The world is still in the grip of the philosophy of endless growth, endless consumption of material “goods” and energy. Along with that goes the “throwaway mentality.
The result – not just the disappearance of precious resources – water, land , biodiversity – but also the dirty pollution of the ecosphere with wastes. One of the worst is radioactive wastes. (Don’t be caught by the nuclear lobby lie about the’nuclear fuel cycle’ – which is really a chain leading to toxic wastes needing burial)
However, environmentalists must wake up to the fact that nearly all of our advanced technology requires “rare earths” – cerium, 15 lanthanoid elements and one or both of the elements yttrium and scandium. Thorium is often classed with them. Mining these elements results in highly toxic radioactive tailings.
If we’re serious about not creating radioactive wastes disasters, such as the notorious ones in Malaysia and China then the answer must be – DESIGN – designing wind turbines, cell phones, lap-tops etc – in a such a way that the rare metals can be easily retrieved and used again.
“The situation clearly calls for international policy initiatives to minimize the seemingly bizarre situation of spending large amounts of technology, time, energy and money to acquire scarce metals from the mines and then throwing them away after a single use.”
The nuclear lobby is telling one of its finest whoppers – that there really is a “nuclear fuel cycle” – that toxic radioactive wastes can be turned into lucrative nuclear fuel – for a never ending glorious “cycle”
Not true. It is truly a Nuclear Fuel Chain – that the lobby hopes to put around Australians’ necks. The new geewhiz (not yet existing) Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) and Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs), including the Power Reactor Innovative Small Module (PRISM) – all produce highly toxic wastes that have to be buried. Reprocessing is NOT a “cycle”
SECOND – Rare Earths involve highly radioactive wastes – and require a big switch in DESIGN – so that they can be recycled.
Environmentalists must wake up to this. There must be a paradigm shift from the thinking, (so entrenched in Australia) – from “dig it up – use it – throw it away” – to DESIGN.
The modern technologies that we value – from wind turbines to mobile phones must be redesigned, so that their rare earths can be easily retrieved and re-used.
Otherwise the planet will be further plagued by radioactive wastes from rare earths.
IAEA reports no long-term plan for Lynas waste, Malaysian Insider 17 October 2014 The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday gave a passing safety grade to a controversial Malaysia rare earths plant, but raised concerns that there was no long-term plan for properly disposing of the plant’s potentially radioactive waste.
The rare earths processing plant in the state of Pahang has generated opposition from green groups who fear radioactive contamination and have accused authorities and Lynas of overriding public concern.
In a report, the IAEA said it saw little risk of contamination due to the low-level radiation involved, and that its investigators were “not able to identify any instances of non-compliance” with international standards. “Lynas needs to demonstrate that the disposal of solid waste can be carried out in a safe manner over the long-term,” the report said.
It recommended that Malaysian authorities require Lynas to come up with a plan.
“There is a lack of a plan for managing the waste from the decommissioning and dismantling of the plant at the end of its life,” it said……
However, it also appeared to underscore environmentalists’ concerns that Australian miner Lynas Corp has no long-term plan for the disposal of waste from the plant.- http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/iaea-teams-says-lynas-plant-generates-low-level-radioactive-waste-bernama#sthash.JEFk1poD.dpuf
Anti-uranium activists criticise NSW exploration program, Australian Mining 15 September, 2014 Vicky Validakis Anti-nuclear campaigners have criticised the NSW government for opening up the state to uranium exploration.
The move comes two years after NSW overturned a uranium exploration ban. Mining uranium is still restricted.
Three locations around NSW – near Broken Hill, near Cobar and south of Dubbo – have been earmarked for drilling activity.
Natalie Wasley, spokeswomen for the Beyond Nuclear Initiative, said the decision was disappointing, ABC reported.
“Uranium has very unique and dangerous properties and risks,” Wasley said. “It’s linked to the production of the world’s most toxic and long-lasting industrial waste, as well as proliferation of the world’s most destructive weapons, so it poses a risk to workers, to communities and the environment.”
Wasley said the sector will only create a small number of jobs, and claims the risks associated with uranium outweigh any economic benefits. “We know that in rural and regional areas there’s a much better opportunity for long-lasting sustainable jobs in the renewable sector.”
“We’d really encourage those local governments and the state governments to be putting money and resources into developing more creative, long-term and sustainable jobs for people.”……..
The six companies invited to apply for licenses are Australian Zirconia, Callabonna Resources, EJ Resources, Hartz Rare Earths, Iluka Resources and Marmota Energy. http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/anti-uranium-activists-criticise-nsw-exploration-p
Uranium exploration in western NSW – but mining is still prohibited NSW Country Hour Sally Bryant and Julie Clift 15 Sept 14, The New South Wales Government has invited six mining companies to put in expressions of interest to explore for uranium, but mining will remain prohibited, until deposits prove economically viable.
