Environment Minister, Bill Marmion today announced ‘Magellan Metals to recommence lead carbonate concentrate transport‘. Shipment was ceased in April 2011 due to community pressure over breaches of their conditions.
The new license is for 5 years, with changes to the monitoring and reporting requirements, though the Minister is not clear on what they are. He states there has to be an independent monitor, but this was also a previous condition, but the community questioned the independence when Magellan pay their fee.
The question that should be asked is if the previously strict conditions were breached resulting in lead carbonate ‘leaking’ from a container, why can there be confidence new conditions will not be at risk of being breached?
Magellan’s parent company originally proposed processing the carbonate into ingots at the mine-site, that is still the safe option. Arguments on cost do not stand up as since the mine was opened the price of lead has increased exponentially. Finally there is also a moral component to this, lead smelting is not only dangerous to the workers, but also the surrounding community unless best practice processes are employed. Remember, lead levels in children in Whyalla and Port Piri are significantly higher than elsewhere in Australia due to the smelters on the upper regions of the Spencer Gulf. A new smelter at the mine would limit the contamination to strict levels, exporting the lead carbonate will result in the smelting occurring in heavily populated third world conditions, potentially contaminating whole communities.
The Magellan lead goes to make car batteries, those of us who drive are creating the demand, but that demand should be filled in a clean and ethical way.