Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 30 September 2020

Mining for renewable energy industry threatens biodiversity

Attempts to tackle climate change could be harmful for the environment, researchers warn

Mining for vital metals for the renewable energy industry could cause more damage to wildlife than climate change, a new study has warned.

Researchers said that more mines were needed to extract the raw materials necessary to build a larger renewable energy network that currently meets less than a fifth of the world’s energy needs, according to a paper in Nature Communications.

It said 82 per cent of mining areas were targeting materials critical for renewable energy production like lithium and copper.

Mines targeting materials for renewable industries were also closer together than traditional fossil fuel sites, it said. It warned that the loss of habitats currently posed a far greater threat to species than climate change.

“Global conservation efforts are often naive to the threats posed by significant growth in renewable energies,” said the paper published on Monday.

It highlighted the threat to the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia that is the second largest lithium reserve in the world but has so far been untouched by mining.

Attempts to tap the rich resources without measures in place to protect the environment would pose “serious threats to species and ecosystems,” according to the paper, Renewable energy production will exacerbate mining threats to biodiversity.

The study found that eight per cent of mining areas were in nationally-designated protected areas and 16 per cent in wilderness areas.

The researchers from Australia, Canada and the US said that strategies were needed to ensure that “mining the materials needed for renewable energy production does not simply replace the climate change-related threats mitigated by reducing fossil fuel use”.

Updated: September 1, 2020 07:41 PM

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