The transition to renewable energy relies on mining. Can it be done responsibly? – by Matt Simmons (The Narwhal – November 18, 2020)

The Narwhal

Demand for certain mined minerals is projected to increase exponentially in the coming decades. Experts warn responsible practices must be in place to reduce environmental and social impacts

It wasn’t long ago that the idea of a zero-emissions electric vehicle silently cruising the streets sounded like something out of The Jetsons. According to the International Energy Agency, there are now more than seven million electric cars on the roads and there could be as many as 245 million by 2030.

But each of those cars relies on a battery to get from point A to point B. And those batteries are made with minerals like lithium, graphite, cobalt and nickel — all of which are mined.

Mined materials are also necessary to make wind turbines and solar panels. This demand is creating something of an environmental conundrum.

Research shows that mining waste has increased more than 300 per cent in some regions in the past decade and mining is responsible for up to 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. With the push for more renewables, those numbers are set to increase. According to the World Bank and independent studies, by 2050 the energy transition is expected to increase the demand for certain minerals 30- to 800-fold.

Yet experts warn that the inevitable increase in mining activity is unsustainable under existing laws and regulations that aren’t adequate to ensure the transition to renewable energy is safe and just.

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