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Hazardous Waste Technical Group — 63rd meeting

Friday 21 November 2003
8.30 am - 4.30 pm
Global Remarketing, 275-281 Boundary Road, MORDIALLOC VIC 3195
and Hilton Melbourne Airport

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Minutes

Present:

Chair

Dr Peter Scaife

Members

Mr John Hogan
Dr Peter Di Marco
Mr Stephen Moore
Dr Peter Nadebaum
Dr Neill Stacey
Dr Jenny Stauber

Observer

Dr Peter Brotherton

Secretariat

Mr Robert Angel
Dr Geoff Thompson
Dr Greg Rippon

Apologies

Dr Robyn Eckersley
Professor Paul Greenfield
Ms Diane Kovacs

Agenda Item 1. Draft Minutes of the 61st meeting

1. The meeting amended paragraphs 14 and 19 of the draft Minutes of the 62nd meeting, and adopted the Minutes as amended.

Agenda Item 2. Matters arising

2. The meeting noted that Paul Greenfield was now Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor.

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

(a) Permit report for previous twelve months

3. The meeting noted the agenda paper.

Agenda Item 4. Technical issues arising from applications and inquiries

(a) Possible export of spent potlinings (SPL)

4. As agreed at the 62nd meeting, a subcommittee consisting of Paul Greenfield, Peter Scaife and Peter Brotherton, assisted by Bob Angel and Geoff Thompson, had visited the SPL facility at Tomago on 20th November 2003. Trevor Henderson and Stuart Williams of the NSW EPA had joined them for the visit.

5. The subcommittee reported that the process to transform spent potlinings (SPL) into valuable mineral products, as described at the 62nd meeting by Kevin and Bernie Cooper from Regain Services Pty Ltd, was working. Regain were now selling HiCal 50, a commercial product based on first-cut SPL, to a cement kiln. They were also selling a similar volume of ReAl 14, a commercial product based on second-cut SPL, to a brickworks. Many problems had been encountered, however, and the current rate of production was sufficient to deal with only half of the arisings.

6. Tomago Aluminium Company (TAC) had presented detailed projections to the subcommittee, indicating that they would run out of storage space for SPL in June 2004 without the Regain process, and in October 2004 with the Regain process operating at its current capacity. TAC proposed to apply for an export permit for 3 shipments of 11,000 tonnes each, (ie: 3 shiploads) to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Empty Shed 5 by removing 8,000 tonnes of SPL. This would provide unimpeded access for Regain process development and give the company enough space to work on a full commercial scale;
  2. Empty Sheds 1 and 4 by removing 10,400 tonnes of SPL. This would enable TAC to progressively decommission old and failing facilities;
  3. Remove the balance of 14,600 tonnes of SPL from Shed 6. This would provide buffer storage capacity for ongoing arisings.

7. The subcommittee had recalled that in 2001, the Hazardous Waste Technical Group had advised that in general, new permits should not be granted for the export of SPL unless all of the following conditions were satisfied:

  1. Storage will be exhausted despite the generator having made a substantial effort towards identifying, developing and implementing a local recovery option for the waste; and
  2. Construction of increased storage capacity would, on the whole, have adverse environmental consequences; and
  3. Satisfactory evidence is provided that storage capacity will be exhausted at the site where the SPL was generated within two years.

8. The subcommittee had agreed that the present proposal met all of these conditions. First, a substantial effort had been made, and was continuing to be made, to develop and implement the Regain option. The subcommittee had been struck by the high level of commitment to making the process succeed, a commitment that was apparent among all of the people involved. Second, construction of increased storage capacity was not a sustainable solution in the long term and it would mean that large quantities of environmentally hazardous chemicals were continuing to accumulate in New South Wales. The NSW EPA was opposed to such an accumulation because it was a potential environmental threat. Third, TAC had provided satisfactory evidence that storage capacity will be exhausted within two years.

9. The subcommittee had agreed that the Regain process provided a classic example of process development, where each step turned out to be more difficult than expected. The project now appeared to have reached a critical point where there was every prospect of success provided that the work was given the time and space that it needed. The principles of the process remained valid and attractive. It provided for total re-use of SPL with no by-products or residues, and there was a good match between the constituents of SPL and the needs of the processes that used Regain's products.

