Summary: To many sustainability specialists, mining is not really green, it's more brown. It's even sometimes thought of as being up there with O&G, some Heavy Industry, Tobacco and Coal. But, we cannot “fix” the problem through exclusions, mining is just too important. And if we engage with mining companies, how do we do this? Unlike many other sectors and themes, the issues in mining are not really about CO2 reduction - so the impacts are harder to measure. Many of the challenges are very project and site specific, we can have higher level rules or guidelines, but the real change happens project by project on the ground. This needs more resources, and more expertise.
Why this is important: The role of mining in the transitions cannot be ignored. If we want low carbon electricity we really should also be investing in mining. Which means engagement, in detail and on the ground.
The big theme: The green transition is going to need a lot more mining. Without it most of the transitions will just not happen. There is not a simple alternative, one that “does no harm”, while at the same time providing us with all of the raw materials we need for everything from electric vehicles, through greener buildings and transport, through to renewables such as wind and solar, and the vast amount of electricity grid investment we are going to need.
Summary of a story from MIT Technology Review
In the 2015 Paris Agreement, world leaders set a goal to keep global warming under 1.5°C, and reaching that target will require building a lot of new infrastructure. Even in the most ambitious scenarios, the world has enough materials to power the grid globally with renewables, the researchers found. And mining and processing those materials won’t produce enough emissions to warm the world past international targets.
There is a catch to all this good news. While we technically have enough of the materials we need to build renewable energy infrastructure, actually mining and processing them can be a challenge. If we don’t do it responsibly, getting those materials into usable form could lead to environmental harm or even human rights violations.