natural resources  –  earth – energy – fossil fuels – mining – oceans –  water

Surface mine 7-2-2023 Race To The Bottom – Mining menace – by John Pearce

The push for greater adoption of electric vehicles and other green energy adoption is creating demand for “rare earth” and other metals, which are often in conflict zones or under the control of autocratic regimes.

As a result large companies, including the Danish logistics giant Maersk, and the commodity multi-national Glencore, are scrambling to scavenge the ocean floor, and are looking at deep-sea mining to extract new sources of critical metals, such as copper, cobalt and nickel. However the push from these mining giants is increasingly controversial.

It has long been known that nodules on the seabed can contain critical elements for constructing batteries and other electronics, but until recently their depth meant that extracting them had, until recently, been considered too costly and arduous…”… 8-5-2022 Mine e-waste, not the Earth, say scientists – The recycling of e-waste must urgently be ramped up because mining the Earth for precious metals to make new gadgets is unsustainable, scientists say. By Victoria Gill

One study estimated that the world’s mountain of discarded electronics, in 2021 alone, weighed 57 million tonnes. The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) says there now needs to be a global effort to mine that waste, rather than mining the Earth. Global conflicts also pose a threat to supply chains for precious metals. The RSC is running a campaign to draw attention to the unsustainability of continuing to mine all the precious elements used in consumer technology. It points out that geopolitical unrest, including the war in Ukraine, has caused huge spikes in the price of materials like nickel, a key element in electric vehicle batteries. This volatility in the market for elements is causing “chaos in supply chains” that enable the production of electronics. Combined with the surge in demand, this caused the price of lithium – another important component in battery technology – to increase by almost 500% between 2021 and 2022. ..”…

“Naturally abundant wind, geothermal, solar, tidal and electric energy are being hastened as the future of the planet’s energy needs. And rare earth elements are used in a bevy of technolgies to generate this cleaner, renewable energy. 

These include wind turbine magnets, solar cells, smartphone components, cells used in electric vehicles, among others.

Also called rare earth metals, they comprise seventeen chemical elements — 15 lanthanides (anthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium), scandium and yttrium.

Despite the name, rare earth elements are found abundantly in the Earth’s crust. They are widely dispersed and found in low concentrations that are not economically exploitable.

Extraction and mining of rare earth metals involves similar land-use exploitation, environmental damage and ecological burden as any other mining operation. They are mined using extremely energy-intensive processes, spewing carbon emissions into the atmosphere and toxins into the ground.

Many of these metals, which include mercury, barium, lead, chromium and cadmium, are extremely damaging to the health of several ecosystems, including humans. 2014 UNU and WHO release findings from first ever global survey on e-waste’s impact on child health. The survey has raised concerns around chemical burns, cancer and stunted growth. …” 3/2021 Geologists and materials scientists at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg discovered a new way of finding previously unknown deposits of rare earths, or rare earth metals, worldwide.

In a paper published in the journal Geology, the researchers explain that contrary to what their name might suggest, sources of rare earth elements or rare earth metals are distributed fairly equally all over the world. However, there are only very few sources that are economically viable and they propose using a new indicator to identify such deposits. 4/5/2021 Copper has hit a ten-year high, but this could just be the start of a huge bull market – The price of copper is at its highest for ten years. But supply constraints and a massive rise in demand mean it’s not going to stop there, says Dominic Frisby …”There is an immense, underappreciated materials intensity to green energy consumption in its many forms, of which copper is a major constituent. Alternative energy systems are on average five times more copper intensive…”

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