However not all of the mining companies who are involved in this process are actually interested in mining for uranium.
One of six companies invited to tender for an exploration licence, Alkane Resources, is developing a rare earth project near Dubbo, in the state’s central west.
Alkane say they’re not interested in uranium, that they are merely protecting their rare earth project from other resource companies applying for an exploration licence over the top of them
Managing Director Ian Chalmers says this is an insurance policy for his company……..http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-15/uranium-exploration-in-western-nsw/5743584
Note: We mightn’t like mining, and it will be good when eventually product design is such that recycling of rare earths will pretty much eliminate this. Still, rare earths are needed in 21st Century technologies, especially in renewables. At least this company is not involved in the difficult and hazardous rare earths processing. I understand that processing is to be done in China, – where, after their disastrous history, they now do have the most advanced methods
Mining company Arafura Resources says plans to mine rare earth minerals in central Australia remain ‘on track’, despite uncertainty over future funding for the project, ABC Rural News 3 Sept 14, NT Country Hour By Carmen Brown
The company hopes to extract up to 20,000 tonnes of rare earth oxide per year from the Nolan’s Bore deposit, 135 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
A comprehensive project report released this week, indicates mining could begin at the site in 2019, six years later than previously expected. General manager of exploration and business development, Richard Brescianini, says while there has been strong interest in the project from investors, the company is yet to secure full financial backing for the mine……http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-03/rare-earth-mine-on-track-for-central-australia/5715100
Nervous investors ditch Lynas ahead of move to Malaysia July 3, 2014 The Age, Brian Robins Troubled rare-earth miner Lynas Corp is to shift its head office abroad as part of a renewed cost-cutting regime as the company seeks to stop haemorrhaging cash.
It also comes amid production difficulties at its recently commissioned Malaysian processing unit that have yet to be resolved, and as negotiations continue to refinance a key funding package.
Lynas said it would move its head office to Kuala Lumpur, from Sydney, which will result in an unspecified number of job losses, with further jobs to go at its Perth office…….Investors were unnerved by the latest news, pushing Lynas shares down 7 per cent to close at 13¢.
Lynas is not the only rare earths producer encountering ongoing problems in lifting output, with US group Molycorp also struggling to bed down a capacity expansion.
Equally important to Lynas Corp’s near-term progress is resolving negotiations to refinance a $US325 million loan, via Nomura.
There has been ”no material development” with this refinancing, a Lynas spokesman said.
To help shore up its balance sheet, Lynas recently raised $40 million from shareholders as well as replacing its chief executive. http://www.smh.com.au/business/nervous-investors-ditch-lynas-ahead-of-move-to-malaysia-20140702-3b8so.html#ixzz36Xf4ozEk
Aust activist freed from Malaysia cell http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/aust-activist-freed-from-malaysia-cell/story-fni0xqll-1226970174011l AAP JUNE 28, 2014 SYDNEY woman Natalie Lowrey has been released after being detained for six days in Malaysia, where she was protesting against an Australian company’s metals plant.
MS Lowrey was arrested on Sunday while demonstrating at Lynas’ controversial plant for rare earths, which are used in tech products like smartphones.
Police were weighing a charge of unlawful assembly, which carries a maximum two-year jail term.
But on Friday night, as the New Zealander was preparing to spend a weekend behind bars with no visitors, she was suddenly released on bail.”It was a big surprise, I didn’t believe it until I had changed out of my purple jail uniform,” she told AAP.
“I felt very strong the whole week because I knew there were vigils all over Australia and Malaysia for me. I have a lot of people to thank.”
Lowrey was released along with 15 Malaysians who had also been arrested.
The lack of transparency around Ms Lowrey’s detention concerned lawyers and NGOs, who collected more than 15,000 signatures on a petition to free her.
She has her passport back and plans to leave Malaysia next week.
there was little mention of the waste — or “residue”, as Lynas prefers to call it.
Lynas and its supporters assert its operations are completely safe, but as NM reported on Monday, others — including scientists — are less confident.
The IAEA also recommended that Lynas proceed no further until it had filed comprehensive plans for the permanent disposal of waste, decommissioning of the plant and remediation of the site at the end of its life.
Lynas’ waste plans a toxic pipe dream Aliran, 19 December 2012 Scientists and community leaders are concerned about radioactive waste from Lynas’ Malaysian plant but the company representative who took Wendy Bacon’s questions brushed off the criticism. This is the second of two articles about Lynas by Wendy Bacon. Read the first here.http://aliran.com/11005.html Australian rare earth company Lynas has always known it had a waste problem.
It plans to process rare earth concentrate, imported from its mine at Mount Weld in Western Australia, at its Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) in Malaysia. It will not only produce rare earths for export but also a huge amount of waste, including more than a million cubic metres of low level radioactive material.
