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Enormous lithium waste dump plan shows how shamefully backward we are

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24.06.2019

We are all – well, all of us who are privileged enough – existing on a spectrum somewhere between “concerned” and “downright panicking” about human impact on the environment.

We look forward to the day our economy transitions to 100 per cent renewable energy, the sun and wind power our homes and lithium batteries store this energy to be used when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining.

But here’s the rub: the lithium used to make these batteries must be torn from underground, just like oil, gas and coal.

Western Australia holds some of the world’s richest known lithium deposits and now has an emerging industry to process that lithium here, not just ship it to China as previously done.

It’s part of a plan to make us more than just the world’s quarry; a bigger player in an industry promising big money, and bring jobs and industry to the South West.

But we have run up against a reality, in the very recognisable area of the Ferguson Valley: a reality predictable, yet startling.

Lithium mining will leave its own scars on a landscape already littered with tens of thousands of abandoned mining voids, pits, equipment and piles of tailings – and create its own waste.

In WA’s South West, processing of spodumene ore from the Greenbushes lithium mine will result in 600,000 tonnes per year of waste material being dumped – or ‘stacked’, if you want the euphemism – only 3.5km........

© The Age