Mining mineral for windmill magnets causes environmental disaster
by Christina Blizzard, Toronto Sun
What’s the fastest growing cash crop in rural Ontario — after pot, that is? Try wind turbines. These ugly eyesores are sprouting like weeds and are being foisted on unwilling hosts in rural Ontario.
Two weeks ago, Energy Minister Brad Duguid scrapped plans to put offshore turbines in Lake Ontario — close to his riding. On Thursday, though, he announced a fresh crop in rural Ontario — this time for Smithville, in Tory Leader Tim Hudak’s Niagara riding.
While the Liberals insist it’s all about clean energy, a recent article in a British newspaper shows wind turbines are anything but green.
A story by Simon Parry and Ed Douglas in the Daily Mail, Jan. 29, describes a horrific toxic stew brewing in China as a result of our search for the great, green holy grail.
The toxic lake left behind after mining for “rare earth metals” needed for the turbines’ magnets is creating an environmental boondoggle of epic proportions.
(There are 17 rare earth metals, so called not because they’re scarce, but because they occur in scattered deposits of minerals and are not concentrated. According to the article, one of those, Neodymium, is commonly used to make the most powerful magnets in the world.)
The city of Baotou, in Inner Mongolia, is home to more than 90% of the world’s rare earth metals.
“On the outskirts of one of China’s most polluted cities, an old farmer stares despairingly out across an immense lake of bubbling toxic waste covered in black dust. He remembers it as fields of wheat and corn,” says the lead paragraph. It continues.
The process used to extract the element from the ground and processing it, “has an appalling environmental impact that raises serious questions over the credibility of so-called green technology.
“Hidden out of sight behind smoke-shrouded factory complexes in the city of Baotou, and patrolled by platoons of security guards, lies a five-mile wide ‘tailing’ lake. It has killed farmland for miles around, made thousands of people ill and put one of China’s key waterways in jeopardy,” says the article.
“This vast, hissing cauldron of chemicals is the dumping ground for seven million tons a year of mined rare earth after it has been doused in acid and chemicals and processed through red-hot furnaces to extract its components.”
So, you’re still convinced this is the clean, green energy of the future? This makes the oilsands look pristine.
“Rusting pipelines meander for miles from factories processing rare earths in Baotou out to the man-made lake where, mixed with water, the foul-smelling radioactive waste from this industrial process is pumped day after day. No signposts and no paved roads lead here, and as we approach security guards shoo us away and tail us. When we finally break through the cordon and climb sand dunes to reach its brim, an apocalyptic sight greets us: A giant, secret toxic dump, made bigger by every wind turbine we build.”
And here in Ontario, we’re building them by the thousand. What’s our share of this mess?
The story quotes retired farmer Su Bairen, 69: “‘At first it was just a hole in the ground,’ he says. ‘When it dried in the winter and summer, it turned into a black crust and children would play on it. Then one or two of them fell through and drowned in the sludge below. Since then, children have stayed away.’”
Plants withered. Livestock died.
“Villagers say their teeth began to fall out, their hair turned white at unusually young ages, and they suffered from severe skin and respiratory diseases. Children were born with soft bones and cancer rates rocketed,” says the Mail.
Still gung-ho to go green?
Every time I see a new turbine I’ll think of those children dying horrific deaths. And I’ll hang my head in shame at the environmental disaster we’ve created.