Comment posted Scotland should think hard before exploiting its rare earths by newsroom.
Thanks for the link – on today’s reading list.
We agree with much of what you say – but the UK is not, philosophically, a ‘whatever it takes’ culture, not in the sense you mean of whatever it takes to get something right.
On the evidence, we are a ‘whatever it takes’ – ‘to get what we want ‘ culture, or a ‘whatever it takes’ – ‘to get by’ culture – hence the mess at Doonreay; the unstable nuclear waste storage capacity at Faslane; the failure of the MoD to keep clean and to clean up armaments and dump sites; ‘regulation with a light touch’ in the financial world; hospital acquired infections in the NHS; the inability to control the costs and process of large scale public sector and defence procurement projects…
We can see no evidence of any kind to suggest that Britain has what it takes – or has the remotest interest – to adopt the ‘whatever it takes’ mentality of the sort you mean – to get it right and to keep it right.
The test is would you personally trust those who would be involved at all levels enough to move to live beside such a facility? Who would?
The volumes of liquid toxic waste involved in this (the most dangerous) and in shale gas fracking (even more voluminous) are simply too great ever to be safely manageable, let alone by a culture for whom appearance takes precedence over substance.
And we weren’t using this to hammer the wind renewables industry although it does raise questions for that industry to consider and answer.
There is considerable discomfort in the collision of the environmental protection case for green renewables (and rare earths are finite) and the environmental destruction in the extraction and processing of the rare earths necessary to make the magnets that power the generators in the turbines.
Our concern is not to find armoury to launch at the renewables industry – on which we are currently critically agnostic – but centrally focused on the dangerous combination of the short termist dash for cash mentality alongside a pitiable capacity for forward planning of the calibre we need – which involves the deep consideration of consequences of actions.
newsroom also commented
- For ourmaninoslo:
We would like to think as you do that we are living in a world of corporate social and environmental responsibility – but we are not.
And with non-renewable resources, like rare earths and shale gas, smash and grab is the name of the game.
With reference to SEPA – on the evidence of its performance, you would find few to agree with you on its efficacy. An earlier but recent article we published on its licensing of shale gas fracking at Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway is indicative: http://forargyll.com/2011/11/does-sepa-licensing-fracking-in-dumfries-and-galloway-offer-any-environmental-protection/
All of that aside – how would you suggest that the volumes of toxic liquid waste resulting from both shale gas fracking and rare earths extraction and processing might safely be dealt with?
The physical reality of the mass of this material makes the scale of risk involved patently clear.
Shale gas fracking requires up to 3 million gallons of water – per treatment. 3 million gallons.
This is taken out of the water supply – for each single treatment – and the percentage recovered in the fracking mud – which contains oil and carcinogenic chemicals – is neither recyclable not apparently cleanable.
The five mile wide toxic lake at Baotou, revealed by the journalists Parry and Douglas in January 2011, is the result of 7 million tons a year of mined rare earth saturated in acids and chemicals, accumulated since the 1960s.
Of course one could be sure that no operation in the UK would be allowed simply to pump such material into the open in this way.
But where would an annual 7 million tons of such toxic and radioactive waste material go? And how could its security and safety be reliably assured?
At BEST it can be no more than yet another toxic time bomb we would bequeath to future generations.
Good regulatory regimes are not the issue here.
The problem is the sheer physical impossibility of dealing safely and responsibly with these volumes of highly dangerous waste material.
- For ourmaninoslo: You’re getting trapped in the ‘appearance versus reality’ problem.
Just because we have organisations labelled with specific relevant responsibilities, does not mean they are good enough or independent enough in the exercise of those responsibilities.
Nor does it mean that they are anywhere near good enough to deal with something of the nature, scale and toxicity of rare earths extraction and processing wastes.
And in a world where what can go wrong will go wrong, our concerns are not overblown – although we know that they will be an unwelcome contribution to specific vested interests. These include the defence, arms, electronics and renewables industries.
We also know that such concerns may also be unwelcome where there is an over anxious desire to prove that an independent Scotland is an economically sustainable proposition. Of course it is – and without resorting to such sources of income just because they’re there.
And yes, of course we agree that an open comment system is a fantastically valuable and enabling resource in bringing together contrary facts, information, examples and contrary views.
It’s a daily delight.
- For Derek Pretswell: No bad thought.
It would be good to hear more from you on this.
And detail on what you describe as an ‘ecological slum’ would be interesting and could be educative – as would be analysis of the development plan.
Your distinction between community development measured by the creation of jobs of a limited lifespan – and the building of sustainable communities identifies the approach that really can make a difference.
Yet this is a tricky one both because the extraction process is itself toxic in is residues and sending materials for processing elsewhere simply avoids – by exporting – the moral issue.
