‘Clean Energy’, ‘Renewables’, ‘Alternative Energy’……….We can save the Planet! Well, can we do so without savaging the Planet and harming our health? Before we even attempt to create technologies to provide such solutions, we need to lay out the evidence which proves no harm.
The Quartz Group in the US, North Carolina, has been mining quartz since 1914.
They tell us:
The monocrystalline solar market is currently booming, and overtook multicrystalline technology in terms of market share in 2019. As a key supplier of high purity quartz to the solar market for crucibles and glassware, the QUARTZ Corp is dedicated to understanding this complex, dynamic market, and moving quickly to serve our customers’ needs.
To prove no harm we can look at research over the past centuries since mines became industrialized and created dusty conditions for workers.
It is a familiar story about silicosis. I have discussed it in many of my blogs. When humans suffer we get more interested than when wildlife suffers. By the time humans suffer, many other living things have died prematurely due to the harm done. Eventually humans die prematurely, and often compensation cases take so long the victims have died before payments arrive to assist their ailing bodies.
Some examples were reported in the media for N Carolina, such as in 2015 here. Trout were no longer surviving in the North River Toe since the local quartz mine facility was allowed a permit to extend its operations.
Once such harm is recorded it is already too late for all wildlife and humans to look forward to a healthy life in such an environment.
Geologists do not list common quartz as a deadly mineral. Indeed, there is such a demand for modern silica applications, that mines are increasing their capacity making big profits. Some details are found here.
The greater the demand, the more we mine. The more we mine, the more we destroy the environment. Destroyed environments shorten the existence of us all.
But the world now consumes nearly half a million metric tons of solar-grade polysilicon a year, making it a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Plastic Protective Equipment (PPE) has been manufactured during this Covid pandemic to meet demand at a rate of multiple millions of items needed every day, and will no doubt increase over the next few years.
This seemed to be the only solution for protective clothing for all health related workers, and it had to be single use.
As with all plastic, it does not biodegrade. We cannot burn it as it gives off poisons like arsenic when incinerated. Unfortunately, the technology has not yet been developed to avoid incineration of this plastic waste, and we have seen many devastating impacts to the oceans as a result of discarded plastic masks.
The Mediterranean Ocean, near the coast of Cannes, France was discovered to be dense with discarded masks. The reefs around the Philippines also full of discarded masks.
The global face mask market currently stood at $75 billion USD in Q1 of 2020 and will continue to rise perhaps by 53% by 2027.
In Wuhan, at the peak of the pandemic, the hospitals were producing more than 240 tons of single-use plastic-based medical waste per day. We can imagine since then what the tonnage must be worldwide by now.
We have a poor record of disposing of plastic safely. The extract below explains:
If you need to throw away used face coverings or PPE, such as gloves:
dispose of them in your ‘black bag’ waste bin at home or at work, or a litter bin if you’re outside
do not put them in a recycling bin as they cannot be recycled through conventional recycling facilities
take them home with you if there is no litter bin – do not drop them as litter
In other words, the massive increase in use of single plastic is adding to the contamination of our rivers and seas and consequent destruction of habitats for all all living things.
Sadly, we could have been addressing the harms caused through chemical industrial processes since we first learned how they bio-persist. Instead, we praise and consume the attractive products which have become the global economic imperative leaders.
The University of Petroleum and Energy Studies has found a way to break polypropylene down using pyrolysis. This process uses 300-400 degree temperatures in a chamber without oxygen which converts the plastics into renewable fuels. But this idea has been criticised. Solutions seem to be all about keeping plastics going forever and a day, and we do not have time for that. We have neglected searching for ways to prevent plastic breaking down into nanoplastics.
Yes, plastic is hugely useful, but so is petrol and all products made from it. How can we live without it? I have no idea, but we must be prepared to do so as oil will not be available to us in 50 years.
At the same time, whilst we can, research must be funded at the highest level to negate further harm from petroleum based products, particularly when we are maximising single use plastics during this pandemic. This problem has been staring us in the face for at least the past 60 years, but we chose to ignore it. We always think we know better. “Make hay whilst the sun shines!” Many people have seen the financial benefits of developing plastic applications. It is so pervasive, it fills my home and litters our world.
The pandemic highlights the neglect to the plastic problem. The Planet is now very poorly due to industrialisation. So many poisons are now in the air we all breathe and the water we drink. The nanoplastics are consumed by all living things, they disturb brains of whales making them lose their sense of direction and cause carcinogens to grow in otherwise healthy bodies.
I believe technologists CAN come up with safe disposal machines for PPEs, ensuring the single mask usage disposal is not to landfill (and thus end up in our rivers then oceans).
A major investment is overdue in solutions which remove all plastic in all its forms in our environment and to only replace it with safe biodegradable material. It would have to be made without polymers from petroleum. A tall order, I know.
We have taken the easy route: use petroleum and when it runs out, use recycled plastics to create more plastics, and even create some kind of fuel out of plastic waste to replace petroleum………STOP! We cannot go on like this!
We could set time aside to list ways we might live WITHOUT oil BEFORE it runs out. We could share ideas and test them for soundness. We must not wait for solutions from the chemical giants. They are complacent and focused on their bottom line.
Our young people are not even being asked to imagine life without the items they use daily which have been made through industrialised chemical invention and have generated damaging impacts on all life on earth.
We need new industries to spring up to safely dispose of single use plastics in household as well as commercial plastic waste, without it going to landfill or incineration. It is so tragic to see the additional single plastic waste, resulting from health protective uses, floating in our seas and oceans. I have been saddened to read of hospital medical waste ending up in dangerous incineration..
We are adding to the trauma of disease with this toxic spread of discarded plastics.
I write these blogs for me. I ask questions and search for answers in books and, mostly, exploring the Internet.
Without Rare Earth Elements I would not be doing this.
When I was born just after World War II, if anyone had shown my parents a crystal ball view of what I am doing now they would have thought it was highly unlikely.
