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A world without mining: a necessary goal we must dare to imagine

(Translation: Iolanda Mato.)

In recent years, news keeps popping up on the decarbonization of the economy but always leaving out any questioning of the model of constant growth that currently directs the destiny of our societies. Some go even further and use the dogma of technological solutions as a basis for talking about a decoupling of economy and natural resources, postulating, contrary to any natural principle, that we will be able to grow indefinitely in terms of goods and services we offer and consume without any significant impact on the ecosystems we inhabit.

However, the reality of the situation clearly contradicts these proposals. We are all aware that the transition to renewable energies and the gradual electrification of various sectors comes together with an intensive use of raw materials, in particular certain metals that are indispensable for such technologies. We also know (or should) that in parallel with this expected increase in demand for raw materials, new mining projects are being launched, including some that could have very serious environmental consequences, such as deep sea mining, others that are now hiding old destructive practices behind the oxymoron of sustainable mining and even extravagant ideas such as asteroid or lunar mining.

Recent studies[1] show that mining activities aimed specifically at renewable energy production will exacerbate threats to biodiversity across the globe. It is estimated that up to 50 million km2 of the earth’s surface could be affected by these extractive activities, including protected areas and some of the few remaining wilderness areas on the globe. The immediate consequences are already known: soil degradation due to acid mine drainage, deforestation, water stress and pollution…

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