To go green, the world will need vast quantities of critical minerals such as manganese, lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements. But to some environmentalists, mining to save the planet is a hard pill to swallow if it leads to damage to pristine areas.
The good news is that in many cases, the mining for these minerals has already been done. After Australia’s major miners dig up iron ore, billions of tonnes of earth and rock are left over. Hidden in these rock piles and tailing dams are minerals vital to high tech industries of today and tomorrow.
In recent years, we have seen a welcome focus on remining – the extraction of valuable minerals and metals from mining waste. While Australia has been slow to adopt this approach, it holds real promise. We don’t necessarily have to mine more. We can mine smarter.
Why do critical minerals matter?
For our new government to deliver net-zero by 2050, we will have to mine more critical minerals. In Australia, these minerals include lithium, cobalt, rare earth elements, tin, tungsten and indium. These metals are essential for manufacturing the wind turbines and electric vehicles required to transition to a low-carbon economy.