I, like many others, use modern technology which incorporates Rare Earth Elements, to create my blogs. These words reach the world via complex technology which depends on Rare Earths. Rare Earths are Rare, they are finite. We will run out of them as we will run out of oil and gas. There is a race on to find them, and once found, eco-destruction of the location follows.
The Earth Sciences are fascinating to me, since they are explaining my life experience through the eyes of science. Today I learned about Rare Earths and how one of them, emporium was historically significant, especially boosting the finances of the US at the time:
“The demand for rare earth elements saw its first explosion in the mid-1960s, as the first color television sets were entering the market. Europium was the essential material for producing the color images. The Mountain Pass Mine began producing europium from bastnasite, which contained about 0.1% europium. This effort made the Mountain Pass Mine the largest rare earth producer in the world and placed the United States as the leading producer.
I was fascinated by the story of the mine being discovered in1949, through to its height as the lead producer of rare earths in the world in the mid-1960s, and on to its decline when China entered the market offering the same product much more cheaply by the 1990s. This led to the closure of the only rare earth mine in the US.
REMs are crucial and strategically indispensable due to their various applications such as catalysts, glass polishing, wind turbines, lasers, atomic batteries, fibre-optics, defence equipment, spacesatellites, nuclear energy and optical devices, automobiles, electronic chips, diode-pumped solid-state lasers and power generation.
So, the worldwide demand for REMs has soared materially in line with their expansion into strategic and hi-tech segments. Even futuristic technologies also count on these REMs due to their unique chemical, electrical, magnetic, heat-resistance, spectroscopic and phosphorescent properties that deliver significant performance and super strength characteristics.
In the defence segment, some of these vital metals are being used exceptionally in the building of advanced and futuristic military systems including night-vision and electro-optical sensors, precision-guided munitions, communication systems, Global Positioning System equipment, radar batteries and other critical defence electronics.
They are the pioneers for creating very tough and unique alloys used in military aircraft, armoured vehicles, jet engines and projectiles. These non-substitutable REMs are best suited for next-generation commercial and military systems.
The modern fifth generation fighter aircraft, modern-age nuclear-armed submarines (SSBNs) and nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs), warships, guided cruise missile, long-range ballistic weapons, and EO-IR sensors, but not limited to these, all these gears integrate REMs in considerable quantity. For example, new-age stealth fighter jets could utilise over 400 kg to 450 kg REMs, while an SSN could employ as much as around five tons of Rare Earths.
China has steadily dominated the market in supplying Rare Earths to the world, but it can limit supplies and push up costs, just as oil producers have done in the past. The ability to withdraw supplies if a country takes an action which offends China has made them unpopular to many of their major customers. Consequently, new sources are being mined around the world. Even close to the Chinese border, as in Myanmar, often carrying out illegal mining. But competition also is coming from Malaysia (at a cost to their tropical forests), and Russia.
RUSSIA ACCOUNTS FOR LESS THAN 2% OF GLOBAL PRODUCTION, BUT OWNS THE WORLD’S FOURTH-BIGGEST RESERVES, ACCORDING TO THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
High tech weapons today are designed utilising rare earth properties. To be a main player, just as with nuclear weapons, each country is ramping up its ownership of sophisticated modern tech weapons. See India’s perspective. Any country dependent on China for supplies of rare earth’s is beholden to China. Just as China also dominates the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients supplies.
China, the US and Japan consume the most Rare Earth Supplies to provide certain technologies the rest of the world consumes.
Heavy Rare Earth Minerals (REMs) are sourced in China and some in neighbouring Myanmar. these are: Yttrium, Europium, Gadolinium, Terbium, Dysprosium, Holmium, Erbium, Thulium, Ytterbium, and Lutetium
China has the most reserves of light REMs. These are:
Lanthanum, Cerium, Praseodymium, Neodymium, Promethium, and Samarium
Modern technology requires an essential ingredient, we cannot have many of our familiar new technological devices without it. Wind Turbines would not work without it. It is a Rare Earth mineral. China runs the mines on the edge of the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia. Its name is NEODYMIUM. Years ago I wrote a blog about it, again linked to my concerns about wind turbines production.
Farmers used the land before it was mined and suffered immensely since it was discovered. Their pastoral land was horribly poisoned as the mining developed. People who have witnessed the mining operations have been so shocked they have felt they must document it, such as ejatlas.org.
But all mines wreck the environment of those who used it for pastoral purposes historically. All countries give priority to the highest earning process, and farming cannot compete with mining minerals which are in high demand.
The Bayan Obo location is the largest rare earth deposit (REE) in the world. In addition there are deposits of niobium and iron.
China now hosts 36% of the world’s total REE reserve base, and the Chinese REE production accounted for 63% of the total world production in 2019 . 80% of the REE reserves in China are distributed in the Bayan Obo region, Inner Mongolia, Northern China . The Bayan Obo open-pit mine contained approximately 1.4 billion tons of iron, 1 million tons of Nb2O5, and more than 40 million tons of REE minerals. Its production alone accounted for 45% of the total world REE production in 2015 .
China is developing a massive business park in the region. See concerns over conflicts over rare earth production.
According to Klinger, rare earths make up almost one-fifth of naturally occurring elements, and are more than twice as abundant as copper in the Earth’s crust. And we don’t gobble them nearly as quickly as we have with copper. That’s because rare earths are to technology what baking soda is to chocolate chip cookies: a little goes a long way. According to a report from Adamas Intelligence, which publishes research on metals and mining, global consumption of rare earths was just over 120,000 metric tons in 2014, compared to copper at nearly 22 million metric tons.
Economic imperatives lead companies to continue to push for new mines, either in the United States or abroad, where environmental controls may be weaker And new projects are likely to move more rock, consume more energy and have longer-lasting impacts than those that preceded them.
