The rush to renewable energy means a new mining boom. But first, Australia needs to make some tough choices – by Angus Grigg, Jeanavive McGregor and Lucy Carter (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – May 8, 2022)

Electric cars, solar panels, large batteries and wind turbines — the technology needed to go green relies on what can be a dirty industry. “It’s absolutely ironic, but to save the planet we are going to need more mines,” says Allison Britt, director of mineral resources at government agency Geoscience Australia.

The need for one of the biggest increases in mining the world has ever seen is forcing some tough choices and redrawing old battlelines between environmentalists and miners. In Tasmania, a mine that’s been leaking contaminated water for the past five years wants permission to expand into a wilderness area because the lead, zinc and copper it produces are vital for solar panels, electric cars and wind turbines.

King Island, famed for its high-end produce and rugged beauty, will soon be home to one of the world’s largest tungsten mines. Outside Darwin, an open-cut mine that will produce lithium vital for electric car batteries looks to be already impacting local waterways.

Australian National University professor of economic geology John Mavrogenes says tough decisions need to be made. These decisions are made even more difficult by China’s control of the 35 so-called “critical minerals”, which are not only vital for the transition to renewable energy but for economic and national security. The US and its allies fear Beijing could restrict or cut off supply in times of conflict.

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