New breakthrough science and cost reductions from the world of cleantech hold promise for making mining—one of the dirtiest, most inefficient industries in the world—more profitable, safer and cleaner. But which cleantech innovations aimed at reducing toxicity in mining, as well as the need for power and water, are best positioned to succeed? Which companies will win and which will lose? How can existing players manage risk in
Few industries have got the black eye, literally and metaphorically, of mining.
After centuries of environmental effects ranging from toxic emissions to unsightly tailings ponds, acid mine drainage, massive energy consumption and other impacts, mining is slowly cleaning up its act.
The first part of this blog on South Africa looked at the country’s changing attitude to energy and the move to diversify its portfolio of energy generation technologies. Part 2 looks at the South African economy and the government’s drive to expand and diversify.
On the one hand, limiting the supply of these metals, which are used in the manufacture of many clean technologies, clearly isn’t great for the growth of the low carbon economy.
Swiss-based VC firm Mountain Cleantech says it’s a
China’s top environmental official has pledged to curb heavy metal pollutants in the wake of numerous major poisoning incidents, including cases of lead poisoning in children, that have sparked public protest in recent years.
In a speech, Minister of Environmental Protection Zhou Shengxian described a
As many countries in the world race to achieve a variety of renewable energy goals time has to be set aside to determine just how those goals will be achieved. With a rivalry that feels almost like a remnant from the Cold War reignited, China and the United States both seemed to be going at it to prove that they can be the renewable energy leaders of the world. China,
The Chinese government has applied for the rights to conduct deep-sea mining for valuable metals in the international waters of the southwestern Indian Ocean. Using remotely operated underwater vehicles, China identified a reserve of sulphide deposits near a pocket of hydrothermal vents, located more than 5,000 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. They hope to mine valuable metals — including copper, nickel, and cobalt, which are used in the production of high-tech products such as cellphones, laptop computers and batteries.
Failure to advance metal recycling, especially of rare metals used in high-tech products, could produce a global shortage of many metals within two decades, according to a series of reports by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
With few exceptions, recycling rates have been modest or low, and in some cases non-existent, the report says.
At a news conference, Thomas Graedel, a member of UNEP’s International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management and a Yale University professor, cited the example of indium, a metal used to create transparent electrodes used in liquid crystal displays, touch screens, semiconductors, and photovoltaic cells.
Our high-tech products increasingly make use of rare metals, and mining those resources can have devastating environmental consequences. But if we block projects like the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, are we simply forcing mining activity to other parts of the world where protections may be far weaker?
Every time someone pushes the on-button on an electronic device, there is an expectation that the unit will power up quickly and display images in vibrant color. There is the further expectation, especially when using electronic devices for communications such as email access, web downloading, and texting that the response time will be immediate. We live in an age of technological arms races in which manufacturers gain market edge by creating products that are faster, have more applications, have a broader network reach, and generally do more.
The processing capacity of digital electronic devices doubles about every two years (Moore’s Law), and this capacity increase is enabled by an expanded use of elements. For example, computer chips made use of 11 major elements in the 1980s but now use about 60 (two-thirds of the periodic table!). And the electronics sector isn’t alone. Engine turbine blades for aircraft are made of alloys of a dozen or so metals; motors and batteries of green-technology hybrid vehicles depend on several of the rare earths; advances in medical imaging have come about by the unique band gaps of elements such as gadolinium. It seems that there are no limits to what the imagination can create except for the fact that many of the metals are globally rare and, given the nature of current technology, non-substitutable.
“No doubts remain. Climate change is real and the build-up of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is increasingly at an alarming rate.” With these words, Rafael Quiroga, General Manager of Accion RSE, initiated the seminar “Corporate Strategic Management of Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions.” This is not another “green business” seminar from a European or North American city, it took place here — in Santiago, Chile.
The event brought together speakers from the Chilean private sector that gave concrete examples of their companies’ climate change and GHG management initiatives. First, it showed how Essbio, a water purification company, has been dealing with the ever-prescient and escalating challenges of decreasing water reserves due to climate change. Second, it illustrated the emissions and energy reductions Xstrata Copper, a mining company, has committed to and the steps it has taken to minimize the release of contaminants in its industrial processes. Third, it explained what Natura cosmetics has done since 2007 to become a “carbon neutral” business by calculating all GHG emissions in the company’s supply chain, transportation, and production of its various cosmetics products, and purchasing the equivalent amount of CO2 tonnage in carbon credits on the international carbon markets.