Ensuring that mining operations are subject to effective oversight and long-term monitoring, and that companies are held accountable for environmental damages, is a long-term challenge wherever mining takes place. The best way to completely avoid the complications that come from mining more minerals is to reduce consumption of them, make mining processes more efficient and make it more economic to recycle industrial materials and rare earth metals.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.
If we go to war over access to REMs we will end ourselves sooner rather than later. We are already dying from massive contamination of this Planet, once a Paradise. We have the tools to put a brake on the harm we are doing and clean up the legacy of destruction – not with the odd project here and there but with superpower effort from all of us. Greenwashing away the truth is a cruel attempt to prevent action to save ourselves.
Non-ferrous metals are pure metals, mostly without traces of iron. They are more costly than ferrous metals.
They are light in weight, not magnetic, possess high conductivity.
The important ones today are aluminium, copper, lead, nickel, tin, titanium, zinc.
Mined ores are processed to concentrate the minerals of interest. In the case of metal ores, these mineral concentrates usually need to be further processed to separate the metal from other elements in the ore minerals. Smelting is the process of separating the metal from impurities by heating the concentrate to a high temperature to cause the metal to melt. Smelting the concentrate produces a metal or a high-grade metallic mixture along with a solid waste product called slag.
The principal sources of pollution caused by smelting are contaminant-laden air emissions and process wastes such as wastewater and slag.
I used to live not far from the Alcan Smelter at Lynemouth, Northumberland. It was a feature of the North East coastline. It was closed in 2012 by Rio Tinto, part of the Canadian aluminium company Alcan. The reason given was that it was uneconomic.
In April 2010, the European Court of Justice said the emissions from the plant were exceeding limit values laid down in the 2001 directive. The UK government disagreed.
In older smelters, air emissions contained elevated levels of various metals. Copper and selenium, for example, which can be released from copper smelters, are essential to organisms as trace elements, but they are toxic if they are overabundant. These metals can contaminate the soil in the vicinity of smelters, destroying much of the vegetation. In addition, particulate matter emitted from smelters may include oxides of such toxic metals as arsenic (cumulative poison), cadmium (heart disease), and mercury (nerve damage).
Sudbury, in Ontario, Canada, is one of the world’s largest smelting complexes, with an international reputation as a highly polluted area that has been mined for more than one hundred years. The environmental impact was completely or partially denuded vegetation on over 46,000 hectares and 7,000 acid-damaged lakes. Smelting caused much of the ecological damage via acid rain and elevated levels of copper and nickel in the vicinity of the smelters. Efforts by government and industry since the 1970s have eliminated most of the sulfur dioxide emissions in the area, and there has been significant progress toward achieving sustainable ecosystems.
Aluminium production accounts for 0.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet demand for aluminium is rising. On the other hand, aluminium is easier to recycle than steel and makes lighter vehicles. In another year or two, new technology will be applied to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the aluminium smelting process, but such emissions will still be great from the energy required to power smelters. This is often still coal.
China is moving away from coal-fired powered smelters to try to reduce carbon emissions, serious problems in that country. Shandong is China’s largest aluminium producing province. The whole production has moved from Shandong to hydro power rich Yunnan.
Here is a description of the harm a community can suffer when Aluminium Smelting companies arrive in their area:
Rio Tinto Alcan received a permit from the B.C. government in 2013 that allowed the company to increase production of aluminum at its smelter in Kitimat, leading to a 56 per cent increase in sulphur dioxide emissions. Currently, both the government and Rio Tinto Alcan are defending that permit in front of a tribunal acting for the B.C. Environmental Appeals Board in Kitimat.……….
Part of the problem, Stannus said, is that the aluminum plant is a major job provider for Kitimat.
“Without Alcan, Kitimat would be nothing,” she said. “Kitimat literally wouldn’t be here.”
Alcan, now owned by multi-national mining magnate Rio Tinto, used to be fondly referred to as “Uncle Al” by Kitimat residents.
The company created Kitimat as an artificial township in the 1950s to support a growing workforce. Although the planned city was originally created with 150,000 residents in mind, its current population is between 8,000 and 9,000 — about 1,400 of which rely on the smelter for employment.
“It’s like nobody would speak out if they worked for Rio Tinto Alcan,” she said. “You just wouldn’t speak up.”
……………Rio Tinto Alcan’s ability to reduce its sulphur dioxide emissions is central to the appeal hearings.
Giving testimony before the appeal panel, Ian Sharpe, director of environmental protection with the B.C. Ministry of Environment, said before granting the permit he required evidence Rio Tinto Alcan “could and would” install pollution reduction technology called scrubbers “should there be a need to have emissions lower than what they applied for.”
But rather than require the company to install scrubbers, which would prevent the increase of sulphur dioxide emissions, the province granted Rio Tinto Alcan a permit to increase its emissions for an indefinite amount of time.
Sharpe told the panel he decided not to impose sulphur dioxide limits on Rio Tinto Alcan because both B.C. and the federal government are considering updating their own standards in coming years.
Stannus said she doesn’t understand why the province will allow emissions to go up if the company has already prepared for the installation of scrubbers.
Health reports confirmed widespread over-exposure to toxic arsenic at Tsumeb smelter in Namibia
Following Bankwatch’s revelations about toxic pollutants at the Tsumeb smelter in Namibia, the smelter’s owner, Canadian mining company Dundee Precious Metals (DPM), contested our findings in Namibian news reports. Without substantiating its claims with facts, however, and in light of the results of local health surveys the company’s reassurances ring hollow and meaningless.
Genady Kondarev, Bulgarian campaigner | 22 December 2015
Some of the metals that are forecast to be in the highest demand in the future for electronics and technology are tin, lithium, cobalt, silver, nickel, gold, tungsten, vanadium, graphite, niobium, zinc, PGM (platinum group of metals) and salt (for autonomous and electric vehicles, advanced robotics, renewable energy, advanced computing and IT, and so on). (See Better Meets Reality)
We have billions of items which have been used and discarded over the past hundred years which have not been fully recycled. This should be our first priority: recycle metals from existing discarded products and create another industry which helps meet demand for these metals.
