Raw Material Mining To Soar 60% By 2060: Report

by | Feb 19, 2024 | Environmental News, Research Updates

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A forthcoming report from the United Nations’ International Resource Panel paints a stark picture of the future of raw material consumption. The Global Resources Outlook report, expected to be published later this month, forecasts Raw material mining to soar 60% by 2060, building on a trend that has seen consumption quadruple since 1970.

This surge in material use, highlighted by the Raw material mining to soar 60% by 2060, is primarily driven by the expanding technosphere, now outweighing the biosphere—the total mass of all living organisms on Earth. The construction and maintenance of human-made structures and devices, from infrastructure to personal gadgets, have become a significant force behind global heating, ocean acidification, and the extinction of flora and fauna.

The report highlights the environmental toll of extracting the concrete, metal, and other materials foundational to modern civilization. Mining operations, essential for this extraction, consume vast energy resources and often lead to the appropriation of large land areas, disrupting local ecosystems and communities. The decline in ore quality and the move towards more remote mining locations only exacerbate these challenges; necessitating increased energy for extraction and further environmental degradation.

Particular attention is given to “critical” and “strategic” raw materials—those essential for high-tech industries and military applications and whose supply is at risk due to scarcity or geopolitical factors. The geopolitical race to secure these materials is intensifying, with major powers seeking to ensure access within allied countries. These materials are also crucial for the transition to green energy, with technologies like wind turbines and electric vehicles requiring significantly more mineral inputs than their fossil fuel-based counterparts.

Raw Material Mining To Soar 60% By 2060: Report

However, the report suggests that the green economy’s overall material demands may not exceed those of the current fossil fuel-dependent system. Yet, the specific demands for minerals like copper and lithium fuel a mining boom that raises serious environmental concerns.

The concept of “urban mining”—recovering minerals from waste products and the urban environment—is presented as a potential mitigating strategy to reduce the environmental impact of traditional mining. This includes enhanced recycling efforts and materials recovery from construction waste, sewage, and other urban residues. Despite its potential, the current economic system favors traditional extractive mining due to its cost-effectiveness and simplicity compared to the more complex and labor-intensive nature of urban mining.

The report also touches on the circular economy and the concept of degrowth as responses to the unsustainable trajectory of material consumption. Degrowth advocates argue for a radical reduction in material and energy use, focusing on sustainability and equity rather than continuous economic expansion. This approach could reprioritize critical material use towards essential and sustainable sectors, reducing the demand in luxury and wasteful industries.

As the UN report lays bare the environmental ramifications of our growing material footprint, it calls into question the viability of current economic and industrial practices. The challenge ahead is to balance human development with the planet’s ecological limits, requiring a fundamental rethinking of how we produce, consume, and manage the world’s resources.

Also Read: Caribbean Oil Spill Affects Tobago’s Tourism And Fishing

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