Archive for the ‘rare earths’ Category

Radioactivity problem in wastes from rare earths processing

December 28, 2012

Lynas’ waste plans a toxic pipe dream  Aliran,   19 December 2012 by Wendy Bacon ”    ……While Lynas says it is confident in the current by-product plans, they are yet to be tested. Dr Peter Karamoskas, who has been a nuclear radiologist for 13 years and represents the Australian public on the Radiation Safety Committee of Australia’s nuclear safety agency, shares none of that confidence.

Speaking on his own behalf, Karamoskas said that to be safe more than a million tons of WLP residue with a radioactive reading of 6Bq have to be mixed with five times the amount of aggregate to reduce its reading to 1Bq. While he said that a similar process had been used in the Netherlands, the waste was far less radioactive, sitting near 1Bq, which is the threshold for safety. (more…)

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The story of Lynas rare earths project in Malaysia, and its radioactive wastes problem

December 28, 2012

The IAEA also recommended that Lynas proceed no further until it had filed comprehensive plans for the permanent disposal of waste, decommissioning of the plant and remediation of the site at the end of its life.

Lynas’ waste plans a toxic pipe dream  Aliran,   19 December 2012 Scientists and community leaders are concerned about radioactive waste from Lynas’ Malaysian plant but the company representative who took Wendy Bacon’s questions brushed off the criticism. This is the second of two articles about Lynas by Wendy Bacon.Read the first here.http://aliran.com/11005.html

Australian rare earth company Lynas has always known it had a waste problem. (more…)

Lynas tries to shut up critics of its rare earths processing project in Malaysia

December 28, 2012

Lynas’ waste plans a toxic pipe dream  Aliran,   19 December 2012 Scientists and community leaders are concerned about radioactive waste from Lynas’ Malaysian plant but the company representative who took Wendy Bacon’s questions brushed off the criticism. This is the second of two articles about Lynas by Wendy Bacon “………Shutting down the critics

New Matilda asked to interview Lynas Executive Chairperson Nick Curtis but he was not available. Instead we interviewed a Lynas spokesperson who insists that the waste products of the Lamp project are “not hazardous in any way”. He refers to the safety record of Lynas which in “all of its constructions … has been achieved with zero lost time injury”.

When New Matilda suggested that problems are more likely to arise in the long term, even 20 or 30 years away, he replied: “I would be lying if I categorically tell you there is no risk in 20 or 30 years time from anything. What I can tell you is that the unanimous conclusion of all of the scientific experts from all of the different organisations that have investigated this material and everything else is that there will be no discernible risk for the public or anyone else from this facility.”

But this is far from true. (more…)

Contradictions in Lynas rare earths company’s plans to deal with radioactive wastes

December 28, 2012

Lynas will be in court in Malaysia on 19 December. The Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) campaignerswill be appealing against the Kuantan High Court decision to lift its stay on the company being able to exercise its rights to proceed under the temporary licence.

The toxic waste that’s not in Australia’s backyard http://aliran.com/11005.html  18 Dec 12, Australian-owned company Lynas is quietly shipping rare earth to a processing plant in Malaysia – without a firm plan in place to dispose of dangerous radioactive waste. Wendy Bacon reports.

If a manufacturing plant involving radioactive materials moved into your community, one of the first things you would ask is, “what’s going to happen to the waste?”

This is exactly how residents of Kuantan on Malaysia’s east coast reacted when the Australian company Lynas announced plans to build Lamp, the world’s biggest rare earth processing plant in their area.

Several years later, they have no clear answer. Indeed last week, while the plant that will use concentrate imported from Lynas’s rare earth mine at Mount Weld in Western Australia was finally ramping up for production, the Malaysian government and the company were in direct conflict about what would happen to the waste. (more…)

Problematic planning, in Lynas rare earths project, and its radioactive wastes, in Malaysia

December 28, 2012

Lynas was attracted to Malaysia because it was offered tax free status for 10 years.

there was little mention of the waste — or “residue”, as Lynas prefers to call it.

Lynas and its supporters assert its operations are completely safe, but as NM reported on Monday, others — including scientists — are less confident.

The IAEA also recommended that Lynas proceed no further until it had filed comprehensive plans for the permanent disposal of waste, decommissioning of the plant and remediation of the site at the end of its life.