But investors put their money in taking from the exhausted Earth and trading in metals is an old trade.
The earliest known mine for a specific mineral is coal from southern Africa, appearing worked 40,000 to 20,000 years ago. But, mining did not become a significant industry until more advanced civilizations developed 10,000 to 7,000 years ago. In early times, the only metals available were those found in a metallic state in nature. The most abundant was copper. But, gold, silver, and mercury were also found and prized. The application of fire to mined materials became a technological breakthrough and proved to be one of the critical advancements of civilization. In fact, excavated elements transformed themselves by the application of heat. As a result, pottery hardened to last more than a season. Especially relevant, metals could be melted and formed into objects.
Present day uses:
Metals that might be classified as technology type metals are generally used in:
The mass production of miniaturized electronics and associated devices;
Advanced weapons systems and platforms for national defense;
The generation of electricity using ‘alternative’ sources such as solar panels and wind turbines;
The storage of electricity using cells and batteries.
In terms of wind, solar and energy storage batteries … metals which could see a growing market include aluminum (including its key constituent, bauxite), cobalt, copper, iron ore, lead, lithium, nickel, manganese, the platinum group of metals, silver, steel, titanium, zinc, and rare earth metals including cadmium, molybdenum, neodymium, and indium.
At Wikipedia we can see the list of countries involved in mining metals.
Here are some images of the battle scarred environments as we pat ourselves on the back for humanity enabling such a ‘civilised’ existence.
China is the lead producer of Aluminium,
China also leads in production of Bismuth, Gold, Mercury, Mica, Tin, Titanium and Zinc.
In March 2021, Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, announced the UK was acquiring 10m doses from the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer and the key source of doses for Covax, a vaccine-sharing agreement on which poor and middle-income countries are relying.
In a short time, India became overwhelmed with Covid 19 cases, and this tsunami is killing the population of India at a rapid rate. Millions had turned out for the annual Hindi festival and elections, there was no social distancing and few people wore masks; such was the confidence that they were done with Covid. Now they need the rest of the world to step up and help control this devastating situation.
In the US, 90 percent of drugs are generic and supplied by Indian Pharmaceutical companies, according to an April 2020 study by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and KPMG. Most of the world, including the UK relies on Indian generic drug supplies, and in turn, India relies on China for the raw materials Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs).
1979: The Indira Ghandi administration passed the Patent Act of 1970, which granted legal protection only to the processes used to make a drug, not a drug’s content.. This was in response to its huge population being unable to afford imported patented drugs, and needed to find a solution.
Indian companies excelled in reverse engineering big-name drugs and launched copycat versions — legally.
Around the mid1980s, regulatory changes allowed the US market to be more open to cheap copycat drugs, too.
Naturally, the pharmaceutical giants, which had invested millions of dollars in creating new drugs, pushed back.
1995: the World Trade Organization (WTO) introduced an agreement giving drug patents 20 years’ protection — and companies were given 10 years to comply.
But when the HIV/AIDs crisis hit during that 10-year transition window, it was clear that poor countries needed cheap drugs
1999: the most common cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa, where many people couldn’t afford antiretrovirals, was HIV/AIDs.
The WTO conceded that member states could grant licenses to manufacturers to make generic versions of patented medicines needed to protect public health.
In 2001, an Indian pharmaceutical company, Chemical, Industrial and Pharmaceutical Laboratories (Cipla), reverse-engineered several brand-name drugs, and combined them in a revolutionary anti-HIV drug cocktail. African countries and aid groups were offered the drug for $1 a day, a discount of more than 96% on brand-name versions.
2020: Chemical, Industrial and Pharmaceutical Laboratories (Cipla), has worked to reverse engineer three drugs being tested to fight Covid-19 — Remdesivir, Favipiravir and Baloxavir.
The supply of raw materials from China to Indian Pharma has never been as high as it was pre the Pandemic. When the current wave of Covid struck, there was insufficient API’s in stock.
During the 1990s the Chinese government initiated the growth in becoming world leaders in API plant facilities. They have 7000 API manufacturers and India has 1500. China can use economies of scale to keep costs down. But if they have to shut down, as in lockdowns, the supply chain slows right down. Thus the world’s dependency on China and India for supplying the world during a pandemic, grinds to a halt. Drug costs then soar.
Investments in Mega Pharma Parks in India had to be shelved back in 2008, but now Bulk Pharma Parks are planned as part of a $1.3 billion package to boost domestic production of bulk drugs and exports.
This dependency on China and India at such a critical time has made the penny drop finally as richer countries prepare to become more self-sufficient. This will not be the last Pandemic.
According to the US FDA, as of August 2019, only 28% of manufacturing facilities making APIs for the US market were based in America. The rest were in the EU (26%), India (18%), China (13%) and elsewhere (15%).
But there is no quick fix and China will remain dominant in the supply chain for many years to come. We humans must work together to save ourselves, otherwise, all is lost.
I have put together many blogs which have highlighted how we have industrialized much of the world, and in so doing, robbed it of its resources, and extensively contaminated the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil in which we grow food. As chronic illnesses are identified as a result, the Pharma Industry grows to meet the demand. Billions of dollars accumulate in the hands of those who invest. Science is hailed for saving lives with its contributions to medical breakthroughs.
Yet we would not be ill if we had not destroyed the ecosystem balance. We are now at the ‘Last Chance Saloon’. Connect the dots. Stop this incessant wheel of harm we do to ourselves. Even procuring raw materials to manufacture drugs creates more harm.
We cannot reverse the harm we have done, but we can use our creative abilities to care for our fellow human beings. We can ensure everyone has clean water, good sanitation, decent homes and access to free healthcare at the point of need. This would be the intelligent solution since it would decrease disease dramatically, then we should not need all these drugs or so much medical intervention.
