Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Need for awareness on what Lynas will do with its rare earths radioactive trash

 

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May 23, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment

Lynas plans rare earths “upstream” processing in Australia and “downstream” processing in USA and Malaysia

Lynas expansion plans Trump Wesfarmers’ bid  SMH, By Colin Kruger, May 21, 2019   Wesfarmers’ attempt to buy Lynas Corp on the cheap appears to be dead after a combination of US President Donald Trump’s trade wars and the announcement of expansion plans by the rare earths group sent its share price soaring above the Perth-based conglomermate’s indicative offer price on Tuesday.Lynas said it will spend $500 million by 2025 on value added processing in the US and Malaysia as well as setting up a processing plant in Western Australia, near its Mt Weld mine, to extract radioactive waste from its rare earths before it is shipped to Malaysia.

“Our plan is to invest in upstream processing close to our source (Mt Weld), with downstream processing close to our customers,” Lynas chief executive Amanda Lacaze said with reference to the Malaysian plant and expansion plans in the US announced on Monday.

Lynas offered little clarity on whether this will ensure its Malaysian operations will be able to continue operating when its current licence expires in September, but it did not matter.

News emerged early Tuesday of China’s President Xi Jinping visiting a rare earths factory in China on Monday, in what could signal his intent to use China’s dominance of this market as a weapon in the trade wars. Lynas is the only significant rare earths producer outside of China. Continue reading

May 23, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment

It’s not clear what will be done about Lynas’ radioactive wastes in Malaysia, as Lynas plans rare earths processing also in Texas

Lynas’ US plans no threat to Wesfarmers interest, Malaysian problems,   https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/lynas-us-plans-no-threat-to-wesfarmers-interest-malaysian-problems-20190507-p51kx2.html.  By Colin Kruger – May 20, 2019 Lynas Corp’s plans to establish processing operations in the US are not expected to pose a threat to Wesfarmers’ interest in the rare earths group, but it won’t offer a Plan B for its Malaysian problems either.Lynas told the ASX on Monday it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with one of its US customers, Blue Line Corp, for a joint venture to separate medium and heavy rare earths elements in Texas. Lynas said it would be the majority owner of the venture…….

The company declined to comment further but Ms Lacaze will front investors on Tuesday and is expected to clarify plans to invest in processing infrastructure in Western Australia where it mines the rare earths at Mt Weld.

This will offset the sovereign risk of its billion-dollar Malaysian operations, which could be forced to close in September if Lynas does not remove more than 450,000 tonnes of low level radioactive waste.

The company had been in talks with Wesfarmers about a processing joint venture in WA last year which led to a controversial $1.5 billion bid by the conglomerate in March. Continue reading

May 23, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths | Leave a comment

Australian rare earths company Lynas is determined to keep its radioactive trash in Malaysia

Lynas backs Malaysian waste solution despite removal order, Fin Rev Brad Thompson 6 May 19, Lynas Corporation is pushing ahead with plans to build a permanent disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste in Malaysia despite a contested ultimatum to export about 450,000 tonnes of residue already stockpiled by September.

The Wesfarmers takeover target said on Monday it was confident of meeting conditions outlined by Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to ….. (subscribers only) ..https://www.afr.com/business/mining/rare-earths/lynas-backs-malaysian-waste-solution-despite-removal-order-20190506-p51kh2

May 7, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths, wastes | Leave a comment

Lynas’ rare earths miner: its troubles are a reminder that even renewables technologies involve radioactive trash

April 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, rare earths | Leave a comment

Lynas rare earths corporation still struggling with its tricky problem of radioactive wastes

Record result but still no breathing space for Lynas,  The Age, Colin Kruger, April 20, 2019 

It should have been a great week for Lynas Corp…..  Despite soft prices in the rare earths market – and a forced shutdown of its operations in Decemberdue to a local Malaysian government cap on its production limits – Lynas reported a 27 per cent jump in revenue to $101.3 million in the March quarter……

Unfortunately, Lacaze could provide no information on the glaring issue outside the company’s control that imperils its future: the regulatory cloud around the 450,000 tonnes of radioactive waste produced by its Malaysian operations since 2013, which is jeopardising the renewal of its licence to operate in the country. …..

the company was still “seeking clarification” on comments earlier this month by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, which appeared to solve the problem of the licence pre-condition that Lynas says it cannot meet – removal of the radioactive waste by September 2.

