LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 6 no 3, 1998, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Good News for Some

Lead Smelters Move from Developed to Developing Countries

Reference: The following extract is from the Greenpeace Website. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/toxics/

Through the years, there has been a noticeable movement by secondary lead smelters out of industrialized countries. Correspondingly, there has been a dramatic increase in lead acid battery recycling in developing countries. According to the Journal of Metals in 1987, "the inability to economically install emission controls and purchase liability insurance (has) forced the closure of over half of the secondary lead smelters (lead recycling facilities) in North America".

China Goes for Mines in Tibet

Reprinted here and in Mining Monitor, April 1998

Reference: "Tibet to speed development of its mining industry", Asia Pulse, 6 January 1998.

The Chinese Government is promoting the development of an expanded mining industry in Tibet. The Chinese have announced that they intend to expand the production of electrolytic copper, chromium, gold, lead, zinc and silver by the end of the century. They hope to expand the value of output by 20% per annum over the next three years with the assistance of domestic and foreign investments. 

Recycling News

Mobile Phone Industry Launches Battery Recycling Scheme

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has announced that the mobile phone industry will be undertaking a recycling scheme for mobile phone batteries.

Mr Peter Russell, Executive Director of AMTA, said "this scheme, which is jointly funded by AMTA and the NSW Government, is an important and innovative initiative for the mobiles industry. Once the scheme is operational customers will know that they are doing their bit for the environment through returning their used batteries for recycling".

"With this scheme, the mobiles industry is demonstrating a commitment to its product beyond the expiry of the warranty card, and is also supporting the development of innovative Australian technology for recycling", Mr Russell added.

AMTA on behalf of some of Australia’s largest mobile telecommunications companies will begin a six month trial scheme in metropolitan Sydney in November 1998 with over 100 retail outlets participating in the scheme. AMTA intends to implement a national scheme as soon as possible after the completion of the trial scheme.

The Scheme will allow users of Ericsson, Motorola, NEC, Nokia and Siemens mobile phones to return their batteries to any participating retail outlet including those of Telstra, Optus or Vodafone.

"This is a great opportunity for customers of our participating companies to dispose of their unwanted phone batteries. It will be as easy as walking into one of the many participating stores and depositing the batteries into a specially marked collection box", Mr Russell said.

The Scheme will be funded by manufacturers contributing a recycling levy on all batteries that they place into the market. The program will be promoted to the public by retailers and carriers through their advertising campaigns.

The boxes will be collected by Melbourne based recycler, MRI (Aust) Pty Ltd. MRI holds contracts for the management of waste streams including hazardous materials, the recycling of redundant computer, office and telecommunications equipment as well as engaging in the recovery of components and precious and base metals. MRI will sort, store and transport the collected mobile phone batteries to Ausmelt Limited.

The Ausmelt bath smelting technology, a technology which was developed in Australia, will provide the basis for the recycling of the spent nickel batteries. The process is expected to produce three marketable streams, including a nickel containing product, a cadmium containing fume and a lower value ‘slag’. All these products will be used in various commercial applications.

For Further Information:

Peter Russell, AMTA Executive Director
(02) 6230 6055 or 0412 229 999
Michael Milligan, AMTA Project Manager
(02) 6230 6055 or 0414 200 888
Will Le Messurier, MRI (Aust) Pty Ltd (03) 9305 4611
Paul Abbott, Ausmelt Limited (03) 9787 6170

[Editor’s Note: When asked which heavy metals will be recovered, Peter Russell replied that nickel, cadmium and lower value slag will be recovered. He doesn’t know where the slag will go but the nickel and cadmium will be recycled into stainless steel products. There will be 7.7 million batteries from analogue phones – the US achieved a 15% return rate after 5 years so the Australian target is 15% per annum and hopefully they’ll exceed that.]

New Hunter Recycling Centre

Australia’s first centre to market recycled products is being funded to the tune of $850,000 by the federal Natural Heritage Trust, with a similar amount from NSW Government. The centre, which was opened in Newcastle on 13 November 1998, "will help businesses to start to look at recyclables as valuable resources, rather than simply waste material". Hopefully some control will also stop companies selling toxic substances such as smelter slag for fill.

Green Awards

Audi Plastics Recycling Prize

Audi has won the first prize for innovative recycling concepts and products in a competition held by the Research Institute for Plastics and Recycling, based in Germany. Audi uses recycled plastics for 18.5% of the plastic componentry of the Audi A4. Hopefully, plastics from scrapped vehicles can be recycled using the same process. Using substitutes for lead stabilisers in plastics, ensures safer, more recyclable products.

Vermitech wins Innovation Award

Vermitech has won the $50,000 first prize in the 1998 Australian Yellow Pages Business Ideas Grants, for turning sewage sludge and green waste into vermicast (worm poo), which can then be applied to crops or for the rehabilitation of mine sites and degraded soils. As part of their research Vermitech is looking at the bio-accumulation by worms of lead and other heavy metals (and other toxics). For instance, worms can reduce the selenium in sewage by 50%. Worms could be used to take up toxics from soil at contaminated sites but the dead bodies would need to be disposed of.

BHP Cannington Lead Mine Award

BHP Cannington has won the 1998 Australian Minerals and Energy Environment Foundation’s Environmental Excellence Award for the environmental management at all stages of the planning, development and operation of the Cannington silver/lead/zinc mine, 300 km from Mt Isa in Queensland. Construction of the underground mine began in 1996 and was completed in July 1998. The mine began producing lead concentrate in October 1997 and will reach full production (1.5 million tonnes of ore per annum) in early 1999.

According to the company, progress at Cannington has been uninterrupted since 1990 "due to the trust and respect which from the beginning has been developed through a continuing policy of complete openness" with stakeholders, including landholders and Aboriginal communities. Contractors’ tenders were assessed on the basis of their Environmental Management Plans (as well as cost considerations). As BHP says: "It is a concept that can be readily adopted by other mining and exploration companies"
[Ed: not to mention smelting companies].

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