Indonesian miners eyeing EV nickel boom seek to dump waste into the sea

Indonesian miners eyeing EV nickel boom seek to dump waste into the sea

SOURCE: MongaBay DATE: May 18, 2020 SNIP: As Indonesia ramps up its mining sector to feed the world’s hunger for zero-emission vehicles, it is faced with a problem: what to do with all the waste. The country is the world’s biggest producer of nickel, one of the key elements in the rechargeable batteries that power electric vehicles and energy storage systems. Now, companies building the nation’s first factories to produce the elements that power electric vehicles are seeking permission to dump billions of tons of potentially toxic waste into the waters of the Coral Triangle, home to the highest diversity of corals and reef fishes anywhere on the planet. In January, two companies presented plans to use the method, known as deep-sea tailings disposal, or DSTD, to Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry for Maritime and Investment Affairs, according to presentation documents seen by Mongabay. Neither company appears to have received permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, which must approve the practice, though factories pitching to dump waste in the ocean are already under construction. Nickel mining, increasingly pushed to meet rising demand for batteries, has long been a core industry for Indonesia. Smelting for battery nickel produces large amounts of acidic waste full of heavy metals, and how to deal with the waste is one of the most important decisions in a smelting project. Companies often choose DSTD as a cost-efficient or safer option to manage tailings, the byproducts left over from extracting metals from ore. It’s an alternative to constructing a dam to store the tailings or spending money to treat the waste so it can be returned...
The spiralling environmental cost of our lithium battery addiction

The spiralling environmental cost of our lithium battery addiction

SOURCE: Wired DATE: August 8, 2018 SNIP: Here’s a thoroughly modern riddle: what links the battery in your smartphone with a dead yak floating down a Tibetan river? The answer is lithium – the reactive alkali metal that powers our phones, tablets, laptops and electric cars. In May 2016, hundreds of protestors threw dead fish onto the streets of Tagong, a town on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. They had plucked them from the waters of the Liqi river, where a toxic chemical leak from the Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium mine had wreaked havoc with the local ecosystem. There are pictures of masses of dead fish on the surface of the stream. Some eyewitnesses reported seeing cow and yak carcasses floating downstream, dead from drinking contaminated water. It was the third such incident in the space of seven years in an area which has seen a sharp rise in mining activity, including operations run by BYD, the world’ biggest supplier of lithium-ion batteries for smartphones and electric cars. Lithium-ion batteries are a crucial component of efforts to clean up the planet. The battery of a Tesla Model S has about 12 kilograms of lithium in it, while grid storage solutions that will help balance renewable energy would need much more. Demand for lithium is increasing exponentially, and it doubled in price between 2016 and 2018. According to consultancy Cairn Energy Research Advisors, the lithium ion industry is expected to grow from 100 gigawatt hours (GWh) of annual production in 2017, to almost 800 GWhs in 2027. As the world scrambles to replace fossil fuels with clean energy, the...
Batteries have a dirty secret

Batteries have a dirty secret

SOURCE: Vox DATE: July 21, 2018 SNIP: Energy storage (batteries and other ways of storing electricity, like pumped water, compressed air, or molten salt) has generally been hailed as a “green” technology, key to enabling more renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But energy storage has a dirty secret. The way it’s typically used in the US today, it enables more fossil-fueled energy and higher carbon emissions. Emissions are higher today than they would have been if no storage had ever been deployed in the US. This is not intrinsic to the technology, by any means. If deployed strategically, energy storage can do all the things boosters say, making the grid more flexible, unlocking renewable energy, and reducing emissions. But only if it is deployed strategically, which it generally hasn’t been. There are two reasons why energy storage deployed for the purpose of arbitrage increases emissions: 1) Storage increases the value of the energy sources it draws from (a source that can store some of its energy can generate more) and decreases the value of the energy sources it competes against when discharging. If the energy sources it draws from are more carbon-intensive than the energy sources it competes against, then it will have the effect of increasing the carbon intensity of the overall power mix. 2) Every bit of energy stored also represents a bit of energy lost. The “round-trip efficiency” of energy storage — the amount of energy it releases relative to the amount put in — ranges, depending on the technology, from around 40 to 90 percent. Add those two effects together and you get...