Mahathir said Lynas – or any potential acquirer (without explicitly naming Lynas’ estranged suitor, Wesfarmers, whose $1.5 billion indicative offer for the group was rebuffed in March) – would be able to continue to operate in Malaysia if it agreed to extract the radioactive residue from its ore before it reached the country.

Despite two cabinet meetings since that announcement, Mahathir has failed to clarify his comments, or confirm whether it means Lynas might not need to move the existing mountain of radioactive waste that has been accumulating at its $1 billion, 100-hectare processing facility in Kuantan province.

Continue reading

April 22, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics international, rare earths, wastes | Leave a comment

Malaysian government insists that Lynas must remove its 450,000 tonnes of radioactive waste from the country

April 18, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths, wastes | Leave a comment

Kevin Rudd, as Foreign Minister in 2011, aware of Lynas’ probable radioactive wastes problem

Malaysian concerns over Lynas raised with Kevin Rudd in 2011,  https://www.theage.com.au/business/companies/malaysian-concerns-over-lynas-raised-with-kevin-rudd-in-2011-20190415-p51ebx.html, By Colin Kruger, April 16, 2019, Former prime minister Kevin Rudd warned in 2011 that Australian companies needed to operate to high environmental and safety standards in their overseas operations after being alerted to Malaysian concerns about the radioactive waste produced by rare earths group Lynas Corp.

This was around the same time that ASX-listed Lynas was being warned, in a confidential report it commissioned, that it had failed to engage with the Malaysian community, which could jeopardise its operations in the country.

A letter obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age details a response from Mr Rudd, who was foreign minister at the time, to Senator Doug Cameron, who had met with a delegation of Malaysian citizens expressing their concerns about Lynas’ $1 billion operating plant in Kuantan.

“The Australian government expects Australian companies to operate to high environmental and safety standards in their overseas operations, as they would in Australia,” said the letter from Mr Rudd dated July 20, 2011.

“While ultimately Malaysian law governs the management of residues from the plant, the Australian government has welcomed the Malaysian government’s decision to establish the independent expert panel as an open and transparent response to community concerns.”

Mr Rudd noted that the Lynas plant, once completed, would be the “largest single investment in Malaysia and as such, the government is taking a close interest in the project”.

The plant’s importance went beyond Australia’s relationship with Malaysia.

At the time, there was significant global concern about the fact that China dominated the supply of rare earths – a group of 17 elements crucial to the manufacture of hi-tech products like digital cars, smart phones and wind turbines. Despite the name, the elements are not actually that rare, but they are environmentally hazardous to extract.

In 2010, the then Japanese foreign minister, Seiji Maehara, raised the issue with Mr Rudd during trade talks in Canberra.

Mr Rudd said at the time that Australia “understands the significance of rare earths globally” and “Australia stands ready to be a long-term, secure, reliable supplier of rare earths to the Japanese economy”.

It was shortly after that trade visit that a deal was unveiled under which $US250 million in Japanese government agency financing was made available for an accelerated expansion of Lynas’s Mount Weld rare earths mine in Western Australia, and its associated processing facilities in Malaysia.

Mr Rudd is understood to have played a key role. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Senator Cameron were approached for comment.

Lynas, which is being pursued by former Coles owner Wesfarmers with a potential $1.5 billion indicative offer, faces closure of its Malaysian operations by September if it cannot comply with new conditions introduced in December due to the environmental concerns. These currently include the removal of more than 450,000 tonnes of residues containing low-level radiation.

Wesfarmers chief executive Rob Scott met with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last month to discuss the regulatory issues faced by Lynas.

The following day, Dr Mahathir announced that a company interested in acquiring Lynas had promised to extract the radioactive waste before exporting the ore to Malaysia.

Wesfarmers has denied any impropriety in its meetings with the Malaysian government.

This month, Australian regulators confirmed they had requested detailed information from Lynas and Wesfarmers about communication between the companies before the public announcement of the takeover bid on March 26.

Earlier last month, four Lynas directors had acquired shares during a designated trading window.

A Lynas spokesman said the company had “no reason to believe that Wesfarmers had an ongoing interest in the company at the time the shares were purchased. The purchases were made in a designated trading window”.