But those caught up in the Pharma Industry only want it to grow and tell us it is for our sakes. If so, why not run a parallel experiment and make life cleaner and healthier for all. If we succeed we could find ways for the Pharma products to rebalance the ecosystem and then we have a Win-Win solution.
We are a bit late to take the steps to stop Bolsonaro from destroying the Rainforest. But a decade ago scientists were finding thousands of new plants and animals and documenting their existence. The Pharma Industry could have stepped in and stopped the destruction and saved the Rainforest for careful and responsible exploitation of plants which would have helped with creating more vital drugs. But they did not and now 98% of the Brazilian Rainforest is beyond rescue.
So many chances we have had to genuinely put the Planet first. Profit before people, and certainly before the Planet. This wonderful Planet. Watching more plants and animals go extinct is a precursor to our own extinction. Voices are raised as they defend their portion of the ecosystem from the threats, and corporates silence those voices. So many activists have been murdered. For why? For the consumption of what little there is left to grab, use and discard. We humans are in a sorry place.
Concrete seems to have been developed using a mixture of mud and straw to form bricks and used gypsum and lime to make mortars when the Egyptians built their pyramids 5000 years ago. The Romans developed it into a form quite similar to the concrete of today. In 1824 Portland Cement was invented by an Englishman, Joseph Aspdin of Leeds, Yorkshire.
Alvord Lake Bridge was built in 1889 in San Francisco, CA. This bridge was the first reinforced concrete bridge, and it still exists today, over one hundred years after it was built!
In 1891, the first concrete street in American was built in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Today, pervious concrete is being advocated as the best, and most environmentally friendly, surface for streets.
Gradually the use of concrete was used extensively for homes and infrastructure.
Cement is manufactured through a closely controlled chemical combination of calcium, silicon, aluminum, iron and other ingredients.
Common materials used to manufacture cement include limestone, shells, and chalk or marl combined with shale, clay, slate, blast furnace slag, silica sand, and iron ore. These ingredients, when heated at high temperatures form a rock-like substance that is ground into the fine powder that we commonly think of as cement.……….
The most common way to manufacture portland cement is through a dry method. The first step is to quarry the principal raw materials, mainly limestone, clay, and other materials. After quarrying the rock is crushed. This involves several stages. The first crushing reduces the rock to a maximum size of about 6 inches. The rock then goes to secondary crushers or hammer mills for reduction to about 3 inches or smaller.
The crushed rock is combined with other ingredients such as iron ore or fly ash and ground, mixed, and fed to a cement kiln.
The cement kiln heats all the ingredients to about 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit in huge cylindrical steel rotary kilns lined with special firebrick. Kilns are frequently as much as 12 feet in diameter—large enough to accommodate an automobile and longer in many instances than the height of a 40-story building. The large kilns are mounted with the axis inclined slightly from the horizontal.
The finely ground raw material or the slurry is fed into the higher end. At the lower end is a roaring blast of flame, produced by precisely controlled burning of powdered coal, oil, alternative fuels, or gas under forced draft.
As the material moves through the kiln, certain elements are driven off in the form of gases. The remaining elements unite to form a new substance called clinker. Clinker comes out of the kiln as grey balls, about the size of marbles.
Clinker is discharged red-hot from the lower end of the kiln and generally is brought down to handling temperature in various types of coolers. The heated air from the coolers is returned to the kilns, a process that saves fuel and increases burning efficiency.
After the clinker is cooled, cement plants grind it and mix it with small amounts of gypsum and limestone. Cement is so fine that 1 pound of cement contains 150 billion grains. The cement is now ready for transport to ready-mix concrete companies to be used in a variety of construction projects.
Although the dry process is the most modern and popular way to manufacture cement, some kilns in the United States use a wet process. The two processes are essentially alike except in the wet process, the raw materials are ground with water before being fed into the kiln.
Figures listed at 2014 for producers of cement here:
China has the largest cement industry in the world. Thus it has contributed to massive environmental pollution. India is the next biggest producer. The United States is the third on the list of main producers, 34 American states have cement manufacturing plants, also they have two plants in Puerto Rico. The brands are CEMEX, Lehigh Hanson Inc., Texas Industries Inc., and LafargeHolcim.. Fourth on the list is Iran, the largest provider in the Middle East. There are other countries manufacturing cement, but by far, China is has the greatest output.
This site explains how cement is made. Here is a graphic from that site:
Since we humans began farming, we developed recipes for making meals from food we cultivated. It was an obvious step to then experiment with materials and explore the skill of metallurgy by mixing resources from the environment. All science experiments manipulate natural resources to obtain, sometimes by accident, some production which brings amazement, pride and power to those who invented and marketed it to their fellow humans.
This is the basic recipe for cement:
The most common raw rock types used in cement production are:
Limestone (supplies the bulk of the lime)
Clay, marl or shale (supplies the bulk of the silica, alumina and ferric oxide)
Other supplementary materials such as sand, fly ash/pulverised fuel ash (PFA), or ironstone to achieve the desired bulk composition
There is a massive amount of plant required in the cement production industry. The machines alone, and their maintenance, are a major investment.
The hammer mills and crushing process is extensive and primary to the task of making cement.
Those working in the construction industry around the world will know the hazards of silica dust and the danger it poses to their health. Some will be protected by their employer, many will not. This site offers solutions and understanding of the issues.
In America they have regulated for adequate protection of construction industry workers. The new OSHA PEL was approved in 2016, with employers in the construction industry required to comply by June 23, 2017.
Not only do workers suffer, but many quarries are close to residential areas, such as the one in Leith, Scotland. The dust is airborne in the process of quarrying and transporting.
The well known disease, silicosis, is caused by breathing in the airborne silica dust, and is killing millions of workers and nearby members of communities, around the world. It is a slow and horrible way to die.
The UK has been, and still is, a major supplier of aggregates for the construction industry.
