through a police barricade when demonstrating against the plant, which they say produces radioactive waste that threatens the environment and the local population.