Lynas said it “categorically rejects any assertions of impropriety”.

Lynas chief executive Amanda Lacaze will update the market on the company’s operational performance for the March quarter on Tuesday.

The company’s results for the December quarter were affected by a temporary shutdown of its operations after Lynas failed to receive approval to lift the approved limit for processing lanthanide concentrate.

Lynas shares closed 6¢ lower at $2 on Monday.

April 18, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths, wastes | Leave a comment

In 2011, secret report warned of dangers of Lynas’ rare earth’s wastes in Malaysia

April 18, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths, wastes | Leave a comment

Malaysian environmentalists and consumer groups dispute Lynas’ claims about radioactive wastes

Lynas is being unscientific, not SAM or CAP  https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/471173  SM Mohamed Idris   6 Apr 2019 Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) refer to the letter by Lynas Malaysia reported in Malaysiakini on 5 April 2019, which says that our recent statements about the plant’s wastes are “false and ignore scientific fact.”

The controversy is over the definition of wastes from the Lynas’ water leach purification (WLP) process, which contains thorium and uranium.

Lynas claims that the wastes are naturally-occurring radioactive material (called NORM), while we claim that the wastes are not naturally-occurring, but have been technologically-enhanced and should be called technologically-enhanced naturally-occurring radioactive material known as TENORM.

Citing “two eminent scientists”, Lynas states as fact that “the small amount of thorium and uranium in the WLP generated are not man-made but naturally occurring radionuclides found in soil, water and in food.”

Lynas is clearly distorting the facts.

First of all, the thorium and uranium containing wastes generated by Lynas are not found to naturally occur in the Gebeng area, where the plant is located. On the contrary, the raw material which is processed by the Lynas plant is lanthanide concentrate that contains the thorium, uranium and the rare-earth.

This raw material is processed and imported from the Mount Weld mine in Australia and is brought to Malaysia. It is then subject to further processing in Gebeng by Lynas.

Therefore, how can it be said that say that the thorium and uranium are naturally occurring in the soil, water and in food when they were not there before in the Gebeng area, if not for the Lynas operations?

Moreover, what is even more significant is that we are talking about the generation of an accumulated amount of more than 450,000 metric tonnes of radioactive wastes from the Lynas operations thus far. To call this naturally-occurring radioactive material is indeed unscientific.

Secondly, the wastes that Lynas has generated from the WLP process clearly falls within the definition of TENORM, as defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) as: “Naturally occurring radioactive materials that have been concentrated or exposed to the accessible environment as a result of human activities such as manufacturing, mineral extraction, or water processing.”

The USEPA also states that “technologically enhanced” means that the radiological, physical, and chemical properties of the radioactive material have been concentrated or further altered by having been processed, or beneficiated, or disturbed in a way that increases the potential for human and/or environmental exposures.”

Indeed, Lynas seems to have forgotten that its own Radiological Impact Assessment of 2010 refers to the residues from its operations as TENORM.

Moreover, in a study co-authored by, Dr. Sukiman Sarmani (the “eminent scientist” that Lynas refers to in its letter) and three others (published in 2014 on the Lynas plant residue), shows that the WLP residue has a high radioactivity of Thorium 232 compared to the natural background levels of Malaysian soils and therefore comes under the purview of the regulatory authorities.

These facts fortify our position.

Lynas in its letter also refers to us as “unqualified people.”

For the record, SAM and CAP have very deep and detailed knowledge of how rare-earth plants can impact public health and the environment, having had years of considerable experience from being involved in the Asian Rare Earth (ARE) case in Bukit Merah, Ipoh.

We assisted the people of Bukit Merah over many years countering the claims of ARE, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board, the International Atomic Energy Agency and others.

This we did by being engaged and involved with many scientists and public health experts both from Malaysia and abroad, who helped the community battle in the courts, that finally led to its closure. We have over the years documented the serious health impacts suffered by the Bukit Merah community, that continue till today, due to the impacts of low-level radiation.

Surely our rich experience and knowledge cannot simply be dismissed by the likes of Lynas. SM MOHAMED IDRIS is president of both environmental movement Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and NGO Consumers Association of Penang (CAP).

