Blog Entry

Selected Background Readings for "Turning Down the Heat: Can We Mine Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis?"

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

We prepared this list of key readings as background for the conference "Turning Down the Heat: Can We Mine Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis?" It is not exhaustive nor comprehensive, but we hope it represents some of the key threads in this discussion.

1. Understanding the trends and predictions of metal demand for renewables

Climate-Smart Mining: Minerals for Climate Action, World Bank, 2019
This web page contains a detailed infographic that summarizes challenges posed by metal demand projections, and a range of policy and technological solutions.*

Demand, Supply, and Price Trends for Mineral Raw Materials Relevant to the Renewable Energy Transition Wind Energy, Solar Photovoltaic Energy, and Energy Storage, Buchholz, P. and T. Brandenburg, 2018.
This paper looks at how predictions for the growth of wind and solar photovoltaic power, and the need for energy storage in lithium batteries, impact predictions on supply and price for base and minor metals to be used for these industries.

Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060 – Economic drivers and environmental consequences, OECD, 2018
This study provides a variety of clear infographics and figures relating to material use, resource demand projections, and economic growth. It predicts that while material demand is projected to increase exponentially in the coming years and decades, with its associated environmental impacts, the material intensity of the economy could slowly decline after 2050, representing a relative decoupling of economic growth and resource use. Interestingly, Fig. 8 (pg.13) shows recycling outputs in 2060 to outpace primary metal extraction.*

“Green Conflict Minerals, The fuels of conflict in the transition to a low-carbon economy”, Clare Church and Alec Crawford, IISD, 2018
This report examines the minerals and metals required to make a shift to a low-carbon economy, and discusses how the transition to a low-carbon economy could have an impact on producing countries. The report notes that violence and conflict could be exacerbated with the increased demand of these minerals. they conclude with suggestions for improving supply-chain transparency and accountability.

Renewable Energy and Deep-Sea Mining : Supply, Demand, and Scenarios. Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, 2017
This report examines the intersection of future demand for metals and available supply in the context of a renewable energy future. Metals that might be subject to future deep-sea-mining operations have been considered in this analysis to understand the likely increase in demand and possible implications for deep-sea mining. These insights can also inform consideration of the ways to reduce the demand by increasing the intensity of use and recycling.

2. How to reduce or eliminate demand

A Vision for a Sustainable Battery Value Chain in 2030 Unlocking the Full Potential to Power Sustainable Development and Climate Change Mitigation, World Economic Forum, 2019
This report incorporates concepts from circular economy, clean growth, and resource nexus thinking, and provides an interesting perspective on metal demand reduction, through exploring a specific technology.*

Metals in the Circular Economy, EURACTIV, 2018
This EURACTIV special issue includes several short journalistic pieces which examine the big issues related to the circular economy of metals, especially those important to the energy transition. It includes analyses of copper, lithium and cobalt, as well as a discussion about recycling and the mining of waste dumps.

Metal Recycling: Opportunities, Limits, Infrastructure, UNEP, 2013
This report analyses the current state and opportunities for metal recycling. It demonstrates that sustainable metals management requires not only improving the efficiency of current metal recycling methods, but that it also requires moving away from a material-centric approach to a product-centric approach, taking a more holisitc look at energy and recycling chains. Includes several graphics which give important insight on the overall state of recycling of 60 metals.

3. Responsible sourcing

“Human Rights in Wind Turbine Supply Chains”, ActionAid, SOMO, 2018
This report, commissioned by ActionAid Netherlands and written by SOMO, looks at the potential risks involved in the increasing demand of metals like iron ore and chromium for the production of wind turbines. It highlights efforts to engage in conversations with companies to engage in due-diligence to prevent and mitigate risks in their supply chains.

Responsible minerals sourcing for renewable energy, Earthworks, 2019
This report presents the findings of an assessment of the projected mineral demand for fourteen metals used in renewable energy and storage technologies, the potential to reduce demand through efficiency and recycling, and the associated supply risks and impacts. Solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power have been chosen for this assessment because these two technologies make up the majority of new global renewable electricity installations. Batteries have been assessed because of their importance for use in electric vehicles (EVs) and energy storage systems. This research aims to identify the main ‘hotspots’ or areas of concern in the supply chain, including technologies, metals and locations, where opportunities to reduce demand and influence responsible sourcing initiatives will be most needed.

See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Resource Matters, 2019
This report details how major companies sourcing cobalt from DRC are not doing enough to mitigate potential corruption risks in their supply chains. This is inconsistent with their public support for OECD due diligence guidance on responsible mineral supply chains. This requires companies buying from high-risk zones like Congo to show they have taken steps to ensure their suppliers are not engaging in potentially corrupt activities.

Transition Minerals Tracker, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre
This online tracker seeks to improve the human rights practices of companies that produce the minerals vital to the renewable energy and electric vehicles sectors by shedding light on the key human rights risks in the geographies where they operate and the human rights policies and practices of the most important companies in this sub-sector.

4. Minimum conditions for responsible mining

In Deep Water: The Emerging Threat Of Deep Sea Mining, takes a look at a new direction in ocean exploitation, Greenpeace International, 2019
The oceans are facing more threats now than at any time in history. Yet a nascent industry is ramping up to exert yet more pressure on marine life: deep sea mining. A handful of governments and companies have been granted licences to explore for deep sea mining in ecologically sensitive waters, and the industry is positioning its development as inevitable, but deep sea mining isn’t happening anywhere in the global oceans – yet. Opening up a new industrial frontier in the largest ecosystem on Earth and undermining an important carbon sink carries significant environmental risks, especially in light of the biodiversity and climate crises facing the natural world and specifically our ocean. Rather, we need a strong Global Ocean Treaty that puts conservation, and not exploitation, at the heart of how governments approach the ocean.

