SOURCE: Monga Bay
DATE: June 18, 2019
SNIP: Climate change has widely reported negative consequences, including exacerbating severe weather patterns, harming wildlife and potentially worsening human conflict and migration.
In an attempt to minimize these planetary changes, the Paris Agreement set the ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by reducing greenhouse gas emissions…. [A]ccording to experts, the long-awaited move to a fossil fuel-free economy will not come without its own set of issues.
“The transition towards a renewable energy and transport system requires a complex mix of metals — such as copper, cobalt, nickel, rare earths, lithium and silver — many of which have only previously been mined in small amounts,” says a recent report commissioned by Earthworks, an environmental nonprofit that promotes sustainable solutions to the impacts of mineral and energy development.
While the study explores the considerable impacts of such mining on human health and culture, it shows that biodiversity could be under threat, too.
“A rapid increase in demand for metals for renewable energy … could lead to mining of marginal or unconventional resources, which are often in more remote or biodiverse places,” said study co-author Elsa Dominish, a senior research consultant at the ISF. In short, some remote wilderness areas have maintained high biodiversity because they haven’t yet been disturbed — but neither have their reserves of minerals, making these areas attractive targets for mining companies.
“The mining of many metals used for renewable energy technologies and EVs already impacts wildlife biodiversity,” Dominish told Mongabay, citing the example of bauxite mining.
Bauxite ore is used to produce aluminum, a key component in almost all renewable technologies. Like many minerals used by the renewable energy industry, the valuable ore sits near the surface, meaning that mining companies must clear and strip-mine large areas of land to acquire commercial quantities.
“Serious impacts of bauxite mining have been reported in Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Guinea,” Dominish said. Mongabay recently looked at the effects of bauxite extraction in Guinea, where a mining concession poses a serious risk to populations of endangered western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus). Conflicts between biodiversity conservation efforts and mining operations may therefore become more frequent as the renewable energy industry picks up speed.
[Read the whole article for more info on the devastating impacts of mining for these metals and minerals on biodiversity and habitat. And then keep in mind how well we do recycling now… (i.e. hardly at all).]