by J. Barrett, May 3, 2023 in TheGuardian
by J. Barrett, May 3, 2023 in TheGuardian
by P. Homewood, Oct 13, 2022 in NotaLotofPeopleKnowThat
There’s nothing new here, but it acts as a good reminder of just bad lithium mining is for the environment:
Electric vehicles are promoted as the solution for combating “climate change.” Governments are currently incentivizing the production of electric vehicles, while punishing the fossil fuel industry. However, lithium mining for electric vehicles is incredibly destructive to the environment, and is about as far from “green” as one could imagine. Not to mention, most of the lithium-ion batteries produced today come from China and require water-intensive mining operations that ravage natural environments throughout Australia, Argentina and Chile. The process depletes ground water, and leaves behind toxic wastewater that contaminates fields and harms wildlife. The mining process is not carbon dioxide free, either. The mining process releases 15,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions for every ton of lithium that is extracted.
There are serious environmental risks to extracting lithium for the production of lithium-ion batteries
When lithium is extracted from salt mines, the miners must drill into the salt flats and pump out a salty, mineral-rich brine. The brine is placed in large pools, so the water can evaporate out. When the brine evaporates, it leaves behind a sludge of potassium, manganese, borax and lithium salts that must be filtered out further. The process pollutes nearby aquifers and lowers the water table, interfering with water sources in the local environment.
The lithium extraction process takes several months, displaces valuable water resources, and leaves behind a toxic trail of wastewater in the local environment. It takes approximately 500,000 gallons of water to produce one ton of lithium. When mining companies head into countries like Chile, they use up a majority of the region’s water, unjustly affecting small communities.
According to the Institute of Energy Research, Chile’s Salar de Atacama is one of the driest places on Earth, yet the mining companies are allowed to use up 65% of the region’s water. After the brine is removed from the salt flats, the water table automatically falls, disrupting the natural flow of water that is needed for wells and agriculture. These large-scale disruptions can always be blamed on “climate change” as the lithium mining industry plunges ahead, with no regard for the environmental damage wrought in its wake.
Water quality, wildlife populations, and crops all adversely affected by lithium mining
by D.Middleton, Aug 24, 21, 2021 in WUWT
Afghanistan is the “the Saudi Arabia of lithium” –a metal that is essential for electric vehicle batteries and battery storage technologies. According to the International Energy Agency these technologies account for 30 percent of the current global demand for lithium. Demand for lithium is projected to increase 40-fold above 2020 levels by 2040, along with rare earth elements, copper, cobalt, and other minerals in which Afghanistan is also naturally rich.
China currently controls the supply chains for most of the production and/or processing of these minerals. Now China may have another source.
by L. Peter, Nov 2019 in BBCNews
Denmark has for the first time put mineral-rich Greenland top of its national security agenda, ahead of terrorism and cybercrime.
The Defence Intelligence Service (FE) linked its change in priorities to US interest in Greenland, expressed in President Donald Trump’s desire to buy the vast Arctic territory.
Greenland is part of Denmark, but has significant autonomy, including freedom to sign major business deals.
China has mining deals with Greenland.
The FE’s head Lars Findsen said Greenland was now a top security issue for Denmark because a “power game is unfolding” between the US and other global powers in the Arctic.
In August the Danish government dismissed as “absurd” President Trump’s suggestion of a US-Denmark land deal over Greenland.
Mr Trump then cancelled a state visit to Denmark and called Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen “nasty”.
The US interest in Greenland goes back decades. The US has a key Cold War-era air base at Thule, used for surveillance of space using a massive radar. It is the US military’s northernmost base, there to provide early warning of a missile attack on North America.
Why the new focus on Greenland?
Greenland’s strategic importance has grown amid increased Arctic shipping and international competition for rare minerals. Arctic waters are becoming more navigable because of melting ice, linked to global warming.
by P. Homewood, Jan 6, 2021 in NotaLotofPeopleKnowThat
When Donald Trump offered to buy Greenland from Denmark in 2019 it was dismissed as illegal and absurd. However, the president’s expression of interest was far from absurd, says Guillaume Pitron. Under its soil Greenland boasts one of the largest concentrations of the rare metals that the world will need to power electric cars, computers, mobile phones, robots, solar power plants, artificial intelligence and many high-tech “green” innovations that have not been dreamt up yet. If Trump were after those minerals, buying Greenland would have been a smart move.
The global production and sales of rare metals are dominated by China. It mines so much of them on home soil and controls so much of their extraction in Africa and elsewhere that it oversees up to 95 per cent of the global production of certain minerals. This puts Beijing in charge of “the oil of the 21st century”, writes Pitron, which is a problem for western nations because it means China can restrict supply and drive prices up or down at will, as Opec does with oil. We have “entrusted a precious monopoly of mineral sovereignty to potential rivals”, he notes.
