Information about rare earths, but not much about their dangerous wastes
ABC radio conducted this informative interview on rare earths – but rather light-pedalled their radioactive waste problem – C.M.
The role of rare earths in your day to day life, ABC Radio 17 Sept 11, Philip Clark“……..the nature of some of these deposits is that they are quite complex. In essence they… as you mentioned, there’s lots of elements, particularly they’re present in small quantities. They’re in quite complex minerals, often in phosphate minerals; often they have uranium and thorium and other elements associated with them. That leads to complications in processing to some extent, but it also leads to regulatory issues, because around the world—in this country as well—there are jurisdictions that do not want or don’t allow at this stage, mining of uranium, even though that uranium might be a very, very small amount, as it generally is with these deposits.
I guess the other part of the processing—and it’s what’s really occurred I think in Malaysia recently—it is a complex… with so many elements and very complicated but manageable process route to get each of these elements out, and they’re very valuable, you do need to use sophisticated chemical processes and they need to be strictly and adequately policed……
Philip Clark: My guest is Peter Arden. He’s a scientist and resources analyst at Ord Minnett. We’re talking about rare earths. These are unusual minerals, but with big uses in electronics—television sets, mobile phones, batteries, powerful magnets, all use these materials and most of the world’s supply at the moment is controlled by China. Is there an opportunity for Australia here?
The processing of these minerals, though, is the key, isn’t it? That’s not straightforward, you need a processing plant, and extracting the actual rare earth from the mineral can be complex, can’t it?… in addition to the rare earths you generally find, as we’ve talked about, other elements—uranium and so on.
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