10. The subcommittee recommended that two shipments of 11,000 tonnes each should be exported. The objective of these exports would be to facilitate the continued development of the Regain process. The permit should specify that Shed 5 be emptied to provide working space for Regain to operate, and that the balance of the material be taken from Shed 6 to provide TAC with space to store future arisings without encroaching on the space needed by Regain.

11. The subcommittee did not favour limiting the export to only one shipment of 11,000 tonnes. This would not provide the Regain process with enough of a breathing space and was likely to result in future arisings encroaching onto working space. Neither did the subcommittee favour the export of three shipments of 11,000 tonnes each. The third shipment would consist of SPL from Sheds 1 and 4, and emptying these sheds was not necessary for the development of the Regain process.

12. The subcommittee reported that TAC and Regain had been very frank and open, and this was much appreciated. The Technical Group accepted the findings and recommendations of its subcommittee, and exhorted the governments that were involved to do all that they could to facilitate the uptake of the Regain process.

(b) Evidentiary certificate on zinc sulphate

13. The text of an evidentiary certificate had been agreed, but not signed, at the 62nd meeting. Subsequent experience had indicated that the text of the certificate, although technically accurate, was not as clear as it could be. The Group therefore agreed to the revised text, as provided in the agenda paper.

(c) Waste/non-waste status of precious metal concentrate containing selenium

14. The meeting considered an inquiry from HydroMet Corporation Limited on whether a selenium-bearing material, proposed to be exported to Norway, was a hazardous waste or not.

15. The material originates in the flue dust and gases from a nickel and copper smelter. The off-take gases are directed through a wet scrubber and the slurry generated from this process is then filtered to form a concentrate that contains selenium, silver, copper, platinum, gold and palladium. This concentrate is exported from Norway to Australia under the OECD amber control system.

16. On arrival at HydroMet's facility, the concentrate is washed with water and sodium hydroxide at pH 9 to remove most of the soluble sulphate. The feed wash water is filtered and sent to the Lidcombe Liquid Waste Depot as a waste for disposal under licence. The washed concentrate is slurried and then leached with a sodium sulphite solution at an elevated temperature and a specified pH. Sodium sulphite is extremely selective for dissolving and complexing selenium, and all the free metallic selenium in the material complexes with sodium sulphite to form a soluble complex called sodium seleno sulphite.

17. The leach solution is heated to a boiling temperature to evaporate water as steam and hence reduce the volume of the solution. The concentrations of both sodium sulphite and selenium increase in the solution during evaporation and the solubility limit of sodium sulphite is achieved first. White crystals of sodium sulphite heptahydrate are precipitated, turning the solution into a creamy white slurry as the evaporation continues. The solubility limit of selenium in sodium sulphite solution is reached next. Black selenium precipitates from the evaporation solution, turning it into a black slurry which is filtered to produce a selenium concentrate that is sold as commercial grade selenium.

18. During the leaching out of the selenium, all the other metals such as silver, gold, platinum, palladium, copper and any other heavy metals remain in the leach residue undissolved. Some of the selenium, which is combined with silver or copper as selenide, also remains in the leach residue. After the selenium extraction, this residue is filtered to produce a precious metal concentrate. However, this filtering is not undertaken until the residue conforms to a customer specification set by a precious metal refinery. The specification includes the desired concentrations of water, silver, gold, platinum and palladium and sets a treatment charge for each kilo of each precious metal. The specification also imposes substantial penalty charges for each additional 0.1 % of selenium in the range 0.1% to 30%.

19. In order to meet this specification, the leaching process is closely monitored and the residue is sampled and analysed for residual selenium content. The leached slurry is assayed after each leach and with each successive leach the precious metal concentration increases and the selenium concentration decreases. Filtering of the precious metals concentrate is not undertaken until the level of selenium in the residue is less than 30%. Concentrations of selenium greater than 30% are not acceptable to precious metal refineries.

20. The prospective exporter, HydroMet, does not consider the material proposed for export to be a hazardous waste. It has a high economic value of about AUD400,000 per tonne and it is produced to a specification laid down by the purchaser.

21. The material, proposed for export, may be reviewed against the questions set out in Information Paper No. 2, Distinguishing wastes from non-wastes under Australia's Hazardous Waste Act. Important considerations are that the material is produced intentionally, is made in response to market demand and has a positive economic value. Its production is subject to quality control to meet well-developed standards. These standards include environmental considerations in the form of penalties for selenium. It may be concluded that in producing the precious metal concentrate, a waste recovery process has produced a non-waste.

