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We Are Not Mining with Renewable Energy

We Are Not Mining with Renewable Energy

…and when we do, shit is going to get real

The way we like to think of “renewables”. No smoke, just green fields and a clear blue sky… Photo by Serge Le Strat on Unsplash

There are no “renewables” without mining, an unsustainable practice turbocharged by burning fossil fuels. Yet, advocates of green technologies still believe that we could somehow electrify the recovery of critical minerals, and continue with civilization in a “business as usual but greener” manner. In reality, this could not be further from the truth.


Before we delve into the topic of using renewables to continue extracting metals from Earth’s crust, let’s tackle the environmental aspects of this activity. And while at it, let me also draw your attention to the deep and intimate relationship mining has with burning fossil fuels. What a fascinating — but also disastrous — symbiosis of technologies…

Perhaps it’s no exaggeration to say that the term “building a mine” is actually an euphemism for environmental destruction on a truly industrial scale. First of all, opening a site for mineral extraction inevitably comes with destroying a green blanket of a living habitat. It takes large harvesting machines cutting down all those trees and shrubs — all powered by burning diesel fuel, as there are no power plugs nearby to do all this with electrified chainsaws. Then a bunch of diesel guzzling excavators and bulldozers are brought on site to build roads leading to the would be mining site. Next, a fleet of trucks arrive to haul all those logs away — again, by burning diesel — as the distance and load is usually far-far beyond what an electric semi could cover.

Plumes of diesel smoke everywhere. Photo by Dominik Vanyi on Unsplash

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Off-Road vehicles & equipment need diesel fuel

Off-Road vehicles & equipment need diesel fuel

Preface. Move over semi-trucks. You are not the most important truck in the world, even though I gave you the starring role in “When Trucks Stop Running”.  What really matters are the trucks that grow our fuel: Food.

And mining trucks to get materials to make trucks, logging for fuel and infrastructure, tanks to fight wars (ugh!) and many others.

This post is mainly about off-road trucks, which are as essential for civilization as the trucks hauling goods over roads.  This post is also about how amazing diesel and diesel engines are.  Off-road trucks and equipment present an even larger challenge than on-road trucks to electrification because they are often far from the grid.  Though anything other than a drop-in fuel faces the same problem: a completely new distribution system would be required for hydrogen and other alternatives.

Retrofitting off-road trucks with some other kind of propulsion than diesel is also hard since each kind of truck or equipment is custom made for a specific purpose, they aren’t mass-produced like cars. This makes it hard to transfer technology because it costs a great deal more to custom-build and modify.

Whatever energy source is used to move 40 ton trucks uphill has to be quite powerful, and with diesel second only to uranium in energy density, the alternative may only exist in another universe with different physical laws.

***

DTF. June 2003. Diesel-Powered Machines and Equipment: Essential Uses, Economic Importance and Environmental Performance. Diesel Technology Forum.

Excerpts:

The diesel engine is the backbone of the global economy because it is the most efficient internal combustion engine – producing more power and using less fuel than other engines.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Opposition to mining will prevent a green transition to renewables

Opposition to mining will prevent a green transition to renewables

Source: Bare (2012) Environmentalists win review of two more plants near Rosemont copper mine. Arizona Capitol times.

I could overwhelm you with world-wide trillions of tons of mining waste and how China has rendered 20% of its farmland too toxic to grow crops (BBC 2014), but let’s just zoom in on one mine in Arizona. In 2022, 13 years after the Rosemont Copper Mine near Tuscon, AZ was proposed in 2009, was finally shut down after strong opposition.

Yet clearly mines need to be built to make the transition to renewables ASAP.  If world peak oil was in 2018 (EIA 2022) time’s a wastin’.  Energy will get more expensive and scarcer as it declines. Mining will need increasing amounts of energy as ore quality continues to decline and remaining deposits further away and deeper, as well as the energy to crush ore, smelt metals out and fabricate them into parts. All of these steps require the high heat of fossil fuel energy, especially coal, for which there aren’t alternative electric or hydrogen processes and transportation.  The first generation will have to be made with fossil fuels, not the electricity from yet to be built solar, wind, and nuclear power plants.

