Mining for metals and rare earth elements will be a crucial part of a renewable energy future despite the environmental risks, University of Newcastle experts say. The need to eliminate the world’s dependence on fossil fuels means the benefits of mining for green technology outweigh the costs.
University of Newcastle Associate Professor Hao Tan said the mining of critical minerals would present environmental challenges. “But the scale of mining activities in relation to critical minerals is much smaller than those of other major resources in Australia, such as iron ore and coal,” Dr Tan said.
Laureate Professor Kevin Galvin said the transition to renewable energy cannot be done without mining. Professor Galvin said the transition had to be “ramped up quickly”, so the world could not rely on recycled metals to fulfil demand.
“Those who aren’t happy about mining have to realise we’re in this together and we have to work out together how we’ll do it,” he said. Lithium, the hottest metal in the sector, has been dubbed “white gold, white oil and the new coal” of the 21st century.