Brine pools at the Soquimich lithium mine on a salt flat in northern Chile. IVAN ALVARADO / REUTERS VIA ALAMY
On my one visit to the Atacama desert in 2009 I had a feeling unlike any I had previously experienced, and it was attributed to the lithium. There is so much, you can feel it. And to put it simply, it feels good. I knew it was being mined, but I assumed it was primarily for pharmaceutical use; no clue it would become so important for batteries. And this set up a sort of zero-sum game, which Fred Pearce helps to understand:
The Lithium Triangle region. YALE ENVIRONMENT 360
Why the Rush to Mine Lithium Could Dry Up the High Andes
The demand for lithium for EV batteries is driving a mining boom in an arid Andes region of Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia, home to half the world’s reserves. Hydrologists are warning the mines could drain vital ecosystems and deprive Indigenous communities of precious water.
What environmental price should the world be willing to pay for the metals needed to switch to electric vehicles? The question is being asked urgently in South America where there are growing fears that what is good for the global climate may be a disaster for some of the world’s rarest and most precious ecosystems — salt flats, wetlands, grazing pastures, and flamingo lakes high in the Andean mountains. Continue reading
Researchers with DeepGreen Metals deploy a box core tool to capture a sample of the seafloor. THE METALS COMPANY
As more and more households and businesses and governments plan their switch to electric vehicles, considering the ripple effects is as important now as it was in the age of fossil-fueled vehicles:
The electric vehicle boom is driving a surge in demand for prized metals needed for batteries and other components. Some companies say the solution lies in mining the deep oceans, but scientists say that could irreversibly damage a vast, largely pristine ecosystem.
A polymetallic nodule containing manganese, nickel, cobalt and copper gathered from the seafloor. THE METALS COMPANY
Nauru, lying about halfway across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Hawaii, is the world’s smallest island nation. But in the emerging industry of deep-sea mining, it punches far above its weight.
This June, Nauru gave notice to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the UN agency charged with regulating mining in international waters, that it was triggering the so-called two-year rule: The agency will have to consider any application for a deep-sea mining license two years from now, under whatever regulations are on the books at the time. This effectively forces the ISA’s hand to finalize a regulatory mining code before that deadline. With this latest development, a once-fanciful idea may soon become a global industry. Continue reading
Amy and Dave Freeman paddle into the Boundary Waters, starting their 365 days in the wilderness to raise awareness of mining plans in the region.PHOTO: Alex Chocholousek
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. Over 1 million acres in size, it extends nearly 150 miles along the International Boundary adjacent to Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park and is bordered on the west by Voyageurs National Park. The BWCAW contains over 1200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails and over 2000 designated campsites. Wilderness offers freedom to those who wish to pursue an experience of expansive solitude, challenge and personal integration with nature.
And now some, or all of it, may be lost to sulphide mining.
Wadi Feynan was one of the first places in the world where copper was mined and smelted by humans, which when
paired with one of the first Neolithic settlements in the world, makes Feynan an extremely important area in terms of prehistoric human development. Few places in the world can boast this sort of historical wealth – and visitors to Feynan can journey into the past with or without a guide. From the first bit of ore extracted to the collapse of the Roman Empire to the 20th century, copper mining has been a major aspect of human settlement in these valleys. Innumerable shafts have been opened, collapsed, reopened, and abandoned using a wide range of methods and technologies. Today, guests at Feynan Ecolodge have the chance to venture into the past by walking or biking to these historic sites nestled in the rocky foothills of the Dana Biosphere Reserve – and learn about their historical significance. Continue reading