Michaux (2022a, 2022b) has made some rough calculations of the electricity, hydrogen, and metals to make them in an energy transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050 with wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, and biowaste generation. It’s a work in progress, but the best estimate I’ve seen since he included not just the electric grid like most researchers (i.e. Jacobson 2011), but the electricity to replace the fossil energy used by transportation, manufacturing, and heating of buildings and homes.

Then he calculated the metals required to build these 586,000 average sized power stations in addition to the world’s 46,400 to generate the additional electricity and electrolysis of 200.1 million tonnes of hydrogen to power heavy duty transportation and manufacturing.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Norway Finds Rare Earth Metals That Could Make Europe Less Dependent On China

Norway Finds Rare Earth Metals That Could Make Europe Less Dependent On China

Norwegian scientists have made a discovery of rare earth metals in the country’s northern region. The findings have the potential to transform the country’s economy and secure its place as a major player in the global market for high-tech and green technology. Furthermore, the findings could make Europe less dependent on China for the critical metals.

Today, China is believed to account for more than 80 percent of many metals that are needed for green energy solutions, such as rare earth metals used in electric cars and wind turbines.

Infographic: China Dominates the Rare Earth Market | Statista

Karl Kristensen, a consultant for Bergfald Environmental Consultants, says that the green shift in economics will only multiply the world’s dependence on these materials. He warned that China has almost complete control of the market for rare earth metals in his lecture on the topic during the KÅKÅnomics economics festival in Stavanger, Norway, in October 2022.

The discovery in Norway was made during a routine survey of the region and was confirmed through extensive drilling and analysis.

The deposits are believed to be among the largest of their kind in the world, and the potential for further discoveries in the area is significant.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) was responsible for conducting the research that led to the find“The NPD has built up expertise over many years, in part through a number of expeditions. We’ve mapped relevant areas, collected data, and taken large volumes of mineral samples,” said Kjersti Dahle, director, technology, analysis and coexistence at the NPD.

NPD’s research shows that there is a large area of the Norwegian continental shelf with significant mineral resources, particularly in the deep sea, where several of these minerals are concentrated. The Norwegian government and NPD are now working together to create the necessary framework for a sustainable and responsible exploration and utilization of these minerals…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

The Struggle For What’s Essential

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. 

We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

 Arundhati Roy, April 2020

Just over two years ago when lockdowns were being declared like dominoes around the world, there was a brief moment when the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to hold the potential for much-needed reflection. Could it lead to a reversal away from the profit-driven ecological and socio-economic dead end we’ve been propelling toward?

Arundhati Roy’s call to critical reflection was published in early April 2020. At the time, she was observing the early evidence, on one hand, of the devastating toll of the pandemic as a result of extraordinary inequality, the privatized health care system, and the rule of big business in the U.S., which continued to play out along lines of class and race.

She was also writing with horror at how the Modi government in India was enacting an untenable lockdown on a population of over a billion people without notice or planning, in a context of overlapping economic and political crises…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Digging In: Why powering a green future means more mines

Digging In: Why powering a green future means more mines

“It’s absolutely ironic. But to save the planet, we are going to need more mines.”  Government geoscientist

Around Australia new mining operations are being established and old sites, shuttered decades ago, are being brought back to life.  These miners aren’t digging for coal or gold, they’re hunting for other lucrative commodities – known as critical minerals.

“Critical minerals (are) everything you use for electric vehicles, for transport, for manufacturing.  We’re really at the start of what could be a new mining boom.”  Minerals lobbyist

If you own a mobile phone, if you power your home with renewable energy or drive an electric vehicle, then these minerals are already playing a key part in your life.

And they will play a vital role in all our futures.

But there is a hidden cost?

“We have to decide as a country. How valuable is a place and is it worth risking for mining?”  Research scientist

On Monday Four Corners investigates the new critical minerals mining boom and finds Australia is in the box seat to exploit a surge in worldwide demand.

“Australia is still the luckiest country. Last century we were the luckiest because we had all the coal and a huge amount of natural gas… what we know the future needs is things that Australia also has in spades.”  US energy policy adviser

From lithium mines in WA and the NT, to cobalt operations in NSW and tin mining in Tasmania, these critical minerals are not just making major profits, they’re playing a part in the super power rivalry between America and China.