- For Greentechfor RREs: Your commenting name identifies you as a – probably commercially – interested party. Therefore what yo say has to be read in that context.
It would be helpful if you would give specifics of the Canadian process you refer to rather than give bland assurances.
- For ourmaninoslo: The simple reality is that there is no regulatory regime that can respond to or police to the volumes of waste produced.
As with radioactive wastes produced by the nuclear process, we cannot neutralise these wastes. How would any regulatory regime govern where the mass of this waste would go?
Our current regulatory regime in Scotland is far form fir for purpose. It has been unable to get the MoD to conduct a thorough cleaning of Dalgety beach in Fife or to have any impact whatsoever on the MoD’s continuing use of the nuclear waste facility at Faslane that has, several times, leaked radioactive material into the Clyde and is very far beyond its safe operational lifetime date.
In both these cases, the polluter is a major department of state over whom one would expect a state regulatory regime to have more purchase than it would have over a private sector commercial operation. Yet, on evidence, it has no such effective control.
So commercial exploitation of rare earths in Scotland and anywhere in the UK could not be a more unstable and dangerous situation to contemplate.
As far as rare earths are concerned, thesy are also used in the arms industry and anyone who imagines that this industry is regulatable – in the was we civvies understand ‘regulation’ – is naive in the extreme.
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We’re not going to do a ’20 questions’ routine but, to let local politicians off the hook, it’s not any of them.
And we’re now taking a vow of silence.
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Criticising behaviour – like Nimbyism [a worthy target], should not necessarily require tying it to a party or a group, although if there is good evidence why it belongs there, there is every reason to relate the two.
When you say: ‘Only in a very small number of occasions would I condone taking protest to the point of physical intimidation and I reserve that to some of the most significant ‘upheavals’ in modern times (examples being the fight against apartheid and the civil rights movement in the US) – even then there would be a line I, personally, couldn’t step over.’ – this is wholly understandable but using violence to protest against it is contradictory. I can never get playwright John Arden’s line out my head on this one: ‘You can’t cure the pox by further whoring.’
Civil disobedience is a very attractive and effective expression of disaffection but people are quite resistant to considering it.
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Email Jacky Brookes of the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum in Wester Ross: firstname.lastname@example.org (Russian Arctic Convoy Museum)
She will be glad to hear from you and of your father.
If you go to this webpage: http://www.veterans-uk.info/arctic_star_index.htm
- you will find an Application Form for the Arctic Star on it.
Alternatively, you can phone: 08457 800 900 and take it from there.
You will be able to get a posthumous medal for your father for his Arctic Convoy service – and although, painfully, he will never have known of it or seen it, he earned it and the medal will be very important to your family.
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We have people in Community Councils in Argyll who are on the record as not wanting ‘people of low incomes’ in their area. And those will be people of a variety of political persuasions. The socialist NIMBY is not a rare bird.
It is unsafe to give representational status to the fringe adherents of any cause – and that is why the cause itself – any cause – must be clear about what it finds acceptable and what it does not.
The need for the formal, official representative of a country to be clear on matters like this is even greater – and it sets the bar.
How would Mr Salmond react to the same treatment the mob offered Mr Farage in Edinburgh?
It was sudden and unexpected.
It began with an invasion of the pub he was in.
It was intimidating – the mob crowded tight in, creating a real pressure.
The shouting and the abuse was literally ‘in his face’.
There was no way through nor any offered.
It would be surprising if the First Minister were not to feel equally shaken by such an experience – and very surprising if he had effectively condoned it as gleefully afterwards.
Personally, I’m not afraid of much – but the pressure of shouting bodies, the level of unreason, the aggression – with no signals that this might not turn to physical aggression… I wouldn’t have run but I would have been worried for my safety and I would have had no certainty as to the outcome.
The police clearly had reason to take a quite extraordinary series of measures to protect Mr Farage.
One of these was locking him in a pub for his own safety.
That meant that they were uncertain of their ability to protect him against a violence they, who were present – clearly felt was a potential development.
I feel – on good evidence – that Tony Blair did more damage than anyone to the political life of this country, to its expectation of honesty in those who govern, to its essential democracy and to its security – and that he has blood on his hands: of untold thousands of innocent Iraqis, of Dr David Kelly, of those who died in London in the bombings of 7th July 2005. I feel the most profound contempt for him.[And Nigel Farage has nothing of this level of gravity on his record.]
But I would act to protect Blair were he to be the butt of anything like this – because I do not wish to be implicated either in what he has done or in any primitive lynch mob response to it.
The best punishment for the attention-seeking and egotistical Blair is to pay him no attention. He is not an homme serieux.
The best response to UKIP and MR Farage, if you are opposed to their politics, is not to vote for them.
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No – not speculation – otherwise we would have said so.
But this is not a done deal.
It has to go for approval to an SNP meeting tomorrow [Monday].
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