Where possible, tight regulations are brought in to protect workers and others in the vicinity of a quarry, as described in this document.
There is a legacy of dumped cement kiln dust too. See www.exponent.com and people are exposed to illegal dumping of waste in many parts of the world, which often involves dust.
In creating windfarms, we are taking beautiful, wild areas of land (Scotland is known for its wild magnificent landscapes). As we speak, one of the biggest windfarms in Scotland is proposed close to where I live. Thus, it prompted me to investigate the environmental costs of wrecking this mostly wild landscape with tons of cement, steel and plastics. These monstrous turbines will never biodegrade. They contribute tiny amounts of electricity to the Grid, yet are so hyped by marketing that people are being told they can now buy 100% renewable electricity right into their home.
The industries who supply the basic materials, whilst making great profits from the hype of the windfarm industry, are damaging the health of all those they employ, right down through the supply chain. There is nothing Green about windpower, but we constantly suffer Greenwashing hype.
But employment is held as the carrot dangled before workers in the construction industry, and many see no other option but to take on these dangerous occupations. There is little regard for the health of miners or construction workers who seem forgotten when these clean looking monsters rise up. Pictures of windfarms are taken in the bright sun to present gleaming images. The truth is hidden by lies and deceit, as always.
And after all that use of resources, damage to the environment and billions of pounds spent, still, these concrete foundations can fail and bring 33 turbines crashing down.
To make a wind turbine, which is 78% steel, the Earth must yield up coal for coking plants to provide coke for furnaces to burn red hot to smelt iron ore. When the Earth yielded up iron ore, sulphuric acid entered the once clean groundwater. Nickel was next to be yielded, and the poisonous slag heaps grew higher and were not safely controlled. Tailings filled dams, and sometimes dams burst and rivers ran toxic red and sometimes there was thick red sludge which covered villages beneath the dams.
Next we have Chromium, used in the process of making steel less prone to corrosion.
Chromium is a chemical element which is denoted by the symbol Cr and its atomic number is 24. It is a steel-gray, radiant, hard metal that show cases a high polished surface and has a high end melting point. It is also odorless, bland, and pliable.
During the 1800s chromium metal was mainly utilized as a element of paints and in leather tanning salts but now metal combinations sum up for 85% of the usage of chromium. The remnants are used in the chemical manufacturing, refractory and foundry industrial sectors. Chromium was given the name such after the Greek word that spells “Chroma” that means color, for the reason of the many colorful compounds made from it.
Chromium is mined as chromite (FeCr2O4) ore. About 2/5ths of the chromite ores and concentrates in the world are fashioned in South Africa, while Kazakhstan, India, Russia, and Turkey are also sizeable producers. Unexploited chromite deposits are plentiful, but geographically resolute in Kazakhstan and southern Africa.
This site tells us about the role chromium has in the making of stainless steel:
Chromium is the most important alloying element in austenitic stainless steel.
What is the role of Chromium in stainless steel? The corrosion resistance of austenitic stainless steel is mainly due to the fact that chromium in stainless steel promotes the passivation of steel and maintains the steel in a stable and passive state under the action of meeting material.
The effect of chromium in stainless steel structure
In austenitic stainless steel, chromium is an element that strongly forms and stabilizes the ferrite, narrowing the austenite zone, as the content of the steel increases, ferrite (δ) can appear in the austenitic stainless steel Organization, research shows that in chromium-nickel austenitic stainless steel, when the carbon content is 0.1% and the chromium content is 18%, in order to obtain a stable single austenite structure, the minimum nickel content is required, about 8%. In this regard, the commonly used 18Cr-8Ni chromium-nickel austenitic stainless steel is the most suitable one for chromium-nickel content.
And the importance of chromium in protecting against corrosion, essential for a wind turbine high in the sky, open to all the elements, this site provides a description of how it works:
Chromium steels are types of steel, with which iron can be alloyed with chromium. Colloquially the term is often used interchangeably with the word stainless steel. In principle, chromium does not have to be necessarily contained in stainless steel, but chromium is one of the most common alloying elements in stainless steel grades and is contained in most commercially used stainless steel grades. Chromium is one of the key elements used to increase the resistance to corrosion. This fact explains the usually synonymous uses of the term.
Wikipedia lists the countries where Chromium is predominantly mined.
This website illustrates the dangerous consequences of mining Chromium where doing so is unregulated.
Chromium is unstable in an oxygenated environment and, when exposed to air, immediately produces an oxide layer which is impermeable to further oxygen contamination.
Transport of Chromium into the Environment
Chromium enters the environment through both natural processes and human activities. Increases in Chromium III are due to leather, textile, and steel manufacturing; Chromium VI enters the environment through some of the same channels such as leather and textile manufacturing, but also due to industrial applications such as electro painting and chemical manufacturing. Groundwater contamination may occur due to seepage from chromate mines or improper disposal of mining tools and supplies, and improper disposal of industrial manufacturing equipment.
Chromium can affect the air quality through coal manufacturing, which eventally can lead to water or soil contamination. Water contamination is fairly limited to surface water, and will not affect groundwater because chromium strongly attaches to soil and is generally contained within the silt layer surrounding or withing the groundwater reservoir. Water contaminated with chromium will not build up in fish when consumed, but will accumulate on the gills, thus, causing negative health effects for aquatic animals; chromium uptake results in increased mortality rates in fish due to contamination.
When consumed by animals, the effects can include “respiratory problems, a lower ability to fight disease, birth defects, infertility and tumor formation.” (LennTech)
Impacts on Human Health
This pathogen is a mutagen, carcinogen, etc. It is concentrated in bone, blood, organs….
What are the tolerances? What is toxic, what is lethal?
Chromium VI (hexavalent chromium) is considered carcinogenic only to animals in certain circumstances at this point; chromium in general is currently not classified as a carcinogen as the OSHA and is fairly unregulated, but is considered toxic, level 3. While chromium III is essential for regular operation of human vascular and metabolic systems as well as combating diabetes, too much chromium III may result in severe skin rash, or other more serious symptoms.
