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Malaysian Prime Minister says other companies may buy rare-earths processor Lynas

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 (Reuters) - Other companies may be in the running to buy Australian rare-earths processing company Lynas Corp, which may lose the operating license for its processing plant in Malaysia, the country's Prime Minister said on Friday.

Lynas operates an $800 million plant in the Malaysian town of Kuantan that refines ore from a rare-earths mine that it owns in Australia. Malaysia has recently halted the renewal of its operating license over concerns about how it handles radioactive wastes at the site.

Lynas last week rejected a $1.1 billion takeover offer from Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers Ltd though Wesfarmers said they remain keen on the talks.

In a press briefing on Malaysian TV after a cabinet meeting on Friday, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said other companies could be interested in Lynas.

"We have opened up the business to other people, and there are other companies willing to acquire Lynas," Mahathir said.

Mahathir did not say who are the companies interested in purchasing Lynas.

"They have given us a promise that in the future before sending the raw materials to Malaysia they will clean it up first. They will crack it and decontaminated it in some way with regard to radioactivity," Mahathir said.

He added that the company, or even Lynas, would be able to operate in Malaysia if they promise that raw materials coming to Malaysia are cleaned.

In December, Malaysia's Energy and Environment ministry required Lynas, the only rare earths producer outside of China, to remove the accumulating radioactive wastes to qualify for a renewal.

Mahathir said Lynas had intended to send the waste back to Australia but the country does not want to accept it.

Rare earths are speciality metals used in everything from ceramics to magnets and consumer electronics. (Reporting by Joseph Sipalan and Liz Lee; editing by Christian Schmollinger)