Australian news, and some related international items

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,, 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  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

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)

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………

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?,  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

Electric cars, and the hazards of rare earths used in them

The electric-car revolution is here, but is that a good thing for the environment? ABC ,  By environment reporter Nick Kilvert for Life Matters 8 Dec18 “……..Rare earth metals like neodymium are often used in the batteries and magnets of electric cars, but there’s a catch, according to geologist Carl Spandler from JCU.

“There’s an association with rare earth ores with uranium and thorium, and they’re radioactive,” Associate Professor Spandler said.

Rare earth deposits are often found alongside uranium and thorium, meaning when you mine one, you get both.

In 2011, Mitsubishi spent $100 million on a quiet clean-up of a rare earth plant run by subsidiary company Mitsubishi Chemical near the villages of Ipoh and Papan in Malaysia.

From the time the plant opened in 1982, locals complained of eye-watering smoke and foul odour, and as time went on, villagers say they saw increased birth defects and leukemia.

Mitsubishi eventually removed more than 11,000 truckloads of radioactive material from the site, contaminated with thorium.

Despite the name, rare earths actually aren’t very rare at all, and there are significant deposits in Australia.

Australian company Lynas mines rare earths at its Mount Weld site in south-eastern Western Australia.

But the ore is shipped to Malaysia for processing where locals, whose limited experience with the rare-earth metals industry hasn’t been good, are in staunch opposition.

This week, Malaysia set new conditions on the Lynas plant, including that they must remove all radioactive by-products produced at the refinery, from Malaysia.

Some mining in China also has a poor environmental and social track record, according to Dr Spandler.

“They had small-scale operators just strip mining, but they’ve cut down on that quite a bit now because it was really doing a lot of damage to the environment.”

But despite the risks, radioactivity in rare earths is probably not such a big issue for Australian mines like Lynas, according to Dr Spandler.

“The mining companies are very well aware of [the radioactivity issues]. They’re obviously under strict regulations that they’ve got to control the radioactivity of their waste material and have a proper plan in place for how they deal with that waste,” he said.

“All of the [Australian] projects that are in the pipeline or up and coming now, they have fairly low levels of uranium and thorium, so they’re fairly manageable.”……

December 10, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment

Lynas contemplates importing radioactive trash into Australia

Brokers remain optimistic on Lynas despite Malaysian setbacks, SMH, By Colin Kruger, 6 December 2018  Analysts remain optimistic about the future of ASX-listed rare earths miner Lynas Corp, suggesting there may be ways around the onerous conditions put on the renewal of its operating licence in Malaysia.

The stock dived as much as 26 per cent on Wednesday after the Malaysian government set the conditions, which include the removal of all 451,000 tonnes of radioactive residue produced by its $1 billion rare earths processing plant since it started operating in 2012.
The Malaysian operating licence, which allows Lynas to process the rare earths there from ore mined in Western Australia, is up for renewal next September.

Despite this, UBS has valued Lynas on a “business-as-usual basis” on the grounds that the problems are not insurmountable.

There may be grounds for appeal. The ministry is planning to implement a much stricter regime than the independent expert panel was recommending,” UBS analyst Daniel Morgan said in a research note. ….

According to UBS, Lynas may be able to economically ship the radioactive waste to another country – possibly Australia. And in a worst-case scenario, it could sell its concentrate product to China for processing while it restructured its processing.

One option is for Lynas to split out the processing stage that produces the residues that have caused problems in Malaysia.

“Lynas may be able to invest in a cracking and leaching facility in Australia, keeping the [waste] in the country.” Lynas would then ship the concentrate to Malaysia for the final stage of extraction using its existing facilities.

CLSA was also optimistic, saying the low-level radioactivity meant the waste could be shipped in regular shipping containers. And Lynas had access to rehabilitation funds to help pay the bill……..

Outside China, Lynas is the only processor of rare earths, which are crucial for elements of the new economy like mobile phone components, electric cars and batteries.

The miner’s shares shares nearly halved in value in May when Mahathir Mohamad unexpectedly defeated his former ruling party and then announced a review of the Lynas operation as promised……..

Lynas earlier this month flagged a temporary shutdown of its Malaysian processing plant, which could cost the company $16 million in lost revenue, if it doesn’t win local government approvals to lift production caps.  safe…….

December 7, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics international, rare earths | Leave a comment

Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) group calls on Malaysian govt to shut down Lynas rare earth refinery

Shut down Lynas plant immediately, Harapan gov’t urged, malaysia kini 12 Nov 2018, Anti-Lynas group Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) has called on the Pakatan Harapan government to immediately shut down the Australian-owned Lynas rare earth refinery plant in Gebeng, Kuantan.

In a statement after a public meeting held by the Lynas Review Committee in Kuantan, SMSL said that the citizens have demanded the shutdown of Lynas, which was evident by the presence of about 600 people at the meeting….

SMSL, which has been campaigning against the operation of the plant since 2011, said that several court cases have been initiated to stop the then-Najib government from issuing Lynas Corporation the licence to operate and leave massive amounts of waste contaminated with radioactive materials.

These include thorium and uranium, and hazardous substances like arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead as well as chemicals from its refinery plant using ore concentrates from its Australian mine.

SMSL legal adviser Hon Kai Ping claimed that Lynas had breached its licensing conditions in many ways and there has been no subsequent action from the regulators. …..

SMSL said Lynas’ water leached purification residue (WLP) waste has radioactivity of close to 8Bq/g, according to a 2014 UKM research findings, eight times higher than the regulatory exemption limit.

“According to a Department of Environment document, over 450 kilo-tonne of WLP waste is now stored next to the refinery plant in dams lined only with thin HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic…….

It said that Lynas has proposed to turn its wastes into various commercial products – from building and road paving materials to a soil filler known as Condisoil.

It added that all of the proposed diluted products by Lynas, when released to the market, will almost certainly exceed the 1mSv/year cumulative dose limit, posing serious health and environmental risks to the whole country.

“The toxic legacy of Bukit Merah was created from monazite from our domestic tin tailing……

Pahang Department of Environment (DOE) director Rosli Zul said in his presentation that Lynas had indeed followed rules imposed by authorities since it began operations.

November 15, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | 1 Comment

Radioactive pollution problems: Australia’s rare earths mine in Malaysia

Australian mining plant in Malaysia faces radioactive waste inquiry, As China, the world’s largest producer of rare earth metals, scales back its export operations, the future of Australia’s industry is under a cloud.  By Jarni Blakkarly  30 Oct 18, The Chinese government has announced a slashing in the production of rare earth metals, a type of metal used in a range of high-tech products from mobile phones to wind turbines and electric cars.

October 29, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths | 10 Comments