Chromium VI is the most dangerous form of chromium and may cause health problems including: allergic reactions, skin rash, nose irritations and nosebleed, ulsers, weakened immune system, genetic material alteration, kidney and liver damage, and may even go as far as death of the individual.
There is, however, no established limit for human consumption of chromium III. Individulals have been recorded as consuming 1000mg daily for elongated periods with no negative effects; but, as with all minerals our body needs, too much consumption may result in poisoning.
The above image is from an article about the damaging affects of mining dust on local communities, such as those in South Africa.
The image of sleek and clean wind farms here in Scotland conceals the terrible harm to those who live amongst the mining communities, who suffer horrible deaths from breathing in harmful dusts. Silicosis was a familiar disease amongst UK miners and, when eventually meagre compensation was finally awarded to the sufferer, he was usually dead by the time the funds reached his bank. Similarly, in south Africa, until very recently, no miner was allowed to complain of ill health and request compensation. But now thousands are allowed to claim and are owed huge amounts – but will the money reach them in time to help the sufferer or whole families who are ill too., living so close to contaminants?
I am trying to uncover what goes in to making a wind turbine. I now know they are made up of around 70% steel, and to make steel iron ore is a major component in the processing. Nickel is mixed with iron ore to strengthen the product. Nickel is mined mainly in Canada, Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia. It is now in huge demand as lithium batteries need nickel in their build. The electric vehicles are coming on stream to reduce the reliance on petrol based combustion.
The alloying element which makes steel ‘stainless is chromium; however it is the addition of nickel that enables stainless steel to become such a versatile alloy. From The Nickel Institute.
Nickel is the fifth most common element found on Earth, and has been known to be used by humans as far back as 3500 B.C. Nickel was used by the Chinese in naturally occurring nickel-copper alloys for over two thousand years. Nickel is found as a constituent in most meteorites and often serves as one of the criteria for distinguishing a meteorite from other earthly minerals. Iron meteorites, or siderites, may contain iron alloyed with from 5% to nearly 20% nickel. Meteorites provided a source of metal for sword blades used by warriors in China, Persia and Northern Europe.
Nickel (Ni) was not recognized as an element substance until 1751 when Swedish chemist, Baron Alex Frederic Constedt, isolated the metal from niccolite ore. It was not until 150 years later that nickel was first extracted on a commercial scale.
Nickel is ferromagnetic, that is, it is attracted to a permanent magnet. It takes a high polish, and does not easily tarnish or rust. Nickel can be hammered into thin sheets or drawn into wires. One pound (0.4 kilogram) of pure nickel could be drawn into a wire 80 miles (130 kilometres) long.
When the Canadian Pacific Railroad was built in 1883, the nickel mines of Sudbury, now world famous, were discovered. Thanks to U.S. capital and strategic technology, the mines were developed to become leading suppliers to the world, but mostly to the United States.
NS Energy put up a list of the 5 most productive nickel producing companies in 2020. These are No 1
No 1: Vale – 208,000 metric tonnes
Formerly called Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, Vale is a diversified multinational metals and mining company founded in 1942, and headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil;
No 2: Norilsk Nickel – 166,265 metric tonnes
Established in 1993 with headquarters in Moscow, Russia’s Norilsk Nickel is a diversified mining company producing nickel and palladium – as well as silver, gold, platinum, rhodium, cobalt, sulfur, selenium, tellurium, iridium and ruthenium;
An article in the Guardian said: The company has a lot of ground to make up – its home city of Norilsk is rated one of the most polluted cities in the world, thanks largely to the 350,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide emitted annually by the city’s nickel factory, which was decommissioned last year. In 2016, Norilsk Nickel made headlines when an overflow of oxidised nickel waste turned the city’s Daldykan river red.
No 3. Jinchuan Group – 150,000 metric tonnes
Founded in 1958 and based in Gansu, Jinchuan Group International Resources is China’s top nickel producer and comes third in our list of world’s top nickel-producing companies.
With a large-scale international presence, Jinchuan is a diversified mining company whose major operations include mining, milling, smelting and chemical processing;
No 4. Glencore – 121,000 metric tonnes
Switzerland-based commodity trading and diversified mining company Glencore was established in 1974.
Fourth in our list of leading nickel producers, Glencore has assets in Europe, North America and Australia. It runs about 150 operations globally, which include mining, metallurgical and oil production sites. It also produces some of the world’s purest nickel.
No 5. BHP Group – 87,400 metric tonnes
Previously known as BHP Billiton, Melbourne-headquartered, Anglo-Australian diversified mining company BHP Group increased its nickel production from 70,000 metric tonnes in 2017 to 87,400 tonnes in 2019.
All its nickel operations―whether open-cut or underground mines, concentrators, smelters or refineries – are located in Western Australia.
In the Philippine islands, there are many mining companies. Since these activities became so harmful to the workers and local population, some of these have been forced to close.
An article in the Guardian said: observers can see “plumes of sulphur dioxide choking the skies, churned earth blanketed in cancerous dust, rivers running blood-red – environmental campaigners have painted a grim picture of the nickel mines and smelters feeding the electric vehicle industry.” See Guardian article, 2017
One of the waste materials is slag. It can accumulate over the life of the mine and It needs to be disposed of carefully, burying it somehow or covering it with clay. This is costly and often not regulated.
A BHP Billiton spokesperson told the Guardian all the company’s projects met environmental approval requirements.
Dr David Santillo, a senior scientist at Greenpeace Research Laboratories, says : “The mining of nickel-rich ores themselves, combined with their crushing and transportation by conveyor belt, truck or train, can generate high loadings of dust in the air, dust that itself contains high concentrations of potentially toxic metals, including nickel itself, copper, cobalt and chromium.