April 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths, wastes | Leave a comment

Environment Minister Melissa Price confirms Malaysia’s request for Australia to take back Lynas’ radioactive trash

Minister confirms Malaysian request on Lynas waste, Fin Rev 2 Apr 19   Brad Thompson   Environment minister Melissa Price has confirmed receiving a letter from her Malaysian counterpart requesting collaboration on the removal of low-level radioactive waste produced by Lynas Corporation.

Ms Price’s office said on Tuesday that it was premature to comment further until the request had been properly considered.

Malaysia wants Australia to accept 450,000 tonnes of waste created at the Lynas plant near Kuantan in the processing of rare earths from the company’s Mount Weld mine in Western Australia.

A spokesman for Ms Price said Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy handled import permit applications for hazardous materials on a case-by-case basis.

Similarly, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency handled import permit applications for radioactive material on a case-by-case basis.

It remains unclear how the Lynas waste will be classified. It is understood West Australian authorities would also have to sign off on the transport of any waste within the state, possibly all the way back out to the remote Mount Weld mine.

Lynas refuses to concede it will have to find a way to remove low-level radioactive waste from Malaysia to keep its operations going, despite increasing political pressure.

The Wesfarmers’ takeover target said on Tuesday that it continued to engage productively with the Malaysian government over the waste issue.

Lynas remains optimistic it can resolve the issue within Malaysia despite an order to remove the waste by September if it wants to continue operating its $800 million Kuantan plant.

Lynas, led by Amanda Lacaze, declined to comment on the Malaysian minister’s formal request for the Australian government to collaborate on the waste removal………

Wesfarmers is reported to have told Lynas it is willing to build a first-stage processing plant at Kwinana, south of Perth, to overcome the waste issue.   Connect with Brad on Twitter.Email Brad at bradthompson@afr.com.au    https://www.afr.com/business/mining/environment-minister-confirms-malaysian-request-on-lynas-waste-20190402-p51a1x?fbclid=IwAR3P_yvHRTW0Z3LAj1bBwWTkFrfdiLP0S9wmykaxQoY-QZfymcRZXtG5U5g

April 7, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths, wastes | Leave a comment

Malaysia wants Australia to help remove Lynas’ radioactive trash from rare earths processing

Malaysia turns up heat on Australia over Lynas waste,  Brad Thompson, Fin Rev, 1 Apr 19,  A senior Malaysia politician says the Australian government has been asked to collaborate on the removal of low-level radioactive waste produced by Lynas Corporation’s rare earths processing operations.

Deputy environment and climate change minister Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis said an official letter requesting collaboration had been sent to the Australian government last month,  in another sign Malaysia is determined to have the waste removed despite suggestions from Lynas it is close to …… (Subscribers only) https://www.afr.com/business/mining/history-stacks-up-against-wesfarmers-and-rare-earths-plant-20190401-p519q3

April 1, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths | Leave a comment

Lynas considers relocating its rare earths processing to Western Australia

Lynas looks to WA, not Wesfarmers, for its Malay solution, WA Today, By Hamish Hastie, Colin Kruger and Darren Gray, March 27, 2019 Western Australia might hold the key to Lynas Corp’s future despite the rare earths miner rejecting a $1.5 billion takeover offer from Perth-based Wesfarmers on Wednesday.

WA’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) confirmed it had recently met with the company to discuss approvals in the state.

“These discussions are preliminary in nature and no formal submission for any change has been presented to the EPA,” a spokeswoman for the agency said.

The discussions could help solve the problems in Malaysia which threaten the company’s future, and made it vulnerable to what analysts and investors described as a low-ball bid from Wesfarmers on Tuesday.

Lynas faces an uncertain future after the Malaysian government imposed strict new conditions on its billion-dollar Malaysian operation which could force it to shut down in September.

This includes the permanent removal of a residue with naturally occurring radiation, Water Leached Purification Residue (WLP), from Malaysia.

According to institutional investors, Lynas discussed plans last month to relocate some of its rare earths processing back to Western Australia. All processing is currently handled in Malaysia.

Lynas chief executive Amanda Lacaze denied there was any plan to extract and retain the controversial WLP residue in WA – the state where it is mined – but did confirm it planned to expand its processing operations outside of Malaysia.

She confirmed that Western Australia was a contender.

We operate in a growth industry and we are looking at how we grow our business with the market,” Ms Lacaze said.

