Curtis takes a back seat in reshuffle at Lynas

Mineral sands miner Lynas Corp has replaced its chief executive Nicholas Curtis (pictured) just weeks after its controversial Malaysian plant produced its first rare earths products.

Mineral sands miner Lynas Corp has replaced its chief executive Nicholas Curtis (pictured) just weeks after its controversial Malaysian plant produced its first rare earths products.

President and chief operating officer Eric Noyrez will take over as chief executive on March 31, while Mr Curtis will remain on the board as non-executive chairman.

The company said the management reshuffle, which also involved Lynas director Liam Forde being appointed deputy chairman, was part of its transition towards the production of rare earth products.

"Achieving our first rare earths production last week is a significant transnational milestone, and a fitting time for us to allow Eric to take over all executive responsibility," Mr Curtis said.

Mr Noyrez had previously been the president of Rhodia Silcea, a division of chemical company Rhodia, which specialises in rare earths and silica.

A Lynas spokesman said Mr Noyrez was recruited in 2010 with such a transition in mind.

"With the announcement last week about first production, it's just a logical time for the board," the spokesman said. "Nick Curtis and the board felt it was a good time to take the next step - which was to separate the chief executive's responsibilities from the chairmanship."

BBY analyst Mike Harrowell welcomed Mr Noyrez's appointment, saying he was "a very experienced operator with a lifetime in the rare earths business".

"That's just what the company needs - to deliver on production and the needs of the plant," Mr Harrowell said.

Lynas reported a operating loss of $48.8 million for the six months to December, compared to a operating loss of $36.5 million in the previous corresponding period. No dividends were declared.

Last month, Lynas said its $800 million plant - the world's biggest outside China - had produced its first products, almost two months after the facility's cracking and leaching extraction units started operations. Production was delayed by legal action from local environmentalists.

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