“We have to get smarter at recovering and reusing the vast quantities that we have already extracted from the earth, rather than relying on continued pursuit of new reserves of ever poorer quality and at substantial environmental cost.”
French carmaker Renault, producer of the Zoe, Europe’s best-selling electric vehicle in 2016, said that it recycles almost 70% of the battery weight, although did not specify what proportion of nickel is recycled.
Tesla claims that the nickel in its vehicles is 100% reusable at the end of life, but refused to disclose to the Guardian where the nickel in its car batteries is sourced from.
In a statement a Tesla spokesperson said suppliers were “three or four layers removed from Tesla. It is obviously quite difficult to have perfect knowledge about everything that happens this far down in the supply chain, but we’ve worked extremely hard to gather as much information as possible and to ensure that our standards are being met.”Robert Baylis, from the mining consultancy Roskill, says entering the electric vehicle supply chain will see nickel miners attract additional scrutiny over carbon emissions.
A 2009 study published in PLOS One concluded that the global warming potential of mining and processing nickel was the eighth highest of 63 metals over the previous year. However, a 2016 Union of Concerned Scientists study (pdf) found that the manufacture and operation of electric vehicles produced less than half the carbon emissions of comparable petrol and diesel-powered vehicles.
Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel has responded to pressure on carbon emissions and claims to have reduced its use of coal-fired energy by 49% in 2016 (pdf).
“It is of strategic importance to us as a key player in the supply chain that is enabling the growth of electric vehicles and clean energy solutions,” says Larisa Zelkova, vice-president at Norilsk Nickel.
Andy Whitmore of the London Mining Network, a coalition of anti-mining campaign groups, says nickel producers should sign up to international standards such as the Initiative on Responsible Mining Assurance.
There is no momentum to reverse the damage of mining, no desire to be the first to close down these environmentally dangerous mines and perhaps focus on recycling existing nickel in a responsible manner. Human greed has damned us all.
In the previous blog, I was finding out about the environmental price of making wind turbines. They are made up of around 70% steel. Steel is made from a process whose basic ingredient is iron ore.
During mining, some harmful chemicals like cyanide are used. Cyanide is used to separate gold from ore, and sulphuric acid is used in iron mining. The leakage of mining chemicals affects groundwater. It is a similar case in the Santa Cruz aquifer, which is filled with leached chemicals. From The Water Filter.
Sulphuric Acid is used in iron mining. In nearly all metal mines, and some coal mines, acid drainage occurs because of the oxidation of iron ore found alongside precious mineral deposits. Uncovered by the mining process, the iron reacts with the air and releases sulphuric acid into the water. This process can last centuries. Spills from cyanidation waste are more short-lived, but more highly toxic than acid mine drainage occurring through iron oxidation.
Acid drainage is a little-known global crisis. The UN has even labelled it the second biggest problem facing the world after global warming. In the US, an estimated 22,000 kilometres of streams and 180,000 acres of freshwater reservoirs are affected by acid mine drainage. Rivers and lakes in Arizona, Patagonia, Guangdong in China, Ontario, Papua New Guinea, and at Rio Tinto in Spain, to name just a few, have all been polluted by acid mine drainage. In South Africa, the problem is chronic. Above two paragraphs are extracts from an article published on The Conversation (theconversation.com) by Stephen Tuffnell, who is an associate professor of modern US history at the University of Oxford.
In the US, acid pollution from the late 19th century on Iron Mountain is testimony to the harm we do to our Planet, which we have plundered. Here is an extract from a US environmental agency:
The environmental consequences of mining Iron Mountain became apparent only a few years after the start of open mining in 1896. Fish kills in 1902 in the Sacramento River, near the city of Redding, were the first documented effects, and shortly thereafter, several private lawsuits and an injunction from the U.S. Forest Reserve (precursor to the Forest Service) were served against Mountain Copper Company for severe air pollution from open-air heap roasting (1897-98) and smelters (1898-1907) at the site, which denuded the vegetation for 14.4 km south, 5.6 km north, 3.6 km west, and at least 8 km east of the smelters at Spring Creek. As the years passed and as operations continued, acid mine drainage and contaminated sediment deposits were added to the list of environmental effects. As a result of acid mine drainage, large quantities of contaminated sediments were deposited on the bottom of Spring Creek and the Spring Creek Arm of Keswick Reservoir threatening fish and other aquatic organisms downstream. More recent concerns arose during remediation activities in 1990, when water samples taken from the seeps in the Richmond Mine revealed negative pH values, making the water some of the most acidic water ever sampled. Prior to clean-up operations by the Environmental Protection Agency, acid mine drainage from Iron Mountain was among the most acidic and metal-laden anywhere on Earth.
We have invented wind farms and sold the idea of renewable energy as if this is a benign contribution from the engineering community. Consider what the real cost of sourcing the materials to build these.
We look back now on our time on Earth and sometimes we feel proud of our intelligence as we leave our mark with our drive to create our perfect lifestyles which no other creature has attempted. We have become farmers, metallurgist, chemists, scientists. If we find a problem, we are certain we will come up with a solution.
Currently we created Wind Turbines to convince us we can capture energy from the wind and replace existing energy sources from oil, gas and coal, and thus they seem benign.
To me, we seem absurd, with our childish and dangerous imaginations, which have manifested into destructive behaviours. We have created problems with our ill thought out manipulation of natural resources, and we create more problems when selling the ideas of solutions as benign when we know they are not. We have conmen amongst us who sell lies and deceit. We often place them in areas of influence because they tell us what we want to hear.
It is time we all agreed we are guilty, one way or another, of being complacent and not demanding conclusive evidence that every solution we create from now on really is benign and leaves no harmful legacy. We are not engaging our brains fully to combat the lies and deceit from the conmen. We have been lazy and indulgent, playing with all the toys and entertainment made available to lull us into silence. We all know the clock is ticking and we do not deserve any favours, but we owe it to ourselves to push for clarity.