“China has always known the value of critical minerals.  We are moving into a period now of geopolitical competition, everybody is looking for leverage. The Chinese are quite explicit about that.”  China analyst

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Price of Green Energy

The Price of Green Energy

https://youtu.be/CqSqNIsC04g

The dark side of Tesla: gigafactories need gigamines

The dark side of Tesla: gigafactories need gigamines

The production of electric vehicles requires vast amounts of raw materials such as nickel: Around 32 kg of this metal are needed for the lithium batteries of a mid-range car. To secure access, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is encouraging global nickel mining and is considering investing in the mining industry in Indonesia and elsewhere.

“Any mining companies out there … wherever you are in the world, please mine more nickel,” was the urgent appeal to the mining industry by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, a US manufacturer of electric cars. “Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way,” he added.

Huge quantities of metals and other raw materials are needed to build Tesla’s electric vehicles. Tesla is in early talks with the government of Indonesia about a possible investment in the nickel industry, Reuters reports. The Southeast Asian country is one of the world’s largest nickel producers.

In the rainforests of the islands of Sulawesi and Wawonii, nickel is already being mined by Chinese companies, as well as Vale, a Brazilian mining company – with catastrophic consequences for the environment and the people who live there. Ecosystems of great biodiversity are being destroyed, rivers and coastal waters rich in marine life are being polluted, and people are being displaced and poisoned. Nickel mine operators have applied to the Indonesian government for permission to dump the tailings, which are corrosive and laden with heavy metals, in the sea.

Earlier this year, Indonesia stopped exporting unprocessed nickel – not for environmental reasons, but for purely economic considerations: to encourage investments in the nickel industry and the domestic production of lithium batteries.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

CPM GROUP Drops The Ball On Silver Mining Industry’s Falling Ore Grades

CPM GROUP Drops The Ball On Silver Mining Industry’s Falling Ore Grades

On this Happy New Year’s Eve, I decided to post a short YouTube video update on my response to CPM Group’s stance on the Primary Silver Mining Industry’s falling ore grades.  The CPM Group posted on Twitter that silver ore grades fall when prices rise.  While this is partially true, the CPM Group seems to ignore the ongoing “Resource Depletion” taking place in not only the silver mining industry but in all metals’ production.

Please share this video with other precious metals investors via the Youtube link or on Twitter.

Happy New Year!!

 

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…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Another extraordinary delusion: Mining helium from the Moon

Another extraordinary delusion: Mining helium from the Moon

Asia Times tells us that there is a “secret mining war” taking place in space over helium-3, a version of helium which is surprisingly abundant on the Moon. Helium-3 is an isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. The far more prevalent arrangement is helium-4, two protons and two neutrons.

(For those only vaguely familiar with the periodic table, helium is an element which therefore cannot be manufactured from other other elements and must be harvested from nature.*)

The fascination with helium-3 is as a fuel for fusion reactors. This fuel, it turns out, would produce absolutely no radioactive waste—unlike hydrogen-fueled fusion reactors which produce pesky neutrons that bombard components of the reactor and render them radioactive.

So, let’s get this straight. There is supposedly a “secret mining war” between China, the United States and possibly Russia over potential resources on the Moon, resources that might provide very clean fuel for fusion reactors of which there are zero of the commercial variety. And, the number of commercial fusion reactors is likely to stay at zero until at least mid-century. And, there is no assurance that the type of reactor that could use helium-3—which would require much higher temperatures than the hydrogen-fueled ones being contemplated now—will be commercially available any time soon after mid-century.

Some of the challenges of building such a helium-3 friendly reactor are detailed in this piece. Keep in mind that hydrogen is wildly abundant on the Earth in the form of water. Even the far scarcer isotope of hydrogen, deuterium—which is used in current fusion experiments—is much easier to obtain than helium-3 on the Moon and is commercially available today.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The greenwashing of gold mining

Bjornevatn mine, Norway. Photo: Svein Lund

New mining projects are being re-branded clean, green and vital to climate action across Europe. The reality is very different.

There has been a surge in the number of mining projects and a massive expansion of areas under mining concession in the island of Ireland, Fennoscandia and across Europe in recent years.

As much as 27 percent of the Republic of Ireland and 25 percent of Northern Ireland is under mining concession, with a single company, Dalradian Resources, holding concessions for 10 percent of the latter’s land area.

Read YLNM’s new island of Ireland and Fennoscandia research dispatches now.

Meanwhile, Nordic nations have issued mining exploration permits covering millions of hectares of land, including in Sapmí, the homeland of the Sámi Indigenous People.

