Some of you would have read reports that Malaysian environmental groups are protesting the plans by the Australian miner, Lynas to process rare earths in their country.
The main objection for the greenies is that some of the left-over ore will contain radioactive thorium which, like many heavy metals, is potentially toxic. In this case, it appears it will be in such small concentrations, it is unlikely to be a health hazard to Malaysians or anybody else. This stuff, after all, has simply been dug out of the ground – and is probably less radioactive than the soil on your average organic vege patch.
Never fear, though, because the ultra-left Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has taken up the cause:
Lynas would find it hard to go against public opinion in Australia to set up a refining plant that would result in radioactive by-products. Rare earths, a group of about 17 metals, are normally found with thorium and uranium.
Yes, indeed – since radioactive elements are pretty much any place that you care to dig something up, the production of rare earths does just about always involve removing radioactive elements and having to put them somewhere else.
The funny part is this – Rhiannon is actually protesting against the production of a vital ingredient for wind turbines. In fact, Lynas have already signed a letter of intent to provide Siemens with this ingredient, called neodymium, for the production of turbines.
The ore that Lynas is treating also produces goodies that you need to make batteries for hybrid cars.
At the moment, it appears the Greens think the processing of rare earths is not acceptable in Australia or Malaysia – but apparently have no problem with the continued production of the stuff in China, the kind of practices that produce this – so go figure…
Yet more proof that renewable energy is not quite as renewable as some people may have you believe.