Let's not waste a rare earth opportunity  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

The SMH has an article on the rare earth potential embedded within BHP's Olympic Dam mine - Let's not waste a rare earth opportunity.

Over the past two decades, China has dominated global production and satisfied 90 per cent or more of global demand. But recently, China announced that it would severely restrict its exports of REEs due to rising problems with its mines. There is evidence of polluted waterways and radiation exposure affecting not only workers, but entire communities.

The minerals which contain REEs invariably contain some thorium and uranium, both radioactive elements. It’s not the sort of stuff you want to manage poorly, as China recently admitted.

While lack of supply due to China’s restrictions might be a short-term problem, the key long-term issues are what volume of REE resources actually exist, and how can the mining and processing be managed – especially the radioactive waste.

Surprisingly, on both fronts we can be justifiably positive.

In the past, the world had little use for REEs, so miners never bothered to look for them. Given the strong expected growth in REE demand for gadgets and green technology, however, there has been a global scramble over the past year to identify REE deposits. Mining companies are now looking very hard for any trace of REEs – and they will continue to find them.

According to Geoscience Australia, Australia has 59.4 megatonnes of sub-economic REE resources in addition to its 1.65 megatonnes of economic REEs. Some 53 Mt of the sub-economic variety can be found in the giant Olympic Dam orebody in South Australia.

At the moment, the metals extracted from Olympic Dam include copper (valued at $671 billion), uranium ($287 billion), gold ($134 billion) and silver ($15 billion). Compare this with the estimated value of the REEs in the same orebody – a whopping $4,195 billion. That’s four times Australia’s current GDP.

In its current expansion plans, BHP Billiton (owner of the Olympic Dam site) is ignoring this remarkable value. The miner considers REE extraction to be “uneconomic" and claims the technology isn’t available, despite it being similar in most steps to the current processing at Olympic Dam.

0 comments

Post a Comment

Statistics

Locations of visitors to this page

blogspot visitor
Stat Counter

Total Pageviews

Ads

Books

Followers

Blog Archive

Labels

australia (607) global warming (393) solar power (376) peak oil (343) renewable energy (253) electric vehicles (221) wind power (184) ocean energy (163) csp (156) geothermal energy (144) solar thermal power (143) smart grids (139) tidal power (137) coal seam gas (130) oil (129) solar pv (127) nuclear power (126) energy storage (125) lng (116) china (113) geothermal power (112) iraq (112) green buildings (109) natural gas (108) agriculture (88) oil price (79) biofuel (78) smart meters (72) wave power (71) uk (68) electricity grid (67) energy efficiency (63) coal (62) google (57) bicycle (51) internet (51) shale gas (49) surveillance (49) food prices (48) big brother (47) thin film solar (42) canada (40) biomimicry (39) scotland (38) ocean power (37) politics (37) tesla (37) shale oil (36) new zealand (35) air transport (34) algae (34) water (34) concentrating solar power (32) queensland (32) saudi arabia (32) california (31) credit crunch (31) bioplastic (30) offshore wind power (30) arctic ice (29) population (29) cogeneration (28) geoengineering (28) batteries (26) drought (26) resource wars (26) woodside (26) bruce sterling (25) censorship (25) cleantech (25) ctl (23) economics (22) limits to growth (22) carbon tax (20) coal to liquids (20) distributed manufacturing (20) indonesia (20) iraq oil law (20) lithium (20) origin energy (20) brightsource (19) buckminster fuller (19) rail transport (19) ultracapacitor (19) exxon (18) santos (18) ausra (17) michael klare (17) atlantis (16) cellulosic ethanol (16) collapse (16) electric bikes (16) iceland (16) mapping (16) ucg (16) bees (15) concentrating solar thermal power (15) ethanol (15) geodynamics (15) psychology (15) brazil (14) fertiliser (14) lithium ion batteries (14) al gore (13) ambient energy (13) biodiesel (13) bucky fuller (13) carbon emissions (13) cities (13) investment (13) kenya (13) matthew simmons (13) public transport (13) biochar (12) chile (12) desertec (12) internet of things (12) otec (12) texas (12) victoria (12) cradle to cradle (11) energy policy (11) hybrid car (11) terra preta (11) toyota (11) amory lovins (10) fabber (10) gazprom (10) goldman sachs (10) gtl (10) severn estuary (10) tinfoil (10) volt (10) afghanistan (9) alaska (9) antarctica (9) biomass (9) carbon trading (9) distributed generation (9) esolar (9) four day week (9) fuel cells (9) jeremy leggett (9) pge (9) sweden (9) arrow energy (8) big oil (8) eroei (8) fish (8) floating offshore wind power (8) guerilla gardening (8) linc energy (8) methane (8) methane hydrates (8) nanosolar (8) natural gas pipelines (8) pentland firth (8) relocalisation (8) saul griffith (8) stirling engine (8) us elections (8) western australia (8) airborne wind turbines (7) bloom energy (7) boeing (7) bolivia (7) chp (7) climategate (7) copenhagen (7) vinod khosla (7) apocaphilia (6) ceramic fuel cells (6) cigs (6) futurism (6) jatropha (6) local currencies (6) nigeria (6) ocean acidification (6) scenario planning (6) somalia (6) t boone pickens (6) space based solar power (5) varanus island (5) garbage (4) global energy grid (4) kevin kelly (4) low temperature geothermal power (4) oled (4) tim flannery (4) v2g (4) club of rome (3) norman borlaug (2) peak oil portfolio (1)