Asia-Pacific

Jul 1, 2014

Crikey Clarifier: what’s all the fuss about rare earths?

A New Zealand-born Australian resident has been arrested and released in Malaysia for protesting against a rare earths processing plant. What are rare earths? Why are they dangerous? Crikey intern Rachel Clayton has the answers.

Crikey Intern — The next generation of <em>Crikey</em> journalists.

Crikey Intern

The next generation of Crikey journalists.

Bondi resident Natalie Lowrey was suddenly released without charge on Friday night after five days’ detention in a Malaysian prison. Lowrey, who was born in New Zealand, was arrested last week in Kuantan, Malaysia, for protesting against the processing of rare earths by Australian minerals giant Lynas Corp. We delve into some of the issues surrounding the case.

What are rare earths?

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7 comments

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7 thoughts on “Crikey Clarifier: what’s all the fuss about rare earths?

  1. Scott

    “Based on the preliminary Environmental Impact Agency report, thorium residues would lead to a sizeable radioactivity dose of some 62 Becquerel per gram. For 106 tonnes this would be an enormous quantity of radioactive residual thorium”

    Couple of issues with this statement
    1. According to the UN IAEA which did a review of the plant for the Malaysian Government, it stated that the concentration is 6 Bq/g, not 62…so this is out by a factor of 10.
    2. Regardless of how much waste there is, the concentration of thorium is the same….you don’t multiply it by 106,000,000 to get a bigger value.

    If you would like to get an informed opinion, go to this link

    http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/pdf/lynas-report2011.pdf

  2. fractious

    Isn’t global capitalism fun. Why bother with the inconvenience of having to prepare impact statements and abide by reasonably strict health and environmental standards when you can get the job done elsewhere with – for the sake of a nice little donation to the local licencing authority – no bother at all.

    See also the JI and CDI mechanisms under Kyoto.

  3. AR

    It should be noted that, like our absolutely essential, indispensable i-thingies, that chlorofluorocarbons are still used industrially because we just gotta have our sound systems.
    All audio & other solid states circuitry is assembled using CFCs to keep the tiny contacts solderable. Otherweise they might cost more.
    Let’s keep things in perspective, better that I can tweet and burst my eardrums than some green loser gets to keep their planet intact.

  4. zut alors

    It’s extremely dumb to sh*t in one’s own nest.

    The planet is our nest. Big business has trouble grasping that concept.

  5. Malcolm Street

    AR – there’s no problem using CFCs in industrial processes provided the are container within the process.

  6. AR

    MalS – agreed on containment but how likely is that, given how cheap CFCs are, in the sweatshop whence our toys originate?

  7. @chrispydog

    Just for some perspective: each banana you eat emits 15 Bq (it contains Potassium 40)

    Really, this article is actually low grade toxic waste

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