Discarded devices waiting to have their precious metals extracted
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/GETTY IMAGES
Rare earth minerals production is very energy intensive. Extracting a single kilogram of some requires mining as much as 1,200 tonnes of rock. “Clean energy is a dirty affair,” Pitron writes. He drives home his point by touring villages near polluted lakes in China that are known locally as “cancer villages”.
by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Nov 23, 2020 in ScienceDaily
Resources like water and iron are important because they will enable future research to be conducted on, and launched from, the moon. “You don’t want to bring resources for mission support from Earth, you’d much rather get them from the Moon. Iron is important if you want to build anything on the moon; it would be absurdly expensive to transport iron to the moon,” said Elvis. “You need water to survive; you need it to grow food — you don’t bring your salad with you from Earth — and to split into oxygen to breathe and hydrogen for fuel.”
Interest in the moon as a location for extracting resources isn’t new. An extensive body of research dating back to the Apollo program has explored the availability of resources such as helium, water, and iron, with more recent research focusing on continuous access to solar power, cold traps and frozen water deposits, and even volatiles that may exist in shaded areas on the surface of the moon. Tony Milligan, a Senior Researcher with the Cosmological Visionaries project at King’s College London, and a co-author on the paper said, “Since lunar rock samples returned by the Apollo program indicated the presence of Helium-3, the moon has been one of several strategic resources which have been targeted.”
by University of Exter, Oct. 11, 2020 in WUWT
Pioneering new research has helped geologists solve a long-standing puzzle that could help pinpoint new, untapped concentrations of some the most valuable rare earth deposits.
A team of geologists, led by Professor Frances Wall from the Camborne School of Mines, have discovered a new hypothesis to predict where rare earth elements neodymium and dysprosium could be found.
The elements are among the most sought after, because they are an essential part of digital and clean energy manufacturing, including magnets in large wind turbines and electric cars motors.
For the new research, scientists conducted a series of experiments that showed sodium and potassium – rather than chlorine or fluorine as previously thought – were the key ingredients for making these rare earth elements soluble.
This is crucial as it determines whether they crystalise – making them fit for extraction – or stayed dissolved in fluids.
The experiments could therefore allow geologists to make better predictions about where the best concentrations of neodymium and dysprosium are likely to be found.
The results are published in the journal, Science Advances on Friday, October 9th 2020.
University of Exeter researchers, through the ‘SoS RARE’ project, have previously studied many natural examples of the roots of very unusual extinct carbonatite volcanoes, where the world’s best rare earth deposits occur, in order to try and identify potential deposits of the rare earth minerals.
by Maus, V. Sep 8, 2020 in ScientificData OPEN ACCESS
The area used for mineral extraction is a key indicator for understanding and mitigating the environmental impacts caused by the extractive sector. To date, worldwide data products on mineral extraction do not report the area used by mining activities. In this paper, we contribute to filling this gap by presenting a new data set of mining extents derived by visual interpretation of satellite images. We delineated mining areas within a 10 km buffer from the approximate geographical coordinates of more than six thousand active mining sites across the globe. The result is a global-scale data set consisting of 21,060 polygons that add up to 57,277 km2. The polygons cover all mining above-ground features that could be identified from the satellite images, including open cuts, tailings dams, waste rock dumps, water ponds, and processing infrastructure. The data set is available for download from https://doi.org/10.1594/PANGAEA.910894 and visualization at www.fineprint.global/viewer.
by D. Lewis, Sep 21, 2020 in Nature
Environmental scientists in Australia say that they are under increasing pressure from their employers to downplay research findings or avoid communicating them at all. More than half of the respondents to an online survey thought that constraints on speaking publicly on issues such as threatened species, urban development, mining, logging and climate change had become worse in recent years.1
The findings, published this month in Conservation Letters, reflect how politicized debates about environmental policy in Australia have become, says Saul Cunningham, an environmental scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra. “We need our publicly funded institutions to be more vocal in defending the importance of an independent voice based on research,” he says.
Australian scientists aren’t the only ones who have reported interference in science or pressure — particularly from government employers — to downplay research findings. Scientists in the United States, Canada and Brazil have also reported such intrusions in the past decade.
Scale of the problem
Two-hundred and twenty scientists in Australia responded to the survey, which was organized by the Ecological Society of Australia and ran from October 2018 until February 2019. Some of the respondents worked in government, others in universities or in industry, for example in environmental consultancies or non-governmental organizations.
The results show that government and industry scientists experienced greater constraints from their employers than did university staff. Among government employees, about half were prohibited from speaking publicly about their research, compared with 38% employed in industry and 9% of university staff. Three-quarters of those surveyed also reported self-censoring their work.
by O. Rudgard, September 3, 2020 in ClimateChaneDispatch
Mining for renewable energy materials could threaten biodiversity, researchers have found.
