Open pit mine

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Flag bearer of the United Nations Global Resource Outlook The report is a picture of a juggernaut. Due to be published later this month by the UN’s International Resource Panel, It highlights How global consumption of raw materials, having quadrupled since 1970, is set to increase by another 60 percent by 2060.

already, Field of technologyFrom airports to Zimmerframes, the total number of man-made products is higher. Biology. Since the 2020s, the weight of humanity’s extended body — the concrete shells that shelter us, the metal wings that fly around us — has exceeded all life on Earth. Developing this volume of goods is an important contributor. Global warming system and ocean acidification, and the rapid extinction of plants and animals.

As the United Nations report makes clear, the extractive activities behind the concrete, metal and other materials we use are disrupting the balance of the planet’s ecosystems. gave Extraction and transportation require the annexation of large tracts of land. of that Is More than three times Since 1970.

That upward curve is set to continue. Demand for materials is increasing, quality of ores As copper is decreasing, and there are deep and remote mines. Additional energy is required for extraction. More trenches will be dug and more mountains will be moved so that a few people will have great fortunes while many regions, above all in developing countries, will become Areas of sacrifice.

Important raw materials

The focus is increasingly on a particular class of content. “Critical” and “strategic” raw materials are those that face a supply threat in their scarcity or geographic concentration, and which major powers need for competitive advantage in their military sectors and tech industries. Now, the Race for important content It is geopolitical: each major power wants to secure supplies to allied countries.

Important raw materials are also indispensable for the green transition. The EU, for example, considers nickel a. Strategy materials given its role in batteries.

A wind turbine may be required. Nine times The mineral input of a typical gas-fired power plant, while that of an average electric vehicle Six And ten times that of its conventional counterpart, according to a UN report to be published on February 26.

None of this means that a It will use more material than existing fossil fuel-based materials. Energy consumption is due to mineral demand for energy transfer technologies. Dwarf by which is generated by mineral demand for the rest of the economy.

However, energy transitions affect mineral demand. Mining boom In sectors like copper and lithium.

Urban mining

Mining must change to reduce its environmental impact. On the supply side, the recovery of minerals from waste materials can be enhanced, for example Forcing retailers to offer collection Household electronic waste that can be sent for better recycling.

There is scope for urban mining: for example, copper exploration Passive underground power cables or retrieving from elements Construction wastesewage, incineration ash and other waste areas.

In practice, however, secondary materials are used more than newly extracted materials. lack of. Mineral recovery rates from recycling are low. one more United Nations study Most of the 60 metals had a recycling rate of less than one percent.

The current economic system makes extractive mining cheaper and easier than urban mining. Extractive mining involves the purchase of cheap land, often in developing countries.

This land is dug into a simple stream and processed to make it suitable for investment. Urban mining, by contrast, is often labor intensive and requires complex and state-based enforcement. Regulation of waste streams.

Urban mining faces the refusal of governments to shift taxes from labor to “use of non-renewable resources”. Walter SteeleA founder of the circular economy concept proposed in 2006. Unless strong regulation and taxation is introduced, all forms of the circular economy are at risk of continuing. Rebound effects.

So, dumping more material into the market lowers prices, which accelerate. , increasing energy consumption, and spreading environmental damage. in short, Nothing is intrinsically “green.” About urban mining or the circular economy. The developmental potential of all such engineering programs is governed by the political-economic framework.

Is degeneration the answer?

Lack of engineering and Green development The programs have informed Moam’s interest in “degradation” strategies. The term is not meant to suggest that all economic sectors should shrink, but that the unsustainable global use of materials and energy should be drastically reduced, and equality restored, to restore some balance to the relationship between society and nature. in a manner based on

As the scale of the climate crisis grows more dire, even moderate voices — not degenerates — have acknowledged that some sectors, such as shipping and aviation, will have to. Cut to virtually zero. Over the next 20 or 30 years.

What does this mean for key minerals? According to DeGrowth Advocate Jason HacklePolitical means should be adopted to plan priority sectors.

Cutting back on luxury and wasteful sectors such as SUVs, aviation and fast fashion will be freed up. For the green transition. “Factories making SUVs could make solar panels instead,” Heckel suggested. “Engineers who are currently developing private jets could instead work on innovating more efficient trains and wind turbines.”

Such practical examples highlight the possibility that today’s predictions of throughput of fully unsustainable materials by 2060 may be at least downwardly revised.

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Reference: Raw Material Extraction Could Increase 60% by 2060—And Making Mining ‘Greener’ Won’t Stop Losses (2024, February 16) 17 February 2024 https://phys.org/news/2024- Retrieved from 02-raw-materials-greener-wont.html

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