Mining for renewable energy could be another threat to the environment, say researchers

Cobalt mining in DR Congo [image credit: BBC]

Destroying the planet in a futile attempt to ‘save’ it from supposedly human-caused climate change? Mining is only the start of the problems. After disfiguring the environment all over the place, we arrive at the major issue of costly end-of-life disposal of industrial quantities of batteries, wind turbines and solar panels. Who pays?
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Researchers have warned that mining threats to biodiversity caused by renewable energy production could surpass those averted by climate change mitigation, reports Phys.org.

A University of Queensland study found protected areas, key biodiversity areas and the world’s remaining wilderness would be under growing pressure from mining the minerals required for a clean energy transition.

UQ’s Dr. Laura Sonter said renewable energy production was material-intensive—much more so than fossil fuels—and mining these materials would increase as fossil fuels were phased out.

“Our study shows that mining the materials needed for renewable energy such as lithium, cobalt, copper, nickel and aluminum will create further pressure on the biodiversity located in mineral-rich landscapes,” Dr. Sonter said.

The research team mapped the world’s mining areas, according to an extensive database of 62,381 pre-operational, operational and closed mining properties, targeting 40 different commodities.

They found that areas with potential mining activity covered 50 million square kilometers of the planet—35 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial land surface excluding Antarctica—and many of these areas coincided with places critical for biodiversity conservation.

“Almost 10 percent of all mining areas occur within currently protected sites, with plenty of other mining occurring within or nearby sites deemed a priority for future conservation of many species,” Dr. Sonter said.

“In terms of mining areas targeting materials needed specifically for renewable energy production, the story is not much better. We found that 82 percent of mining areas target materials needed for renewable energy production, of which, 12 percent coincide with protected areas, 7 percent with key biodiversity areas and 14 percent with wilderness. And, of the mining areas that overlapped protected areas and wilderness, those that targeted materials for renewable energy contained a greater density of mines than the mining areas that targeted other materials.”

Full report here.

via Tallbloke’s Talkshop

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September 2, 2020 at 10:27AM

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