Rare Earths - Lynas WA and Alkane NSW

Rare earths are the special metals used in our phones as well as computers, hybrid cars and wind turbines. China has long been the dominant producer of rare earth, but now Australian rare earths deposits are seeing a flurry of interest.

Last week we looked at the defamation case Lynas Corporation has brought against local community groups in Malaysia, who are campaigning against their planned rare earths refinery in Kuantan. The raw materials for the processing plant are being mined at Lynas’s Mount Weld operation in Western Australia. Ore from the mine, containing uranium and thorium isotopes, is to be transported from the mine site - to the port of Fremantle, before being taken to Malaysia. And anti-nuclear groups in Western Australia have concerns about what this might mean for those handling the materials along the way. Simon Unwin speaks with Marcus Atkinson from the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia about their referral the issue to the WA Environmental Protection Authority.

Other rare earth mines are being planned in Australia, including Alkane Resources is putting together a development application for their Dubbo Zirconia Project at Toongi, just outside of Dubbo. Ian Chalmers is Managing Director of Alkane Resources, the company behind this rare earths project at Dubbo. And Lee Bell is a Senior Researcher with the National Toxics Network. They speak with Jessica Minshall.

The expansion of coal mining into farmland and native forest in north-western NSW shows no sign of slowing down. The state government's planning bodies have recently given the go-ahead for several new open-cut coal mines in the Gunnedah Basin. Three of these mines are located in and around the Leard State Forest near Boggabri, where there’s currently thousands of hectares of native woodland. Simon Unwin speaks with Carmel Flint from the Northern Inland Council for the Environment.

With Jessica Minshall
May 2012