Lynas’ waste plans a toxic pipe dream  Aliran,   19 December 2012 Scientists and community leaders are concerned about radioactive waste from Lynas’ Malaysian plant but the company representative who took Wendy Bacon’s questions brushed off the criticism. This is the second of two articles about Lynas by Wendy BaconRead the first here.http://aliran.com/11005.html Australian rare earth company Lynas has always known it had a waste problem.

It plans to process rare earth concentrate, imported from its mine at Mount Weld in Western Australia, at its Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) in Malaysia. It will not only produce rare earths for export but also a huge amount of waste, including more than a million cubic metres of low level radioactive material. (more…)

Radiation problems of wastes from Lynas rare earths reprocessing plant

December 28, 2012

Hello, didn’t Lynas say wastes to be exported? Malaysiakini  Dec 10, 2012 Swipenter: Spending another RM2 million to install two units of radioactive detecting machinery is “unnecessary” expenditure. That is one callous and contemptous attitude towards the safety of Malaysians.

An Old Malaysian: The raw materials imported are not a danger to us due to the very low concentration of the radioactive elements.

However, if the raw materials are processed and the waste radioactive elements are being concentrated, they will become a threat to the environment, humans, animals, etc.

The danger is from the gamma radiation emitted by these radioactive elements. If in low concentration and exposure time is short, gamma radiation will be low and will not be harmful to us (for example, X-ray) but if the radioactive elements concentration is high (for example, Lynas waste products) they will be hazardous to all of us and the environment.

Why are the two radioactive detection monitoring systems – installed at Lamp and at the Kuantan police station – valued at RM2 million?

A Geiger-Mueller radiation detector will tell you if there is radiation emitted from the raw material.http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/216281

Designing for recycling rare earths – an urgent priority

November 4, 2012

“The situation clearly calls for international policy initiatives to minimize the seemingly bizarre situation of spending large amounts of technology, time, energy and money to acquire scarce metals from the mines and then throwing them away after a single use.”

Yale Researchers Call for Specialty Metals Recycling http://environment.yale.edu/news/article/yale-researchers-call-for-specialty-metals-recycling/ 25 Sept 12 An international policy is needed for recycling scarce specialty metals that are critical in the production of consumer goods,
according to Yale researchers in Science.

“A recycling rate of zero for specialty metals is alarming when we consider that their use is growing quickly,” said co-author Barbara Reck, a research scientist at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Specialty metals, which include rare earth elements such as indium, gallium and germanium, account for more than 30 of the 60 metals in the periodic table. Because they are used in small amounts for very precise technological purposes, such as red phosphors, high-strength magnets, thin-film solar cells and computer chips, recovery can be so technologically and economically challenging that the attempt is seldom made. (more…)

Poor monitoring a likely danger for rare earths mining in Greenland

August 16, 2012

Will Mining For Rare Earth Metals Destroy Greenland?  http://www.fastcoexist.com/1680333/will-mining-for-rare-earth-metals-destroy-greenland  12 Aug 12,  To stop China’s stranglehold on the minerals necessary for our digital economy, mining companies are looking to the icy expanse of Greenland. But with no regulation, no light, and no oversight, what will those mines do to this pristine Arctic landscape?

Without rare earth metals, we can’t have a digitally driven, cleantech-powered economy. Up until recently, that has put the world at the mercy of China, which is responsible for 97% of global output of these 17 minerals, found in lithium-ion batteries, laser pointers, electric car motors, solar panels, wind turbines, and more. But that may be about to change. The U.S. is gearing up to start mining for rare earth metals, and now Greenland is as well. The only problem: Greenland may not be ready to handle the huge mining operations that are about to arrive.

Greenland is a wealth of rare earth metals, with enough of the minerals to supply a quarter of global demand–if mining companies can extract them. In many cases, the minerals lie below thick ice sheets. And even the ones that don’t are in such remote locations that any impact from accidents would be multiplied, much like the offshore drilling operations planned off the coast of Alaska.

There are currently four large-scale mining projects that are about to be initiated in Greenland, two of which are for rare earth metals. Over 120 mining sites are being explored, according to the Guardian. “If you look at mining in other places, it’s kind of similar problems but in Greenland the thing that makes it different is the lack of ability to control the companies. There are not enough people–there are 57,000 people in the whole country,” says Jon Burgwald of Greenpeace. And the Greenland Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum that’s supposed to oversee everything from finances to environmental impact? It’s made up of about 30 people.