State of Sustainability Initiatives Review, International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2018
In the last decade, the international community has increasingly recognized the central role of sustainable consumption and production in the implementation of sustainable development. As a result, the mining sector, like other primary commodity sectors, has seen a wide variety of multistakeholder, market-based supply chain initiatives arise. These are called voluntary sustainability initiatives (VSIs), and they aim to promote sustainable production practices, often at the global level. The rapid growth in the number of VSIs has been a cause for concern for some civil society and public-sector players, as well as for the private sector, as keeping track of the sheer volume and diversity of initiatives is challenging and costly. Because this monitoring is difficult, the value of VSIs to society and the marketplace may suffer as a result. This report dives headfirst into this complex and quickly moving space to provide readers with synthesis and analysis across a number of areas.

5. Views and challenges from the ground

“Impacto Socioambiental de la Extracción de Litio en las Cuencas de los Salares Altoandinos del Cono Sur", Barbara Jerez Henriquez, OCMAL, 2018
This report analyzes the socio-environmental impacts of lithium extraction in the Highland Salt Flat basins of the Southern Cone region in Latin America. First, it explores lithium, its uses, prices, the market and overall production. Second, it looks at the socio-environmental impacts that extraction is having in three different Salt Flat regions, “San Pedro de Atacama” (Chile); the Olaroz Salt Flat (Argentina); and the Salinas Grandes Salt Flat. The report highlights division and fractions, cultural loss, changes to water access and uses, and changes to pastoral and agricultural livelihoods, as some of the many socio-environmental impacts that lithium production has produced for Indigenous and rural communities living in the surrounding areas.

Kachi Yupi, Free, Prior and Informed Consent Protocol, 33 communities of Salinas Grandes and Laguna de Guayatoc in Northern Argentina, 2015
Kachi Yupi, the footprints of salt, is a document which emerges from a self-determination exercise based on the right to free, prior and informed consent for the indigenous communities of the Salinas Grandes Basin and Guayatayoc Lagoon, within the framework of Buen Vivir and in response to the threat posed by lithium extraction. The document offers context of the pre-colonial history and the colonial, post-independence and contemporary struggles of these communities, as well as that of their territories. It offers a comprehensive list and discussion of the legal and rights-based frameworks which apply to indigenous communities in Argentina, as well as environmental, mining and water regulations more broadly, and other rights conferred by provincial law in Salta and Jujuy provinces. It ends by documenting the process and life cycle of the salt flat and salt harvesting - in parallel with the way in which these communities carried out their consultation process.

Lithium extraction in Argentina: a case study on the social and environmental impacts, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales/FARN, 2019
This study seeks to contribute to an increased understanding of the potential and actual impacts of lithium extraction on local communities, providing insights from local perspectives to be considered in the wider discussion of sustainability, green technology and climate change. The guiding questions of the investigation have centred on the different social and environmental dimensions and human rights impacts that communities are experiencing as a result of lithium extraction. It has focused on two of the most recent and advanced lithium projects in the Argentine Puna – Sales de Jujuy and Minera Exar projects – which are both located in the Olaroz-Caucharí salt flat in Jujuy Province.

NGO letter to the World Bank re Mining & Renewables, Earthworks in collaboration with over 50 NGOs including the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, 2019
(60+ signatories, 2019) In May 2019, as the World Bank launched its “Climate-Smart Mining” Facility, 60 civil society groups wrote to the World Bank outlining a vision for climate change solutions that do not cause harm to communities, workers and the environment through extraction of minerals like copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt. The groups asked the World Bank to boost minerals recycling and efficiency, minimize toxicity, ensure responsible and traceable sourcing where mining is absolutely necessary, and to promote long-term shifts in consumption and transportation that will reduce overall demand for minerals.*

Why the Rush: Seabed Mining in the Pacific Ocean, Deep Sea Mining Campaign, et al., 2019
This report, from the Deep Sea Mining campaign in collaboration with MiningWatch Canada and London Mining Network, looks at companies that are driving a speculative rush for seabed minerals in an unholy alliance with the very UN body charged with regulating them, the International Seabed Authority (ISA). The report exposes blatant corporate capture of the United Nations-mandated International Seabed Authority (ISA) and the manipulation of Pacific regional decision-making processes by deep sea mining companies and their backers. It calls for a moratorium on the development of deep sea mining (DSM) regulations and on the issuing of exploration and exploitation licences in international and national waters.

6. How to save the climate without wrecking the planet? Ways forward

A Just Transition is a Post-Extractive Transition, War on Want/London Mining Network, 2019.
While the global majority disproportionately suffer the impacts of the climate crisis and the extractivist model, the Global North’s legacy of colonialism, the excess of the world’s wealthiest, and the power of large corporations are responsible for these interrelated crises. The climate change mitigation commitments thus far made by countries in the Global North are wholly insufficient; not only in terms of emissions reductions, but in their failure to address the root causes of the crisis – systemic and intersecting inequalities and injustices. This failure to take inequality and injustice seriously can be seen in even the most ambitious models of climate mitigation. This report sets out to explore the social and ecological implications of those models with a focus on metal mining.

* Summaries taken from “Metal Extraction in a Low Carbon Economy: Projected Trends in Metal Demand and Policy Options for Demand Reduction”, a report prepared by Andrew Linton, Smart Prosperity Initiative, for MiningWatch Canada.

Metal Extraction in a Low Carbon Economy: Projected Trends in Metal Demand and Policy Options for Demand Reduction