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How Australia Became the World’s Largest Lithium Supplier

How Australia Became the World’s Largest Lithium Supplier

There are three proposals for new lithium refining facilities being developed around Australia. These plants will bring their own its environmental challenges. Burning spodumene to produce concentrate requires large amounts of energy and large amounts of sulfuric acid. At the end, the slag waste will also have to be thrown away – a process that will have to be controlled to avoid pollution.

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

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

For example, environmentalists have it He was concerned that sediment from the Finniss Lithium Project mine had contaminated a nearby stream. BBC Future Planet contacted Core Lithium, the owners of the Finniss Lithium Project, to respond to these claims, but did not receive a response.

Kirsty Howey, co-director of the Northern Territory Environment Centre, the Territory’s environmental organisation, says she is concerned about the cumulative environmental impact of multiple open pit mines between Darwin and the famous Litchfield National Park, an hour’s drive south. city.

“There are lithium housings all the way,” says Howey. “You have these vast areas of land that are pretty tame by world standards and now they’re under control [permits for future lithium mining].

“It’s a tropical ecosystem, so you’ve got increased cyclone risk, you’ve got massive rains – rain is the enemy of mining. metals flow into waterways and wreak havoc.

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

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

Some Australian political leaders have argued that metals acquisition for decarbonisation is a priority. When the Finniss Lithium Project broke ground 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Darwin in early October, Northern Territory Mines and Industries Minister Nicole Manison was there. Talking the mediahe said: “We have to be realistic about that transition: there are materials that you absolutely need to mine to achieve decarbonisation and combat climate change, and many of those materials are available in the Northern Territory.”

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