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Monday, May 27, 2024

5 things you should know about ‘clean’ energy minerals and the dirty process of mining them

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First of 2 parts

If the world is to move away from fossil fuels, we will need to extract far more rare minerals to power renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar plants.

However, energy experts point out that mining these minerals can be a dirty process, ravaging the environment and leading to human rights abuses.

We all know that we’re in the middle of a climate crisis: temperatures are rising, the weather is becoming more extreme, and this is having a negative effect on the economy, the environment and society in general.

Although many will argue that we’re not moving fast enough to deal with the climate emergency, the energy sector is starting to turn away from energy sources that rely on big, dirty power stations, sending plumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and turn to cleaner sources such as solar and wind.

However, to power a low-emission world, we will need to mine a lot more minerals, and this is often a dirty process. Here is what to know about “energy transition minerals” and how we can limit the damage caused by getting them out of the ground.

Where are they found?

Transition minerals are naturally occurring substances that are ideal for use in renewable technology. Lithium, nickel and cobalt are core components of batteries, like those that power electric vehicles. Rare earth elements are part of the magnets that turn wind turbines and electric motors. Copper and aluminum are used in massive amounts in power transmission lines.

They are found in rocks all over the world, but a handful of countries and companies control their extraction: China mines most rare earth materials, Indonesia extracts the most nickel, the Democratic Republic of the Congo produces most of the cobalt. Many energy transition minerals are also found in a group of land-locked developing countries, some of which are among the world’s least developed nations. (To be continued)


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