19 Mining and the Lake Eyre Basin environment 189 renewable energy, phosphors, consumer electronics, speciality alloys and chemicals as well as various military technologies. There are light rare earth oxides such as lanthanum and cerium, or heavy rare earth oxides such as dysprosium, terbium and neodymium. The heavy ones are much higher value, but are also found in low concentrations in rare earth deposits. The main minerals hosting rare earths, such as monazite or bastnäsite, often have a widely variable mixture of light and heavy rare earth oxides and constituent elements. Most of the world’s deposits are dominated by light rare earth oxides (Weng et al. 2015). This makes rare earth mining projects inherently difficult, with each deposit needing a unique approach for separation of different rare earth oxides to saleable products, along with substantial chemical and energy inputs. Rare earth mining often includes substantial thorium and some uranium, resulting in radioactive wastes following processing and refining of rare earths. If the refinery and various gaseous, liquid and solid wastes are poorly managed, this can lead to significant risks for workers and the surrounding environment and communities. This explains concerns raised by Malaysian and Chinese communities about these impacts from their historic or current rare earth mining projects and refineries. If a project proposes to extract and sell the thorium and/or uranium, this also raises significant public concerns given that both are nuclear source materials and subject to international treaties for nuclear power or weapons. Conclusion The Lake Eyre Basin has extensive mineral and energy resources, some critical for Australia’s energy supplies or export-focused metal industries. The mining and petroleum industries have grown substantially in recent decades, with considerable opportunity to expand. The gradual depletion of conventional petroleum is driving a switch to unconventional sources, including CSG and shale gas. These mining and petroleum projects may have profound impacts on water resources and their associated natural resources (see Chapters 20 and 21). They may affect groundwater, surface water and flood flows across the landscape, as well as altering water quality. Mining developments in the Lake Eyre Basin are commonly growing in size and generating more waste. The cost–benefit analyses for such developments are rarely comprehensive, seldom including economic values of the environment (see Chapter 18). If the experience of the United States or even CSG in Queensland is repeated and the dreams of petroleum geologists come to fruition, developments of CSG and shale gas will impose considerable risks to the Lake Eyre Basin and its unique water resources, ecosystems and cultural heritage. There is an increasing environmental assessment burden, requiring extensive monitoring followed by rehabilitation, sometimes already poorly managed at potentially great public cost (e.g. Lady Annie mine). As Agricola (1556) acknowledged, mining can bring economic and material benefits, but it also comes with environmental, social and economic risks. This remains the heart of the sustainability debate for the mineral and energy sectors operating in or around the Lake Eyre Basin. Acknowledgements I would like to acknowledge the many individuals and local and Indigenous communities around Australia, and especially those in and near the Lake Eyre Basin, which have
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