Australian news, and some related international items

Lithium is valuable for many clean devices, but we can’t just ignore the wastes from its mining

Enormous lithium waste dump plan shows how shamefully backward we are SMH, Emma Young, 25 June 19 Emma Young covers breaking news with a focus on science and environment, health and social justice for WAtoday.  We are all – well, all of us who are privileged enough – existing on a spectrum somewhere between “concerned” and “downright panicking” about human impact on the environment.

We look forward to the day our economy transitions to 100 per cent renewable energy, the sun and wind power our homes and lithium batteries store this energy to be used when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining.But here’s the rub: the lithium used to make these batteries must be torn from underground, just like oil, gas and coal.

Western Australia holds some of the world’s richest known lithium deposits and now has an emerging industry to process that lithium here, not just ship it to China as previously done.

It’s part of a plan to make us more than just the world’s quarry; a bigger player in an industry promising big money, and bring jobs and industry to the South West.

But we have run up against a reality, in the very recognisable area of the Ferguson Valley: a reality predictable, yet startling.

Lithium mining will leave its own scars on a landscape already littered with tens of thousands of abandoned mining voids, pits, equipment and piles of tailings – and create its own waste.

In WA’s South West, processing of spodumene ore from the Greenbushes lithium mine will result in 600,000 tonnes per year of waste material being dumped – or ‘stacked’, if you want the euphemism – only 3.5km outside the charming little town of Dardanup.

Let me repeat that: 600,000 tonnes per year.

The existing landfill there, where Cleanaway has applied to take the spodumene tailings to, is already highly visible from the road as you drive towards the region’s flagship wineries.

The application has offended the residents who already put up with dust, rubbish and runoff from the existing and already enormous landfill site.

They are being told that the number of jobs the industry will create for WA justifies the intrusion on their idyll.

To them, it’s on the nose.

And it’s not just sand and dirt. It’s waste of a kind so new to Australia that they had to get samples from China to find out what to classify it as.

Cleanaway submitted to the EPA that it was inert and non-toxic waste.

Yet no sustainable market exists for its reuse.

“By storing tailings in dedicated storage cells, in the event a sustainable market for reuse was developed, the material might one day be recovered,” it submitted, optimistically, to the Environment Protection Authority considering its proposal.

Somehow, I find it hard to believe that it is any miner or processor’s priority to find or develop such a market.

Subject to EPA and Joint Development Assessment Panel approvals, this waste will pile up in Dardanup for decades…….

June 25, 2019 - Posted by | energy, Western Australia

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