Lynas was originally going to build its Lamp plant in China, which produces more than 90 per cent of global rare earths. But according to its 2007 annual report, it decided to move to Malaysia, because the Chinese government was increasing its control over production, including applying environmental standards more strictly. Continue reading
Lynas will be in court in Malaysia on 19 December. The Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) campaigners will be appealing against the Kuantan High Court decision to lift its stay on the company being able to exercise its rights to proceed under the temporary licence.
The toxic waste that’s not in Australia’s backyard http://aliran.com/11005.html 18 Dec 12, Australian-owned company Lynas is quietly shipping rare earth to a processing plant in Malaysia – without a firm plan in place to dispose of dangerous radioactive waste. Wendy Bacon reports.
This is exactly how residents of Kuantan on Malaysia’s east coast reacted when the Australian company Lynas announced plans to build Lamp, the world’s biggest rare earth processing plant in their area.
Several years later, they have no clear answer. Indeed last week, while the plant that will use concentrate imported from Lynas’s rare earth mine at Mount Weld in Western Australia was finally ramping up for production, the Malaysian government and the company were in direct conflict about what would happen to the waste. Continue reading
Why should we allow anything less in terms of safety standards than Australia? Does the BN government feel that the Australian Government is being too fussy? Or that Malaysians can take more radiation than the Australians?
The Anti-Lynas movement: Are we being unreasonable? – Jeyakumar Devaraj, The Malaysian Insider , 13 Dec 12 Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj is a PSM central committee member and MP for Sungai Siput.“……..Vastly Differing Standards First, a brief overview of the industrial process of separating the rare earths from the rest of the ore.
Lynas actually has the license to operate a refining plant in Australia itself. Lynas acquired this license upon buying over Aston, the company that owned the mine in Mount Weld. In the mid 1990s, Ashton applied for a license to refine the ore, and in the process of consultations with the public in the region, agreed to a set of specific performances. If Lynas wants to use the refining license that came with the purchase of Ashton, it is committed to observing all the procedures agreed to by Ashton earlier.The table below compares requirements that Lynas would have to observe in Australia with the requirements for it in Malaysia.
The government has said in Parliament that Lynas is keen on operating a plant here because the total cost in Malaysia is only 30 per cent of the cost of refining the ore in Australia! (Despite the fact that it has to be transported from Mount Weld to Freemantle Port, loaded on ships and then brought some 4000 km to Kuantan for refining!) That means safety precautions in Malaysia are so much more lax than those required in Australia.
This point alone makes me uncomfortable. Continue reading
However the Temporary Operating License approved on 7/2/2012 allows Lynas to start operations even before they present their proposed plan for comprehensive management of the solid waste – the TOL only requires them to submit the waste management plan within 10 months of starting operations!!
Ten months have passed, and a safe permanent depository has yet to be identified and agreed upon by all parties. Instead Lynas is still talking of rendering the waste “safe”. Continue reading
Australian rare earths company Lynas may lose its Malaysian operating license over the radioactive waste issue
Four Malaysian cabinet MPs (responsible for trade, science, natural resources and health) have now released a joint statement, saying the temporary licence granted to Lynas requires it to remove “all the residue” from the plant out of the country.
They also warned that if Lynas does not comply, the Government can suspend or revoke the licence and order it “to immediately cease operation”.
Malaysia orders Lynas to ship out waste http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-12-11/an-malaysia-orders-lynas-to-ship-out-waste/4422084 Dec 11, 2012 . Australian mining company Lynas and its plans to process rare earths in Pahang state have caused local communities and environmental groups to raise concerns over the management of radioactive byproduct waste
Malaysia has ordered the Australian miner Lynas Corp. to ship out all the waste from its new rare earths plant, because of environmental and health concerns. Continue reading
Hello, didn’t Lynas say wastes to be exported? Malaysiakini Dec 10, 2012
‘Now is the time to ask the court to suspend the TOL because AELB has said that they will enforce Lynas pledge to export the waste.’
Wastes won’t be exported out of Malaysia, says Lynas
Odin: Lynas Malaysia managing director Mashal Ahmad, you have been reported to have said no residues from your plant would be exported out of Malaysia, as your company needed to abide by international conventions that prohibit the export of hazardous wastes to other countries.
This means that the residues which your plant will produce are toxic. All this while, however, we have been told that the residues would be safe to humans and the environment.
Does this not mean that your company, and those outside it but who support your operations, have been lying? Continue reading
Hello, didn’t Lynas say wastes to be exported? Malaysiakini Dec 10, 2012 Xabiso: Do the people know about the 12-year tax free incentive gifted to this foreign company listed in Australia? Why am I not surprise that they are keeping the toxic waste in Lynas?
I remember someone giving an assurance last time that the waste will be exported back to Australia. We are talking about the toxic waste from processing rare earth, not the raw material (if the raw material is radioactive, Australian can’t even send it to Malaysia).
Before plant operation – apa pun boleh (everything can be done). After start-up – dah tunjuk belang (show true colours). http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/216281