According to the EPA, in February 2017 the rare earths miner applied to make changes to conditions of its rare earths operation at its Mt Weld mine in Laverton, 700 kilometres north east of Perth, and “secondary processing” at Meenar in the Shire of Northam 100km north east of Perth.

Lynas received approval for the mine and Meenar processing facility in 1998, but decided to set up its processing plant in Malaysia instead.

Anti-nuclear groups had fought the facility in both countries over concerns about rare earths radioactive by-product thorium.

Speaking of the approvals, Ms Lacaze said “it’s not something that we have specifically refreshed for any purpose”.

On Wednesday, Ms Lacaze played down the Wesfarmers bid, saying the highly conditional nature of the approach meant there was “nothing substantive with which to engage”.

“This business is not for sale,” she told the media after the company said “it will not engage with Wesfarmers on the terms outlined in the indicative and highly conditional proposal”.

Lynas said its key assets included its position as “the only significant” rare earths miner and processor outside of China, and its Mt Weld ore body – a long life Tier 1 asset……… https://www.watoday.com.au/business/companies/lynas-looks-to-wa-not-wesfarmers-for-its-malay-solution-20190327-p5186c.html

April 1, 2019 Posted by | rare earths, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Lynas silent on long-term effects of radioactive waste

April 1, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment

What’s the radioactivity level of Lynas’ refinery thorium wastes?

 https://m.malaysiakini.com/letters/458037,  Citizens’ Health Initiative.  Chan Chee Khoon, 29 Dec 2018,      Lynas has repeatedly stated that the specific (radio)activity of their water leach purification (WLP) residues is low (but still above Malaysia’s regulatory limit of 1 becquerel per gm of material [the becquerel (Bq) is a measure of radioactivity, equal to the number of nuclear decays per second]:

“The WLP residue, although classified as radioactive material, has the same radioactivity level as the feedstock material (rare earth ore concentrates) used in the Lamp process (about 6 Bq/g of Th)”.

(More accurately, this should read 6Bq/g of WLP – pure Th232 has a specific activity of 4070 Bq/gm of thorium, so 1655ppm of Th232 in WLP residues would contribute 6.7 Bq/gm of WLP).

But saying that each gram of WLP contributes 6Bq of radioactivity amounts to saying that Th232 decays in a single step to a stable element which is not radioactive. Clearly, this is not the case as is evident from the decay chain for Th232 below: [on original]

In a stable equilibrium, the number of nuclear decays for each of the subsequent radioactive progenies in the Th232 decay series is equal to the number of nuclear decays of Th232.

Hence the specific activity of WLP would be 10x the Bq counts contributed solely by Th232 nuclear decays (followed by nine other nuclear decays in the decay chain of progenies in the figure above).

In line with this, p.38 of the Radiological Impact Assessment (Nuklear Malaysia, June 2010) stated that Lynas’ refinery would produce “32,000 tons per year of water leach purification residue (WLP) with radioactivity concentration of 61 Bq/g containing 1,655ppm (6.62 Bq/g) thorium-232 and 22.5ppm (0.28 Bq/g) of uranium-238”.

It is noteworthy that the RIA arrived at this estimate despite this qualification:

“All but one of the daughter products of thorium-232 is a solid. The one exception is radon-220, an isotope of radon, but commonly referred to as thoron [half-life 55 seconds]. There is a possibility of thoron being able to emanate from the concentrate, the residue or thorium bearing contaminated materials so that the entire radioactive series may not be in secular equilibrium. When in secular equilibrium the thorium-232 radioactive series has an activity ten times the activity of thorium-232”) (p.41)

Likewise, the Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment includes a table on page 5-55 which states that the WLP contains 1655ppm of Thorium Oxide and 22.5ppm of Uranium Oxide, for a total specific (radio)activity of 62.0 Bq/g of WLP, i.e. 10 times the specific activity announced.

Lynas should explain why it is taking the boundary case (equivalent to a one-step decay of Th232 to a non-radioactive progeny), rather than in a decay chain including nine other radioactive progenies, occurring in a low-permeability clayey mass of WLP residues, which would retain much of the short-lived Thoron 220 and its decay progenies, and thus approximate a closed system tending towards secular equilibrium.

December 30, 2018 Posted by | rare earths | Leave a comment