The dangers of lead poisoning have long been known. Because of this, lead has been removed from gasoline and from paint, two changes that have greatly reduced the risks for consumers. Employees at lead mines are routinely tested for lead in their blood, and if the level is found to be too high, they receive treatment.
Lead concentrations in the environment cannot be tolerated, either. Sad stories are told of the results of children playing on the waste dumps or tailings areas of silver-lead mines that were active in the 1800s.
Now imagine a picturesque port town that regularly gets a dusting of lead concentrates. In the 21st Century, this is unthinkable. Yet this was the problem in Fremantle, Western Australia, just outside Perth. Fortunately, a simple method to eliminate the problem has been initiated.
MAGELLAN METALS, a subsidiary of Toronto-based IVERNIA INC. and operator of the worlds largest pure-lead mine, has stepped up and offered to make its future concentrate shipments in closed containers. The program needs the approval of the Western Australia government before it can be implemented.
In a press release, Magellans managing director, Pat Scott, said: Magellan has resolved that the most prudent and feasible way forward is to load, transport and ship our concentrate in sealed steel shipping containers. The containers will not need to be opened again until received by Magellans customers overseas.
If approved, the plan is to rail about 500 containers a month into Fremantle, the only major commercial port in [Western Australia] at present able to handle safely and efficiently that volume of containers for multiple shipping lines, he concluded.
Good for Magellan. The company is prepared to take immediate steps to eliminate fugitive lead dust during the transport of its concentrates. The public is invited to participate in a community information program to explain and seek comment on the companys plans.
Shipping lead concentrates in sealed containers is a no brainer. An environmental hazard is completely eliminated. The question arises, however, should all metals concentrates be shipped the same way, as is already the case with uranium? If we dont want lead dust flying around, do we want nickel, copper or zinc dusts coating our transportation corridors?
If we want to contain all kinds of fugitive dust when metal concentrates are shipped, then sealed containers will become the norm. The downside would be the extra cost of the sealed units and the addition of handling equipment at the trans-shipment points. The upsidea cleaner environmentis priceless.