Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Rare Earths Reprocessing in Australia

Note – I am not opposed to the mining and reprocessing of rare earths. I recognise that they are a necessary “lesser evil” in the development of modern and renewable technologies. BUT – rare earths reprocessing does produce toxic radioactive wastes, and the disposal of these wastes is an important issue that must be adressed, and clearly shown [ rather than spun] to the public. – Christina Macpherson

Whilst working with Alkane on a pilot rare earths processing plant, ANSTO has previously partnered with BHP Billiton at the Olympic Dam mine, Energy Resources Australia at the Ranger uranium mine, and a number of other Australian-based miners.

Chalmers   marked final government approvals as other major hurdles beyond the research with ANSTO.
And while so far steering clear of local opposition, the company remains mindful of the importance of keeping those outside the industry on side.

All eyes on ANSTO, Australian Mining, 10 August, 2012 Andrew Duffy “….. On a tour of its ANSTO pilot plant Alkane managing director Ian Chalmers told Australian Mining the company [ Alkane Resources ]  was aiming to be producing rare earths by 2015…..

The company also runs tours for schools and interested community members to ensure everyone’s well informed.
Chalmers told Australian Mining Alkane’s close relationship with the community had been part of the reason why the company had avoided the difficulties faced by Lynas. Lynas has faced significant community opposition to its rare earth
processing plant in Malaysia, and protestors have been the source of ongoing delays, cost blowouts, and multiple court battles. ….

while the company’s community and environmental relations are a focus, the research at its ANSTO plant is all about the science behind rare earths processing.

Whilst working with Alkane on a pilot rare earths processing plant, ANSTO has previously partnered with BHP Billiton at the Olympic Dam mine, Energy Resources Australia at the Ranger uranium mine, and a number of other Australian-based miners.
Whilst initially working with uranium companies, ANSTO has since
expanded into other minerals that contain natural radioactivity.
The spectrum of these minerals is wide, and can sometimes include the
typically humdrum copper and iron ore, but rare earths are more
usually the focus.
At the pilot plant just outside of Sydney ANSTO takes ore mined at the
Dubbo facility and simulates the extraction process.
Unlike minerals such as iron ore, rare earths require more complicated
treatment, but an ANSTO official told Australian Mining much of the
effort went into the first steps.
Sulphuric acid is first combined with the crushed ore and the mixture
is then fed into a gas-fired kiln.
“A lot of the effort goes into the roasting process,” an ANSTO
official told Australian Mining.
“After that a lot of the reactions have already occurred and it’s just
a matter of mixing it with water until it all dissolves.”
While most of the rare earths dissolve in solution the waste rock does
not, and it gets filtered out.
After more processing and a number of chemical combinations the
valuable rare earths are either separated by gravity (similar to
combining oil and water) or precipitated out by changing the pH.
While the treatment process in rare earths is similar across the
industry adjustments are made to tailor the operation to each mine.
ANSTO told Australian Mining one of the major developments they were
working on for not only Alkane but other companies as well was
shrinking the size of the operation.
It said an alternative process used by the uranium industry had a much
smaller footprint on site and researchers were hoping to expand it to
other sectors, including rare earths.
As Alkane inches closer towards the 2015 production deadline Chalmers
told Australian Mining the company was working on juggling
developments and research to keep on schedule.
He marked final government approvals as other major hurdles beyond the research with ANSTO.
And while so far steering clear of local opposition, the company remains mindful of the importance of keeping those outside the industry on side.

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August 11, 2012 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths, reference, uranium

1 Comment »

  1. “A key feature of the flow sheet developed by ANSTO, is that the thorium (Th) and uranium (U) present in the ore does not get concentrated during the process. The waste steams containing these radioactive elements will be mixed with limestone (and contained within the project site), which will dilute the Th and U content to a level below that of the original mineral deposit. Mr. Chalmers indicated that the Dubbo mineral deposit contains relatively low levels of Th (around 400-450 ppm) and U (around 100 ppm) to start with, levels which do not trigger additional regulatory requirements.”

    http://www.techmetalsresearch.com/2011/06/a-visit-to-the-dubbo-zirconia-project-demonstration-plant/

    Comment by Positroll | August 11, 2012 | Reply


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