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Hazardous Waste Technical Group - 61st meeting

Friday 11 July 2003
Uluru Room, Level 4, John Gorton Building
King Edward Terrace, PARKES ACT 2600

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Minutes


Present:

Chair

Professor Paul Greenfield

Members

Dr Peter Di Marco
Mr John Hogan
Dr Jenny Stauber
Mr Stephen Moore

Observer

Dr Peter Brotherton

Secretariat

Mr Robert Angel
Dr Geoff Thompson Dr Greg Rippon

Apologies

Ms Diane Kovacs
Dr Peter Scaife
Dr Robyn Eckersley
Dr Neill Stacey
Dr Peter Nadebaum

Agenda Item 1. Draft Minutes of the 60th meeting

1. The meeting made four minor amendments to the draft Minutes of the 60th meeting and then adopted the Minutes as amended.

Agenda Item 2. Matters arising

2. As a result of an internal restructure, Lorna Wallace had taken over the administrative support functions from Anne Morris.

3. The Department of the Environment and Heritage had determined that sitting fees should be paid directly to individuals, not to companies or organisations. Peter Brotherton requested that a set of clear written instructions be provided on how this would be implemented.

4. Members discussed the question of replacing Paul Brown. Various names were mentioned and members undertook to follow these up.

Agenda Item 3. Progress report on operation of the Hazardous Waste Act

(a) Permit report for previous twelve months

5. The meeting noted the agenda paper, and in particular that the Qenos permit to export aluminium alkyls had been granted but would not commence till 29 August 2003. This would allow the full fifteen days of Parliamentary scrutiny to elapse (that is, the time in which a disallowance motion could be moved against the Regulations) before the export took place.

(b) OECD Council Decision C(2001)107/FINAL

6. The meeting noted that regulations would be made to give effect to this OECD Decision, and these regulations would prescribe those hazardous wastes contained in the Decision. Under section 58D of the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989, the Minister must convene a meeting of the Technical Group and consult the members present before making regulations for this purpose. Members were supportive of the new Decision.

Agenda Item 4. Technical issues arising from applications and inquiries

(a) Possible import of POPs wastes

7. The first application for an import permit was expected to be for POPs wastes from Samoa and if granted, BCD would probably use this as a trial run for imports from other Pacific Island countries.

(b) Waste/non-waste status of copper/lead sulphide feed

8. The meeting noted that the Department of the Environment and Heritage had evaluated the copper/lead sulphide feed against criteria set out in Section 6 of Information Paper No. 2 "Distinguishing Wastes from Non-Wastes under Australia's Hazardous Waste Act", and had concluded that it was not classified as a waste, for three reasons.

9. First, the copper/lead feed arises from the smelting and refining of lead-zinc sulphide ore, which usually also contains a significant content of silver and copper. The copper and silver are regarded as a valuable co-product, and their concentration into copper/lead sulphide feed is a usual and intentional metallurgical practice in the refining of lead bullion, prior to subsequent recovery of silver and copper.

10. Second, the copper/lead sulphide feed has high economic value due to the levels of contained silver, copper and lead, and is an attractive feed material for a number of metallurgical plants in various parts of the world.

11. Third, the drossing process at Port Pirie is intentionally operated to produce a copper/lead sulphide feed containing optimised contents of copper, lead and sulphur. The optimum ratio of copper:lead:sulphur is achieved through addition of sulphur to the drossing furnace, with the amount of sulphur added primarily dependant on the level of copper in the lead bullion. After solidification of the dross, it is ground to a specified size to allow for its subsequent introduction into copper/lead recovery processes.

12. The meeting confirmed that members agreed with this conclusion.

(c) Waste/non-waste status of Dore concentrate

13. The meeting noted a draft reply to an inquiry about the waste/non-waste status of a dore concentrate produced from anode slimes. Anode slimes are excluded from the entry A1120 in Annex VIII of the Basel Convention and this is understood to be because such slimes are usually produced as non-wastes in the electrolytic refining of copper metal (see example 9 in Information Paper No. 2 "Distinguishing Wastes from Non-Wastes under Australia's Hazardous Waste Act"). In this instance the slimes are leached to recover copper and nickel, and then filtered and dried prior to introduction to the dore furnace.

14. In the dore furnace the slimes are smelted to produce a dore bullion containing silver, gold and other precious metals, while selenium, tellurium, lead, sulphur and other elements are discharged as gases (eg. sulphur dioxide) or in association with fine particles in the furnace off gases. The dore bullion is then further treated for sequential recovery and refining of each precious metal.

15. While around 80% of the precious metals is recovered directly into the dore bullion, approximately 20% of the precious metal values is lost from the furnace as fine particles in the off gases. This particulate material also contains significant quantities of selenium and other metals, and is recovered from the gas stream in a "wet electrostatic precipitator" (ESP), which is a specialised piece of equipment designed to remove particulate material from gas streams onto electrodes charged to very high voltage, and to then wash the precipitated material from the electrodes into a dilute slurry. Gases pass through this unit and would be cleaned by scrubbing and other operations prior to being discharged to the atmosphere.

16. It was understood that the ESP is intended primarily to recover the precious metal values (about 20% of the original) from the gas stream. The particulate material in the ESP stream is flocculated from the slurry, and becomes concentrated into the underflow of a thickener. The thickener overflow contains dissolved selenium due to the dissolution of SO2 from the furnace gases and, since it contains approximately 50% of the selenium originally present in the anode slimes, it is subsequently worked up for selenium recovery. While around 50% of the selenium and some of the other metals contained in the off gases go into solution, the precious metals and the remaining selenium and lead etc. are not attacked, and are concentrated into the solids in the thickener underflow. After de-watering and drying the underflow becomes the dore concentrate. This has high intrinsic value due to the content of precious metals and selenium.