Scientists at the University of Queensland, Brisbane found a high degree of overlap between areas used for mining essential minerals like lithium, which is used for car batteries, and areas with high levels of biodiversity as yet untouched by industry.
Conservationists are “often naive to the threats posed by significant growth in renewable energies”, the researchers said in the study published in the journal Nature Communications, pointing out that 14 percent of protected areas contain metal mines or have them nearby.
Overall, the researchers found that eight percent of mining areas were within the range of areas designated as protected by national governments, and seven percent were within the same range of key biodiversity areas.
Using this metric, 50 million square kilometers of the earth’s land surface is influenced by mining, with 82 percent of mining areas focused on elements needed for renewable energy production.
Elements including lithium, cobalt, and nickel are essential for rechargeable batteries, which are used for power storage in wind and solar projects, as well as in electric cars.
New mines are planned to target these substances, adding to the global surface area covered by mining activities.
by V.L. Leotaud, May 10, 2020 in MiningCom
Researchers at Purdue University in the US have developed a new technology that promises to be a game-changer in the extraction of rare earths.
In a paper published in the journal Green Chemistry, the scientists explain that the patented extraction and purifying processes use ligand-assisted chromatography and are shown to remove and purify rare earth metals from coal ash, recycled magnets and raw ore safely, efficiently and with virtually no detrimental environmental impact.
This is key because, at present, many companies across the world don’t even dare to consider extracting REE due to the damages caused to the environment by acid-based separation and purification of these elements.
“About 60% of rare earth metals are used in magnets that are needed in almost everyone’s daily lives. These metals are used in electronics, aeroplanes, hybrid cars and even windmills,” Nien-Hwa Linda Wang, whose lab developed the technology, said in a media statement. “We currently have one dominant foreign source for these metals and if the supply were to be limited for any reason, it would be devastating to people’s lives. It’s not that the resource isn’t available in the US, but that we need a better, cleaner way to process these rare earth metals.”
Neodymium magnets. (Image by Nevit Dilmen, Wikimedia Commons).
by Geological Society of America, January 13, 2020 in ScienceDaily
Rare metallic elements found in clumps on the deep-ocean floor mysteriously remain uncovered despite the shifting sands and sediment many leagues under the sea. Scientists now think they know why, and it could have important implications for mining these metals while preserving the strange fauna at the bottom of the ocean.
The growth of these deep-sea nodules — metallic lumps of manganese, iron, and other metals found in all the major ocean basins — is one of the slowest known geological processes. These ringed concretions, which are potential sources of rare-earth and other critical elements, grow on average just 10 to 20 millimeters every million years. Yet in one of earth science’s most enduring mysteries, they somehow manage to avoid being buried by sediment despite their locations in areas where clay accumulates at least 100 times faster than the nodules grow.
Understanding how these agglomerations of metals remain on the open sea floor could help geoscientists provide advice on accessing them for industrial use. A new study published this month in Geology will help scientists understand this process better.
“It is important that any mining of these resources is done in a way that preserves the fragile deep-sea environments in which they are found,” said lead author Adriana Dutkiewicz, an ARC Future Fellow in the School of Geosciences at The University of Sydney.
Rare-earth and other critical elements are essential for the development of technologies needed for low-carbon economies. They will play an increasingly important role for next-generation solar cells, efficient wind turbines, and rechargeable batteries that will power the renewables revolution.
by Geological Society of America, January 2, 2020 in ScienceDaily
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have mapped a rare earth element deposit of magmatic carbonatite located in the Mountain Pass region of the eastern Mojave Desert. The new report details the geophysical and geological setting of the deposit, including a map of the deposit’s subsurface extent, to help land-use managers evaluate sites for further exploration. The report was recently published in the Geological Society of America’s online journal, Geosphere.
Rare earth elements (REEs) are critical to emerging industrial technologies including strategic defense, science and medical, automotive and transportation, and civilian electronics. However, large economic REE sources are unique and uncommon worldwide. International concerns about increasing demand and global supply vulnerability have prompted many countries, including the U.S., to explore and assess domestic REE resources. Increased efforts to characterize geologic processes related to REE deposits in the U.S. have focused attention on the world-class Mountain Pass, California, deposit located approximately 60 miles southwest of Las Vegas, Nevada.
In their study, collaborators K.M. Denton and USGS colleagues use geophysical and geological techniques to image geologic structures related to REE mineral-bearing rocks at depth. Their work suggests REE minerals occur along a fault zone or geologic contact near the eastern edge of the Mescal Range. These findings could prove as a useful guide to future exploration efforts.
by Barbara Jones, August 5, 2017 in MailOnline
Eight-year-old Dorsen is pictured cowering beneath the raised hand of an overseer who warns him not to spill a rock
by S. Moore A. & Bridges, June17, 2019 in ClimateChangeDispatch
The recent threats by Beijing to cut off American access to critical mineral imports has many Americans wondering why our politicians have allowed the United States to become so overly-dependent on China for these valued resources in the first place.