22. Based on all these considerations, the meeting concluded that the precious metal concentrate, proposed to be exported to Norway, was not a waste.

(d) Fuji Xerox Thailand project

23. Fuji Xerox made a presentation to the meeting, responding to the conclusions that the Group had come to at the 62nd meeting. The presentation focussed on the operation of Fuji Xerox Ecoland in Japan, including the processes of recycling used Xerox products and components, in comparison with what was planned in Thailand.

24. The Group discussed the information provided and Peter Scaife described his visit to Ecoland in Japan. Based on what he saw, the plant appeared to be very efficient and was operating in an environmentally sound manner. The Group concluded that the next step was for Fuji Xerox to submit an application for an export permit. This conclusion was, of course, without prejudice to the outcome of such an application.

25. Fuji Xerox also indicated that although waste toner was not normally controlled under Australian law if it lacked Annex III hazard characteristics, it was always controlled as a hazardous waste under Thai law. The meeting noted that in these circumstances, Australian law provided for exports of wastes to be controlled on an exceptional basis, in order to ensure compliance with the laws of the state of import or transit.

(e) Export and import of used lead acid batteries: comments from OECD member countries

26. The Group noted the agenda paper.

(f) Application to export lead solder dross to Belgium: draft Statement of Decision

27. The Group noted the revised draft Statement of Decision. It was much more satisfactory than the version considered at the 62nd meeting.

(g) Application to import waste oil from New Caledonia: Statement of Decision

28. The meeting noted the agenda paper.

(h) Application to export printed circuit boards containing lead to Singapore

29. The meeting noted that the Department had written to the applicant on 2 October 2003, requesting further information under section 15 of the Act.

(i) Concentration cut-off levels for tellurium

30. The Group noted that in addition to establishing a concentration cut-off level for tellurium, the concentration cut-off level of one percent for mercury should also be re examined. A lower value might be more appropriate.

(j) Hazardous waste status of used oil

31. The Group noted that Example 14 in Information Paper No.2 was based on advice given in 1996 and this had been overtaken by recent developments. In particular, consideration should be given to the Automotive Diesel Standards that came into effect in 2002 under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000, and also to the distinctions, under the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000, between the categories listed in the Product Stewardship Benefit Rates, particularly Category 3 - diesel fuels to which the Excise Tariff Act 1921 applies, and Category 4 - diesel extenders (filtered, de-watered and de mineralised).

(k) Hazardous waste status of totally rotted municipal waste from Germany

32. Global Renewables had asked whether an import permit was required for compost made from residual municipal solid waste using a new percolation process. A similar compost would be produced by Global Renewables' new facility at Eastern Creek in Western Sydney, and the company sought to import up to 2 cubic metres from Germany for research and product demonstration purposes.

33. Global Renewables had previously applied for permission to import a sample of "SNAP", that is, municipal solid waste that was described as "partially rotted" because it had been through a two-day percolation process. The current request related to material that had been through an eight-week composting process. This material would provide feed material for scoping trials to assess how the material to be produced at Eastern Creek could be upgraded to fertiliser by granulation and addition of inorganic nutrient supplements, sample material for display to potential customers, and for research purposes.

34. The Group reviewed the information provided and concluded that the material should still be classified as municipal/household waste. Additional trials were needed to determine how the material could be upgraded to fertiliser. As compost, the material would not be suitable for use on home lawns and gardens, although it would be suitable for all other applications. Finally, since the process aimed to produce compost from residual municipal solid waste, it seemed logical to classify it as a waste until it was actually used as compost in recovery operation R10, Land treatment resulting in benefit to agriculture or ecological improvement. An import permit would therefore be required.

(l) Possible import of POPs wastes

(m) Possible export of Chemcollect wastes

35. There was no discussion of these items.

(a) Possible export of Mitsubishi Industry Converter (MIC) slag

36. Port Kembla Copper Pty Ltd (PKC) had requested a decision on the waste/non-waste status of MIC slag. PKC operated a copper smelter and refinery at Port Kembla, NSW. On 28 July 2003 PKC announced that it was suspending these operations and that the plant was to be placed into care and maintenance. On 1 August 2003 smelter operations ceased and on 25 August 2003 commercial refining operations ceased.