Re-frame

Up to 11 percent of Finland’s land area is under different types of concessions – 2,122 km2 under active exploration and 25,361km2 under reservation, and more under exploration and reservation applications.

In Norway, 6,698 km2 is currently under exploration and in Sweden 10,290 km2. Metal production in Finland and Sweden has increased substantially over the last 10 years.

Two new research dispatches from the campaign organisation Yes to Life, No to Mining Network (YLNM) explore how these nations – and the mining industry – are pursuing expansion.

They are doing this by re-framing metal mining as a solution to climate change in order to facilitate domestic extraction of so-called ‘strategic’, ‘critical’ and ‘transition’ minerals required for renewable energy, transportation, military and digital technologies.

The most pressing question isn’t where new mining should happen. It is how we can immediately and dramatically reduce the need for new mines.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The World Will Run Out Of EV Batteries By 2025

The World Will Run Out Of EV Batteries By 2025

In many ways, the world is not ready for the EV revolution. While electric vehicles are an absolutely invaluable and essential component of the clean energy revolution and combating climate change and imperative which grows more urgent with each passing second, the world has been unable (or, in some cases, unwilling) to keep up with the necessary infrastructure installations and investments to prepare for the kind of wide-scale adoption which is both necessary and imminent.  For one thing, even in some of the most developed countries in the world, aging power grids are entirely unprepared to handle the onslaught of increased energy demand as more and more of the country leaves their gas guzzlers behind and plugin. This problem is far from insurmountable, and can indeed be all but completely solved by making our energy use and production more efficient, but it needs to be addressed in a big hurry in order to make the EV revolution viable.

And then there’s the issue of those pesky car batteries. While you can cut down your carbon footprint by a massive margin by switching over to an EV, you just can’t get away from using finite resources completely. EV batteries contain a litany of expensive and finite rare earth metals and minerals, most notably cobalt and lithium, which cause tricky negotiations with global supply chains and which are not without their negative environmental externalities thanks to sometimes messy mining operations.

The energy revolution’s dependence on rare earth metals, which is only set to intensify, has inadvertently put a huge amount of control into the hands of China, which controls around 90% of the market for some of these resources, and has shown that it is not afraid to use that power to sway international politics and diplomacy…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mining of Minerals and the Limits to Growth

Mining of Minerals and the Limits to Growth

The mining of minerals is linked to the 1972 Limits to Growth study. There are a number of technical problems the business model behind mining is struggling with now. Challenges for the proposed expansion in mining to construct a non-fossil fuel system (EV’s, batteries, wind turbines, solar panels, etc…). Here is the report: The Mining of Minerals and the Limits to Growth https://tupa.gtk.fi/raportti/arkisto/…

New bull chart for $30,000 copper price: porphyries nearly mined out

New bull chart for $30,000 copper price: porphyries nearly mined out

Bad moon rising over porphyry deposits. Radomiro Tomic, Chile. Image from Codelco.

Predictions for copper at double or triple today’s level is a fairly recent phenomenon – and bears still outnumber bulls as to what’s next for the bellwether metal.

Wall Street natural resource investment house Goehring & Rozencwajg Associates confirmed their place in the superbull camp this week, predicting a copper price north of $30,000:

“The previous copper bull market took place between 2001 and 2011 and saw prices rise seven-fold: from $0.60 to $4.62 per pound. The fundamentals today are even more bullish.

“We would not be surprised to see copper prices again advance a minimum of seven-fold before this bull market is over.  Using $1.95 as our starting point, we expect copper prices to potentially peak near $15 per pound by the latter part of this decade.”

The rosy demand side for copper has been well documented and Goehring & Rozencwajg focuses on supply, specifically depletion in their latest commentary.

Depletion, surprisingly, is not discussed that often in the industry and according to the authors is little understood, despite its fundamental importance for long-term supply trends.

Low and declining grades, uninspiring green and brownfield discoveries (with a few exceptions) and thin, slow project pipelines have become rules of thumb in the copper mining industry.

To those issues, the report adds copper miners’ habit of high-grading (mining your best quality ore first) and growing your reserves with a simple ploy – lowering cut-off grades when prices rise.

Even with prices well above $10,000 a tonne, these paper reserves cannot keep growing, according to  Goehring & Rozencwajg, specifically at porphyry deposits which produce 80% of the world’s copper.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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