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Vanadium the new bauxite for posing open-cut threat

WHEN the Avon and Hills Mining Awareness group rallied at State Parliament four years ago to present 4300 signatures to MPs in both houses, the group was seeking to ban only bauxite mining in the Perth Hills and Avon Valley.

   The immediate threat was open-cut mining in the Morangup/Wundowie area by Chinese-backed Bauxite Alumina Joint Ventures (BAJV).

   However, the group later realised a second petition was needed to ban all types of open-cut mining within 100km of Perth.

   Our second petition is well on its way again to securing more than 4000 signatures, this time to ban open-cut mining of iron ore, vanadium and lithium – which are all found locally – as well as bauxite.

   West Australians have ridden iron ore mining booms and busts since the mid-1960s and most people know that iron ore is used to make steel, with China the biggest buyer.

   When AHMAG members first started telling people four years ago about a planned 62km2 bauxite mine in the Morangup/Wundowie area, they were often asked “what’s bauxite?”

   Most locals now know that it is the local area’s ochre-coloured pea gravel which is smelted to make aluminium.

   With the rise in mobile phones and sources of renewable energy many people now also know a little about lithium, which is used to make batteries.

   It’s the world’s lightest metal and is used medically as a drug to treat bi-polar disorder as well as industrially in ceramics and aircraft manufacture.

   Lithium is found in igneous rock, including in local Darling Range bauxite deposits formed from weathered granite.

   Vanadium flies under most people’s radars but Vanadium Australia Ltd owns a large live tenement between Wundowie and Bakers Hill, and it’s time we learnt more about what it is.

   The silver grey metallic element is often derived from mineral ores and, along with lithium, is a rising star in modern renewable energy technology.

   About 85 per cent of the world’s vanadium production is used to strengthen steel for wheel axles, bicycle frames, crankshafts and gears.

   Rising global demand for renewable energy makes local deposits of lithium and vanadium increasingly attractive to open-cut miners, regardless of the impact of nearby communities.

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