How Australia became the world’s greatest lithium supplier

There are three proposals for new lithium refining facilities in development around Australia. These plants themselves will bring their own environmental challenges. Roasting spodumene to make a concentrate requires considerable energy and large amounts of sulfuric acid. Finally, slag waste will also have to be disposed of – a process that will need to be monitored so that pollution does not occur.

It’s still early days for the Australian lithium mining industry but Maggie Wood, executive director of the Conversation Council of Western Australia, a not-for-profit organization representing more than 100 environmental groups in Western Australia, says the industry is watching closely. is going. .

“On the one hand, we know we need to decarbonize as quickly as possible and key minerals like lithium and a whole bunch of others are part of that path,” says Wood. “But we also know that mining these minerals is environmentally destructive.”

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For example, environmentalists have raised concerns that mine sediment from the Funis lithium project has polluted a nearby creek. BBC Future Planet contacted CoreLithium, the owners of the finslithium project, for a response to the claims but did not receive a response.

Kristy Howe, co-director of the Center for the Environment of the Northern Territory, says she is concerned about the cumulative environmental impact of the many mines opening up to mine lithium deposits between Darwin and the famous Litchfield National Park, an hour to the south. is at a distance of City.

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“It has lithium deposits all the way through it,” Howie says. [permits for future lithium mining].

“It’s a tropical ecosystem, so you’ve got an increased risk of storms, you’ve got a lot of rain – rain is the enemy of mining. That’s when the metals run into the waterways and cause havoc. are

“We have to stop the development of fossil fuels, but we also need to check mining.”

BBC Future Planet contacted the Minerals Council of Australia, a representative body for the country’s mining industry, for comment on concerns raised about the impact of lithium mining, but they did not respond by publication. did not answer.

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Some Australian political leaders have argued that metals acquisition is a priority for decarbonisation. In early October, when the Finniss Lithium project broke ground 80km (50 miles) from Darwin, Northern Territory Mining and Industry Minister Nicole Mannison was on site. Speaking to the media, he said: “We have to be realistic about this transition – to achieve decarbonisation and tackle climate change you absolutely have to mine, and many of these materials are from the North. are available in the regions.

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