Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Why Kalgoorlie-Boulder wants a Malaysian rare earths plant and its radioactive waste

August 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment

Australia must learn to mine rare earths responsibly

 We Australians can be so righteous about our environmental credentials, but we don’t seem to notice the problems with renewable energy.

We must jump on to the circular economy.  If the world could RECYCLE rare earths elements –   there’d be so much less need for mining and processing of rare earths, with its problematic creation of radioactive wastes.

What is needed is DESIGN – clever design of all devices that use rare earths, so that these elements can be easily retrieved, to use again in new devices.
While renewable energy technologies are used in the same old way –  dig it up, throw away the wastes, we are locked in the  20th Century thinking – that also includes the aim of endless energy use, endless growth. 

Critical minerals are vital for renewable energy. We must learn to mine them responsibly Bénédicte Cenki-Tok, Associate professor at Montpellier University, EU H2020 MSCA visiting researcher, University of Sydney
https://theconversation.com/critical-minerals-are-vital-for-renewable-energy-we-must-learn-to-mine-them-responsibly-131547,  February 17, 2020 .  As the world shifts away from fossil fuels, we will need to produce enormous numbers of wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles and batteries. Demand for the materials needed to build them will skyrocket.

This includes common industrial metals such as steel and copper, but also less familiar minerals such as the lithium used in rechargeable batteries and the rare earth elements used in the powerful magnets required by wind turbines and electric cars. Production of many of these critical minerals has grown enormously over the past decade with no sign of slowing down.

Australia is well placed to take advantage of this growth – some claim we are on the cusp of a rare earths boom – but unless we learn how to do it in a responsible manner, we will only create a new environmental crisis.

One consequence of a massive transition to renewables will be a drastic increase not only in the consumption of raw materials (including concrete, steel, aluminium, copper and glass) but also in the diversity of materials used.

Three centuries ago, the technologies used by humanity required half a dozen metals. Today we use more than 50, spanning almost the entire periodic table. However, like fossil fuels, minerals are finite.

Can we ‘unlearn’ renewables to make them sustainable?

If we take a traditional approach to mining critical minerals, in a few decades they will run out – and we will face a new environmental crisis. At the same time, it is still unclear how we will secure supply of these minerals as demand surges.

This is further complicated by geopolitics. China is a major producer, accounting for more than 60% of rare earth elements, and significant amounts of tungsten, bismuth and germanium.

This makes other countries, including Australia, dependent on China, and also means the environmental pollution due to mining occurs in China.

The opportunity for Australia is to produce its own minerals, and to do so in a way that minimises environmental harm and is sustainable.

Where to mine?

Australia has well established resources in base metals (such as gold, iron, copper, zinc and lead) and presents an outstanding potential in critical minerals. Australia already produces almost half of lithium worldwide, for example…….

Fuelling the transition

For most western economies, rare earth elements are the most vital. These have electromagnetic properties that make them essential for permanent magnets, rechargeable batteries, catalytic converters, LCD screens and more. Australia shows a great potential in various deposit types across all states.

The Northern Territory is leading with the Nolans Bore mine already in early-stage operations. But many other minerals are vital to economies like ours.

Cobalt and lithium are essential to ion batteries. Gallium is used in photodetectors and photovoltaics systems. Indium is used for its conductive properties in screens.

Critical minerals mining is seen now as an unprecedented economic opportunity for exploration, extraction and exportation.

Recent agreements to secure supply to the US opens new avenues for the Australian mining industry.

How can we make it sustainable?

Beyond the economic opportunity, this is also an environmental one. Australia has the chance to set an example to the world of how to make the supply of critical minerals sustainable. The question is: are we willing to?

Many of the techniques for creating sustainable minerals supply still need to be invented. We must invest in geosciences, create new tools for exploration, extraction, beneficiation and recovery, treat the leftover material from mining as a resource instead of waste, develop urban mining and find substitutes and effective recycling procedures.

In short, we must develop an integrated approach to the circular economy of critical minerals. One potential example to follow here is the European EURARE project initiated a decade ago to secure a future supply of rare earth elements.

More than ever, we need to bridge the gap between disciplines and create new synergies to make a sustainable future. It is essential to act now for a better planet.