Today, the United States is 90 percent dependent on China and Russia for many vital “rare earth minerals.”
The main reason for our over-reliance on nations like China for these minerals is not that we are running out of these resources here at home. The U.S. Mining Association estimates that we have at least $5 trillion of recoverable mineral resources.
The U.S. Geological Survey reports that we still have up to 86 percent or more of key mineral resources like copper and zinc remaining in the ground, waiting to be mined.
These resources aren’t on environmentally sensitive lands, like national parks, but on the millions of acres of federal, state and private lands.
The mining isn’t happening because of extremely prohibitive environmental rules and a permitting process that can take 5-10 years to open a new mine. Green groups simply resist almost all new drilling.
What they may not realize is that the de facto mining prohibitions jeopardize the “Green Energy Revolution” that liberals so desperately are seeking.
How is this for rich irony: To make renewable energy at all technologically plausible, will require massive increases in the supply of rare earth and critical minerals.
by World Nuclear Association, updated July 2017
Production from world uranium mines now supplies 90% of the requirements of power utilities.
Primary production from mines is supplemented by secondary supplies, formerly most from ex-military material but now the products of recycling and stockpiles built up in times of reduced demand.
World mine production has expanded significantly since about 2005.
All mineral commodity markets tend to be cyclical, i.e. prices rise and fall substantially over the years, but with these fluctuations superimposed on long-term trend decline in real prices, as technological progress reduces production cost at mines. In the uranium market, however, high prices in the late 1970s gave way to depressed prices in the whole of the period of the 1980s and 1990s, with spot prices below the cost of production for all but the lowest cost mines. Spot prices recovered from 2003 to 2009, but have been weak since then.
The quoted spot prices through to about 2007 applied only to day-to-day marginal trading and represented a small portion of supply, though since 2008 the proportion has approximately doubled, to about one-quarter in the last decade. Most trade is via 3-15 year term contracts with producers selling directly to utilities at a significantly higher price than the spot market, reflecting the security of supply.* The specified price in these contracts is, however, often related to the spot price at the time of delivery. However, as production has risen much faster than demand, fewer long-term contracts are being written.
by Christina Lamb, March 21, 2019 in GWPF/SundayTimes
Exploited by Chinese firms, workers as young as nine risk their lives to feed the world’s growing hunger for cobalt.
by Michigan Technological University, February 22, 2019 in ScienceDaily
Until now, carbon dioxide has been dumped in oceans or buried underground. Industry has been reluctant to implement carbon dioxide scrubbers in facilities due to cost and footprint.
What if we could not only capture carbon dioxide, but convert it into something useful? S. Komar Kawatra and his students have tackled that challenge, and they’re having some success.
by Michigan Technological University, August 2, 2018 in ScienceDaily
Using 100-year-old minerals processing methods, chemical engineering students have found a solution to a looming 21st-century problem: how to economically recycle lithium ion batteries.
Pan, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University, earned his graduate degrees in mining engineering. It was his idea to adapt 20th century mining technology to recycle lithium ion batteries, from the small ones in cell phones to the multi-kilowatt models that power electric cars. Pan figured the same technologies used to separate metal from ore could be applied to spent batteries. So he gave his students a crash course in basic minerals processing methods and set them loose in the lab.
by University of the Basque Country, July 19, 2018 in ScienceDaily
A study conducted in mining areas in Asturias by the Animal Ecotoxicity and Biodiversity group led by Dr Pilar Rodriguez, through collaboration between the Department of Zoology and Animal Cellular Biology and that of Genetics, Physical Anthropology and Animal Physiology of the UPV/EHU’s Faculty of Science and Technology, and the Limnology Laboratory at the University of Vigo has enabled progress to be made in this field and has proposed the ecological threshold concentration for 7 metals (cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, nickel, lead and zinc) and two metalloids (arsenic and selenium). The study included a number of non-contaminated localities belonging to the reference network of the Nalón river basin as well as other highly contaminated ones. This is a basin with a long history of mining activities due to the high levels of metals naturally occurring in its rocks.
by Paul Driessen, February 26, 2018 in WUWT
America has had its share of oil-centered energy problems and disruptions. Now it faces potential renewable energy and high technology crises, because of its heavy reliance on imports of the rare earth and other strategic minerals that are the essential building blocks for wind turbines, solar panels, computers, smart phones, medical diagnostic devices, night vision goggles, GPS and communication systems, long-life batteries and countless other applications.