37. PKC's process involved the smelting of copper concentrates in the primary smelting furnace, Noranda Furnace, to produce a copper rich matte material. The matte was then transferred to the MIC Furnace where it was smelted to produce blister copper (98% copper) and MIC Slag (15% copper). The smelting process was controlled to produce MIC slag with approximately 15% copper to ensure suitable slag and process chemistry. The copper levels in MIC Slag were controlled to minimise the aggressiveness of the slag in the MIC Furnace, while ensuring that the recovery of copper was optimised. They were also controlled to ensure consistent feed composition to the primary smelting furnace, which was necessary for its optimal performance.

38. Hourly XRF (x-ray fluorescence) analysis of MIC Slag was undertaken to enable adjustments in process operations and chemistry to be undertaken to ensure consistent slag quality. An example of the typical composition of MIC Slag was provided.

39. The MIC Slag was normally returned to the primary smelting furnace to enable recovery of the copper. The calcium present in the MIC Slag was beneficial in the primary smelting furnace because it improved the fluidity of the slag formed there.

40. As a result of the cessation of the smelter operations, PKC was unable to process a quantity of the MIC Slag and is currently seeking buyers. At the current market price for copper of around US$2000/tonne, the value of copper within the MIC Slag is approximately AUD$5.5 million. In addition the MIC Slag contains some gold and silver, further adding to its value.

41. Buyers of the MIC Slag would incorporate the material into the feed mix for their excisting smelting furnace to enable the recovery of the copper and to utilise the calcium in the MIC Slag to improve the fluidity of the primary furnace slag, in a manner similar to that which PKC undertook when operational. The copper and calcium within the MIC Slag ensure that the material is valuable for use in excisting copper smelters.

42. With regard to the questions set out in Information Paper No. 2, Distinguishing wastes from non-wastes under Australia's Hazardous Waste Act, PKC argued that the MIC Slag was not proposed for an operation which may lead to resource recovery, recycling, reclamation, direct re-use or alternative uses. It was an in-process product that had been produced as part of smelting operations and would have been processed to produce copper if the cessation of smelter operations had not prevented this. A buyer would blend the material with copper concentrate and other smelter in-process materials to form a feed mix for processing within an excisting copper smelter.

43. PKC stated that the material was produced intentionally in response to market demand and it had a positive economic value. It was made as part of the operation of this type of technology and was an integral component of the copper smelting operation. Production was subject to quality control and hourly XRF analysis was undertaken to ensure that the process was controlled to achieve the required concentration of copper in the slag, which in turn ensured appropriate slag and process chemistry. The process parameters were adjusted on the basis of these analyses to ensure consistent composition (including copper levels) of the MIC Slag. The MIC Slag was produced to a standard recommended by Mitsubishi Industries, the supplier of the technology, and slag of this type is produced at the five other smelters worldwide who utilise this technology.

44. The meeting agreed that if the MIC slag were reviewed against the questions set out in Information Paper No. 2, Distinguishing wastes from non-wastes under Australia's Hazardous Waste Act, important considerations were that the material was produced intentionally, was made in response to market demand and had a positive economic value. Its production was subject to quality control to meet well-developed standards. It was an in-process material that would not normally be considered a waste because it would remain part of the smelter process inside an operating smelter. The fact that one smelter had ceased operations and wished to sell it to another smelter did not mean that the MIC slag had become a waste.

45. Based on all these considerations, the meeting concluded that the MIC slag, proposed to be sold and exported to another smelter, was not a waste.

Agenda Item 5. Reports of international meetings

(a) Basel Convention: Second Session of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG2), Geneva, 20-24 October 2003

46. The Group noted that technical guidelines were being developed for several types of persistent organic pollutants, including organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins and furans, and hexachlorobenzene. Australia would lead the development of technical guidelines for dioxins and furans.

Agenda Item 6. Work Program of the Technical Group

47. There was no discussion of this item.

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

(a) Possible schemes for classification of old electronic equipment

48. The meeting noted the agenda paper and suggested that the Department might use a decision tree that incorporated simple filters in a yes/no approach. Consideration should also be given to the types of waste streams, the types of quality control checks that were performed in Australia, and the life expectancy of equipment in the importing country.

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

49. There was no discussion of these items.

Agenda Item 13. Dates of next meetings

(a) Thursday 12 February 2004 followed by a joint session with the PRG on Friday 13 February 2004.
(b) Friday 12 March 2004.
(c) Friday 16 April 2004.