 

February 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment

As Morrison and Australia’s richest suck up to Trump, plan for rare earths business

Morrison and Trump open new front in China trade war with rare earth ‘action plan’, SMH, By Matthew Knott and David Crowe, September 21, 2019  Prime Minister Scott Morrison will throw Australian support behind US President Donald Trump in a bid to counter China’s dominance in vital raw materials as part of a historic state visit to the US capital.

The “action plan” will open a new front against China in a widening technology and trade war by exploiting Australian reserves of the rare earths and other materials that are essential for products ranging from iPhones to batteries and hybrid cars.

Mr Morrison arrived in Washington DC with a message for Mr Trump that positioned Australia as an ideal friend that would back its longstanding ally on Israel, Iran and wider defence policy……

Mr Morrison wants Mr Trump and his colleagues to see Australia as their strongest military ally over the past century and is using the visit to pledge the same close alliance for the century ahead.

Mr Trump’s officials believe the joint plan with Australia will improve the security of supply of materials in critical shortage, saying this will ensure economic security for both partners…….

US officials also praised Australia as a “tremendous partner” in opposing Iran’s nuclear program and interference in shipping, while Mr Morrison made it clear he backed the US in its support for Israel – a totemic issue for Mr Trump.

“Under my government we have taken an even stronger stand against the biased and unfair targeting of Israel in the UN General Assembly,” Mr Morrison says in the draft of his speech to the State Department………

The menu served to guests including golfer Greg Norman, businesswoman Gina Rinehart and media mogul Rupert Murdoch will include sunchoke ravioli, Dover sole and lady apple tart with ice cream for dessert.

Following his visit to Washington, Mr Morrison will travel to Chicago to meet the governor of Illinois, then Ohio to visit a new recycling plant owned by Australian billionaire Richard Pratt and on to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/morrison-and-trump-open-new-front-in-china-trade-war-with-rare-earth-action-plan-20190920-p52tco.html

September 21, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths | Leave a comment

Lynas’ radioactive waste – still a toxic issue in Malaysia

Australian mining company Lynas gets permission to dispose of radioactive waste in Malaysia, dividing locals ABC 

Key points:

  • Malaysia has renewed the rare earth plant licence of Australian company Lynas
  • Green groups say Lynas’ activities pose a threat to the local environment
  • Lynas says it will meet the licence obligations set by Malaysia’s Government

Outside of China, the Australian firm, Lynas, is the world’s only major producer of rare earth minerals, which are crucial in the production of high-tech gear including smartphones, laser-guided missiles and electric car batteries.

The ore is dug up at Mount Weld in Western Australia and then shipped to Malaysia, where the cost of processing is significantly lower.

The low-level radioactive waste is a by-product of the enrichment process and Malaysian activists are convinced it poses a threat to local communities.

At a recent protest in Kuantan, several hundred people rallied against the Australian firm and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to extend its licence to operate.

“[The radioactivity] will be passed through our children and our children’s children,” said Moses Lim, a chemical engineer turned activist.

“We may be gone, but our grandchildren will curse us.”

Mr Lim claimed the issue had the potential to “tarnish the good name of Australia” in the minds of millions of Malaysians. But the Prime Minister, 94-year-old Dr Mahathir, dismissed criticism of Lynas’ operations in Malaysia.

“It’s not Chernobyl. This isn’t going to be dangerous,” he said.

‘We just have to accept this fate’

The issue has split the local community, which relies on the hundreds of high-paying jobs that the processing facility provides.

At a local fish market in Kuantan, a mother who declined to offer her name told the ABC she feared radioactive contamination from the facility would make its way into her food.

“I am scared, but I have no choice but to buy the fresh fish from here. We just have to accept this fate,” she said.

“I think Lynas should be shut down for the sake of the surrounding environment.”

But other locals said there was nothing to worry about, blaming politicians for trying to capitalise on the issue by whipping up fear in the community.

Raja Harris bin Raja Salleh, the chief fisher in Balok village, said the residents are “not at all scared”.

“Lynas is the same as other agencies and factories that produce chemicals. The accusations against Lynas are political,” he said.

Toxic waste becomes a toxic issue

The issue of Lynas’ radioactive waste has become politically toxic for the Mahathir-led coalition, which promised in opposition to close the Australian plant.

Now in government after last year’s shock election result, there has been a major backing down.

