Adele Carles Interview with RTR
Carles moves to ban rare earth ores in Freo
The West Australian
September 05, 2011
In a position that puts her at odds with her partner, Transport Minister Troy Buswell, and the State Government, the independent MP has claimed the rare earths, which are mined by Lynas Corporation at Mt Weld near Laverton, could be a hazard to public health and safety.
Lynas’ operations have been approved by the Department of Environment and the Department of Health, and the company says rare earths are no more radioactive than parts of the Perth Hills.
The term “rare earths” refers to a range of metallic elements that are used in a range of modern products including high-powered magnets for wind turbines, electric hybrid vehicles, computer hard discs, smartphones and flat panel displays.
The ore contains thorium and uranium oxides, albeit at levels regulators say do not pose a radiation risk.
“From the Government point of view, Lynas Corporation’s rare earth commodity has all of the approvals in place. All of the advice we have … is that it is a relatively inert product,” Mr Buswell said.
“Our view is the relevant authorities have put in place the relevant approvals.”
Asked why she did not believe Mr Buswell’s assurances, Ms Carles said: “I’m not an expert on this, I don’t claim to be. I want to see the EPA have a good look at this proposal from the Port of Fremantle as a residential port.”
Ms Carles said she was concerned Lynas’ proposal “looks like the Magellan experiment all over again”, referring to the problems Magellan Metals has had in complying with its environmental management plan to export lead carbonate through Fremantle.
A Lynas spokesman said attempts to portray its rare earths as “either radioactive or similar to Magellan lead are alarmist and either mischievous or ill-informed”.
“Transportation of the rare earths concentrate along the approved transport route from the Mount Weld mine to Fremantle Port does not present a radiation risk to public health or the environment,” a Lynas spokesman said.
“The Mt Weld rare earths concentrate is not classified as Dangerous Goods by the criteria of the Australian Dangerous Goods Code for transport by road or rail, and it is not classified as a radioactive material due to its extremely low levels.”
Ms Carles yesterday hosted protestors from Malaysia, who are opposed to Lynas building a processing plant in Kuantan, the capital of Malaysia’s Pahang state.
The protestors are concerned that the strategically important plant – the only rare earths processing facility outside China – could leave the area a toxic site.
Mr Buswell said it would not be proper for the WA Government to get involved in approvals processes in Malaysia.