Mix a tiny agency with mining behemoths and you have a recipe for bad behavior. With no natural light for huge chunks of the year, it’s difficult for companies to monitor waste water spills. Not that they would care–Greenland doesn’t have any facilities to process waste water in the first place.

The operations could potentially endanger fish stocks and marine mammals that are already under pressure from climate change. And while Greenland has a zero tolerance policy for uranium mining, Burgwald is concerned that might soon change. “From the time you take [uranium] out, there’s nuclear waste involved. There are no real examples of uranium mining where you don’t see quite serious discharge of nuclear hazardous waste into the local environment.” Uranium can be extracted as a byproduct from rare earth deposits.

So what’s the world to do? Without rare earths, we can’t ditch oil, coal mines, and other dirty sources of energy. Clearly, though, rare earths come with all sorts of hazards themselves (for more, check out this piece on the health hazards of rare earth mining in China).

There are ways to mine in “a decent manner,” according to Burgwald. That would involve an extreme scaling-up of the Greenland Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum, strengthening best-practice terms for companies, and implementing a zero-discharge policy. “Right now the Greenland administration is going forward at such a high pace they’re losing themselves in the process,” says Burgwald. “The EU has a fairly good track record. Closer collaboration would help.”

Rare earths reprocessing for Australia

August 16, 2012

Note – I am not opposed to the mining and reprocessing of rare earths. I recognise that they are a necessary “lesser evil” in the development of modern and renewable technologies. BUT – rare earths reprocessing does produce toxic radioactive wastes, and the disposal of these wastes is an important issue that must be adressed, and clearly shown [rather than spun] to the public. – Christina Macpherson

Whilst working with Alkane on a pilot rare earths processing plant, ANSTO has previously partnered with BHP Billiton at the Olympic Dam mine, Energy Resources Australia at the Ranger uranium mine, and a number of other Australian-based miners.

Chalmers   marked final government approvals as other major hurdles beyond the research with ANSTO.
And while so far steering clear of local opposition, the company remains mindful of the importance of keeping those outside the industry on side.

All eyes on ANSTO, Australian Mining, 10 August, 2012 Andrew Duffy “….. On a tour of its ANSTO pilot plant Alkane managing director Ian Chalmers told Australian Mining the company [ Alkane Resources ]  was aiming to be producing rare earths by 2015…..

The company also runs tours for schools and interested community members to ensure everyone’s well informed.
Chalmers told Australian Mining Alkane’s close relationship with the community had been part of the reason why the company had avoided the difficulties faced by Lynas. Lynas has faced significant community opposition to its rare earth
processing plant in Malaysia, and protestors have been the source of ongoing delays, cost blowouts, and multiple court battles. ….

while the company’s community and environmental relations are a focus, the research at its ANSTO plant is all about the science behind rare earths processing. (more…)

As the nuclear industry withers, challenges in finishing it up and in managing rare earths

July 21, 2012

The decline of the nuclear industry poses huge challenges –  nuclear experts need not fear unemployment.

RADIOACTIVE WASTE DISPOSAL.  If all nuclear reactors stopped today, and all nuclear weapons were “turned off”, the world would still be left with a massive unsolved problem of disposing of the wastes.

BURYING THE CORPSES of nuclear reactors – (they prefer that nice word “decommissioning”) – a huge part of the unsolved waste problem.

ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGIES

Renewable energy is taking over –  it is supposed to be “clean and green”. And digital communications are also taking over the world.

But at present, both of these require “rare earths”

RARE EARTHS     On the one hand, these play a  part in the renewable energy future, for example in making wind turbines, and in electric car batteries.  Rare earths are a group of 17 chemical elements ( yttrium and the 15 lanthanide elements (lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium)    Rare earth metals and alloys that contain them are used in many devices that people use every day such as: computer memory, DVD’s, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, car catalytic converters, magnets, fluorescent lighting and much more.  http://geology.com/articles/rare-earth-elements/

On the other hand, – the downside of rare earths  –  in the mining and processing of these rare earth minerals, radioactive wastes are produced.