Lynas is allowed to keep operating its plant and has been given six months to find a suitable site within Malaysia to permanently dispose of 580,000 tonnes of low-level radioactive waste currently stockpiled at the Kuantan facility.

The company has also been given four years to relocate its cracking and leaching processing operation — which creates the radioactive waste — to Western Australia.

Wong Tak, a Malaysian Government MP who attended the Kuantan protest, said the cabinet decision to extend the licence was a “great disappointment”.

The long time anti-Lynas campaigner claimed the issue was serious enough to fracture the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, Coalition.

“I know the majority of backbenchers are with us, and I will even say the majority of the cabinet are with the people.”

Dr Mahathir has taken a pragmatic approach to the issue, saying the decision to extend the licence was based on expert advice, not the “popular view”.

“Either we get rid of the industry and lose credibility in terms of foreign direct investment, or we can take care of the problem,” he said……

The fate of Lynas in Malaysia is being keenly watched around the world amid concerns rare earth materials could become a bargaining chip in the ongoing US-China trade war.

In 2010, the Chinese supply of rare earths to Japan suddenly stopped for two months following a territorial dispute over Japan’s claim to the Senkaku Islands, which angered China.

The construction of the Lynas plant in Malaysia was largely funded in 2011 by Japan, which needed a reliable supply of rare earths.

China currently holds a near-monopoly on the production of rare earth minerals, with Lynas producing about 13 per cent of global supply.https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-22/malaysians-divided-on-radioactive-waste-from-aussie-miner-lynas/11434122

August 22, 2019 Posted by | politics international, rare earths | Leave a comment

Looks as if Malaysia will let Lynas keep its radioactive wastes there, after all

Malaysian minister capitulates on Lynas waste export condition, The Age,  By Colin Kruger, August 4, 2019   One of Lynas Corp’s fiercest critics in Malaysia has confirmed the country’s government will drop a requirement for the rare earths miner to export its radioactive waste from the country.

The confirmation, from Malaysian environment minister Yeo Bee Yin, all but secures Lynas licence to operate in the country beyond September 2 and could reignite a $1.5 billion bid for the business from Perth based conglomerate Wesfarmers.

Ms Yeo said the decision made by Cabinet to allow Lynas to setting up a permanent disposal facility (PDF) in Malaysia was a better outcome than earlier proposals, according to local press reports at the weekend.

A final decision from cabinet is expected later this month.

Ms Yeo had planned to visit Australia last month to discuss exporting the waste back to Australia, but the trip was cancelled after the West Australian and federal government rejected the proposal.

Lynas’ share price plunged in December when her ministry imposed a new condition on the extension of the company’s licence to operate in Malaysia beyond September this year. This included the removal of more than 450,000 of low level radioactive waste.

On Friday Lynas told the ASX it is scouting locations for a permanent disposal facility in Malaysia the day after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad suggested this is the compromise that will secure its licence.

In May, the company said it would 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.

On Saturday, Lynas managing director, Datuk Mashal Ahmad, issued a statement to the local media that the company is looking at disused mines as potential sites.

“There are a number of disused mines in the state of Pahang that require rehabilitation and a PDF can be designed such that it assists in the rehabilitation of this land, providing environmental benefits in a sustainable way,” he said in a statement……https://www.theage.com.au/business/companies/malaysian-minister-capitulates-on-lynas-waste-export-condition-20190804-p52dnl.html

August 5, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths | Leave a comment

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad may allow Lynas to dispose of rare earths radioactive wastes in Malaysia

August 3, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment

No clear answer in sight, for Lynas’radioactive waste problem in rare earths project in Malaysia

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

New explorer for rare earths in W.A. – doesn’t mention processing, or radioactive wastes

Krakatoa Resources acquires WA rare earth project as China threatens export ban  https://smallcaps.com.au/krakatoa-resources-acquires-wa-rare-earth-project-china-threatens-export-ban/

Perth-based mineral explorer Krakatoa Resources (ASX: KTA) has acquired an exploration licence application over an area considered highly prospective for rare earth elements (REE) in Western Australia.

The company today announced its acquisition of a 100% interest in Mt Clere rare earth project, with the licence expected to be granted within five to nine months.

The project covers a 403sq km area about 200km northwest of Meekatharra in WA’s Gascoyne region.