17. The Department of the Environment and Heritage had evaluated the dore concentrate against criteria set out in Section 6 of Information Paper No. 2 "Distinguishing Wastes from Non-Wastes under Australia's Hazardous Waste Act", and had concluded that it was not classified as a waste because it is produced intentionally to maximise recovery of the precious metals. It is identified as an important intermediate in the overall precious metal recovery strategy because it contains around 20% of the PMs originally present in the copper anode slimes. The recovery of the PMs and selenium from the dore concentrate is an important economic element of the overall operation.

18. The meeting agreed with this conclusion.

(d) Environmental Consultants: India and Indonesia

19. The meeting considered the list of environmental consultants prepared in response to a request for details of independent bodies that could check the operation of facilities for processing zinc ash in India and Indonesia. The meeting thought that the list was acceptable, but strongly recommended that it be made clear that inclusion on the list did not imply any kind of endorsement by the Department of the Environment and Heritage.

(e) Possible export of ChemCollect wastes

20. The Group noted the agenda paper. Intractable wastes such as PCBs mixed with arsenicals could not be destroyed at facilities currently within Australia. The labels on many of the old chemicals collected by ChemCollect did not necessarily correspond with the contents, and comprehensive analyses of the contents of each container would be a very expensive exercise. An application to export ChemCollect chemicals for destruction overseas was likely to be made, but would raise difficult policy issues.

(f) Letter dated 16 June 2003 from Tomago Aluminium Company Pty Limited

21. Tomago had written to emphasize that there were real difficulties to be overcome in developing a local disposal option for spent potlinings that was commercially viable. They felt that the expectations of the Department of the Environment and Heritage and the Technical Group were overly optimistic and failed to account for the full range of hurdles that were inherently associated with development of alternate processes. Tomago maintained its position that the export route with a proven recovery operation remained an appropriate and sound interim method for managing spent potlinings from the aluminium industry while development and demonstration of a sustainable process was established for recycling the materials within Australia.

22. Members asked the Secretariat to ask Regain Services Pty Ltd to provide an update on progress with their SPL recycling technology, and also noted that Peter Scaife was well placed to visit the Tomago site if that was appropriate.

(g) Application from Exide Australia: letter of 16 June 2003 from EPA Victoria (hard copy only)

(h) Survey on processing and collection of ULABs: Submission by Metalcorp Recyclers Pty Limited (hard copy only)

(i) Comments on "Draft Analysis of trade in ULABs between Australia and New Zealand" by Australian Refined Alloys Pty. Ltd.

(j) Comments on "Draft Analysis of trade in ULABs between Australia and New Zealand" by Exide Technologies

(k) Revised draft Analysis of Trade in Used Lead-Acid Batteries (ULABs) Between Australia and New Zealand

23. Agenda items 4(g)-4(k) were considered together.

24. The Group was concerned that it had been drawn into a commercial dispute between two companies who wished to secure outcomes, under the Act, that were favourable to their own businesses. The Group had access to less information than had been available to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and it was not the role of the Group to make commercial judgments or to speculate on unknowable outcomes.

25. The Group had fresh evidence presented to it, in June 2003, of arisings and process capability in Australia and New Zealand. Overall, the Group had better evidence before it than in 2002. The Group considered that evidence of that kind was unlikely to have an accuracy better than 10 percent.

26. On the evidence available, Australia has the technical capacity and the necessary facilities to dispose of all Australian arisings of ULABs in an environmentally sound and efficient manner. Within the bounds of reasonable accuracy, Australian arisings of ULABs are estimated to be about 70,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) and Australian Refined Alloys Pty Limited (ARA) had presented evidence that in 2003, they had increased the combined capacity of their two smelters to 73,000 tpa of ULABs.

27. Australia has international obligations that include, under Article 4.2(d) of the Basel Convention, ensuring that the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes is reduced to the minimum consistent with the environmentally sound and efficient management of such wastes. To meet this obligation, export permits would normally be refused for hazardous wastes that are able to be disposed of in an environmentally sound and efficient manner within Australia. The Group concluded that Exide's application to export ULABs to New Zealand should be refused for this reason.

28. Members reaffirmed that the refusal of an export permit for ULABs to New Zealand is underscored by the need to protect human, animal or plant life or health from the adverse effects of unnecessary movements of hazardous waste. Shipping ULABs from Australia to Exide's smelter in New Zealand entailed a potentially greater risk to human, animal or plant life or health than that of not shipping them at all. On the other hand, the impact of the refusal on future transboundary movement of ULABS was considered speculative.

29. Members then considered the "Revised draft Analysis of Trade in Used Lead-Acid Batteries (ULABs) Between Australia and New Zealand" and made many helpful suggestions on the revisions that were needed.

Agenda Item 5. Reports of international meetings

(a) Basel Convention: First Session of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG 1), Geneva, 28 April 2 May 2003

30. The Group noted the agenda paper and asked whether any of the OEWG meeting outcomes were likely to impact on future work of the Technical Group. Geoff Thompson indicated that the work on the POPs guidelines was more likely to engage the Technical Group than most other issues.

Agenda Item 6. Work Program of the Technical Group


Agenda Item 7. Criteria for separating hazardous from non-hazardous wastes


Agenda Item 8. Criteria for separating wastes from non-wastes


Agenda Item 9. Defining environmentally sound management


Agenda Item 10. Regional Centres


Agenda Item 11. Avoidance, minimisation and treatment of hazardous wastes


Agenda Item 12. Other business

31. There was no discussion of these items

Agenda Item 13. Dates of next meetings

(a) Friday 29 August 2003, Sydney

(b) Friday 10 October 2003

(c) Friday 21 November 2003