* Court delays decision on case until November 8
* Australia's Lynas says plant opening will be delayed
(Adds comment, share price movement)
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 (Reuters) - A Malaysian court has kepton hold a licence granted to Lynas Corp Ltd'scontroversial rare earth plant, delaying until next month adecision on whether to consider judicial reviews aimed atpermanently blocking production.
Australia's Lynas, which received a temporary operatinglicence for the $800 million plant early in September, had aimedto start production this month.
The firm confirmed in a statement that the launch would bedelayed and gave no new timetable.
Protests in Malaysia over possible radioactive residue havedrawn thousands of people and the project has become a hot topicahead of an election that must be held by early next year.
Activists linked to the environmental group Save MalaysiaStop Lynas want the court to suspend the licence until twojudicial review cases challenging the government's decisionallowing the plant to operate are heard.
Lynas says that its plant is safe and is not comparable to arare-earths plant in Malaysia that was shut by a unit ofMitsubishi Chemicals in 1992, after residents there blamed theplant for birth defects and a high rate of leukemia cases.
Hon Kai Ping, a lawyer for the environmental group, said thedecision had been delayed by the Kuantan High Court untilNovember 8.
It was not immediately clear the reason for the delay, butthe environemtal group plans to bring in more expert witnesses.
"It is another month of relief but we won't be satisfieduntil Lynas is out of Malaysia," Jade Lee, a member of the SaveMalaysia Stop Lynas group and a resident of the eastern city ofKuantan where the plant is located said after the court ruling.
Shares in Lynas had closed Wednesday's session 1.2 percentdown ahead of the court decision.
The rare earth plant -- the biggest outside China -- has beenready to fire up since early May, but the company has beenembroiled in environmental and safety disputes with localresidents since construction began two years ago.
The plant is considered important to breaking China's gripon the processing of rare earths, which are used in productsranging from smartphones to hybrid cars.
(Reporting by Siva Sithraputhran and Sydney bureau; Editing byEd Davies)
Keywords: LYNAS MALAYSIA/