It is considered prospective for three REE deposit styles: monazite sands in vast alluvial terraces; Chinese-type ion adsorption clays in extensive laterite areas; and carbonatite dyke swarms.

The primary exploration target is monazite, which is an important ore for thorium, lanthanum and cerium, though, most monazite also contains additional uranium, calcium, strontium, silica and lead, and sometimes sulphur. Continue reading

June 20, 2019 Posted by | rare earths, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Rare earths processing – a dirty business, as Lynas has found out

Ores containing these rare earths typically contain radioactive material like thorium. To be useful for industrial purposes, rare earths must be isolated from raw ore through a complex chemical process that leaves behind radioactive waste. “Other countries have been fairly happy to let China take on all that processing,” Rasser says. “It’s a dirty business.”

One of the few rare earth processing facilities outside of China is the Australian owned Lynas Advanced Materials Plant in Malaysia. The facility has long been controversial, though the Malaysian government recently said it will renew Lynas’ license to operate. A prior processing facility shuttered in 1992 due to health and environmental concerns.

June 17, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment

Malaysian MP insists that Lynas rare earths processing has contaminated grounwater

Contradicting Xavier, Fuziah insists groundwater near Lynas plant contaminated, The Star, 10 Jun 2019, by ong han sean   KUANTAN: Staunch Lynas opponent Fuziah Salleh  nsists that groundwater near the rare earth refinery contains toxic elements.The Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said elements detected in the groundwater contamination monitoring data from the 2015-2016 Health Impact Assessment provided by Lynas to the executive review committee included nickel, lead and chromium.

“It is ironic that in Malaysia, Lynas has persistently denied that it is the source of serious heavy metal contamination, even though data taken over a 12-month period from September 2015 from its own groundwater monitoring stations have shown otherwise, apart from the month of April,” Fuziah said in a statement on Monday (June 10).

She said groundwater contamination detection required a protracted, regular and technically reliable independent monitoring strategy, and a conclusion could only be made with a high level of statistical confidence based on multiple and repeated samples taken across seasons.
The Kuantan MP said this kind of pollution had very serious public and environmental health implications in the long run.

“Of course, Lynas would never have admitted to the contamination because if it does, then it will be liable for this pollution. As a speculative rare earth junior mining company, its future lies in its ability to mask the real problems it is facing in Malaysia.

“Simply branding people who have raised concerns about its pollution and waste as activists is underestimating the many experts from different fields whom I have met over the years.

“These are highly skilled educated professionals with postgraduate qualifications from various reputable universities in Malaysia and from advanced industrialised countries overseas.

“They have given their pro-bono professional advice out of their sense of duty to the country and for our rakyat, and because they feel that Malaysia deserves the truth and environmental justice,” she said.

Fuziah’s statement is in stark contrast with a recent announcement by Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar that the groundwater around the Lynas refinery was no longer polluted by heavy metals as shown by the latest tests conducted in the surrounding area there.

Lynas subsequently issued a statement expressing disappointment that anti-Lynas activists were using misleading and false information about groundwater in an attempt to create fear in the local communities……….

Fuziah added that Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin was planning to personally visit Australia later this month to negotiate the return of Lynas’ NORM waste to its mine pit in Mount Weld in Western Australia.

“Lynas had given two undertakings back in 2012 to remove its NORM waste to get its operating licence.

“Both thorium and uranium radionuclides and the heavy metals present in Lynas’ waste are toxic. Many of these are cancer-causing substances and must be isolated from the biosphere, not left to pollute the environment.

“Thorium especially is a long-living low-level radioactive radionuclide which will remain hazardous forever, leaving a toxic legacy for current and future generations.

“I have a duty and responsibility as an elected representative of the people to raise my concern,” Fuziah said.

On May 30, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reportedly told the media in Japan that Malaysia would allow the Australian rare earths producer to continue operating its plant in Gebeng, Pahang.

However, in an interview with 8TV, Yeo said she was making plans to go to Australia to discuss the Lynas issue with government officials there.

She also said that the confirmation on whether the Malaysian government would give the green light to Lynas would only be decided after her trip. https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/06/10/fuziah-contradicts-xavier-says-groundwater-near-lynas-plant-contaminated/

June 11, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths | 1 Comment

Lynas still struggling to deal with its Malaysian radioactive waste problem

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

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

 

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