Industry invited to address risks of mining emerging hotspots

The mining industry has been urged to address the risks associated with mining resources that are essential to a low carbon future.

The University of Queensland (UQ) research fellow Eléonore Lèbre and researchers from UQ’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) looked at over 6800 mining projects of 20 different metals around the world to identify the mining ‘hotspots’.

Lèbre said 84 per cent of platinum and 70 per cent of cobalt resources would be located in high-risk contexts, where mining could negatively impact surrounding communities.

Some of these risks include competition over water and land, and are particularly relevant to Australia, the United States and China.

“By applying seven categories of risk – three environmental, three social and one governance indicator – we were able to map where these mining hotspots would exist and the metals involved,” Lèbre said.

“All the metals we analysed are necessary for the transition to a low-carbon future.

“… Major metals like iron and copper are rarely talked about in the energy transition discussion, but they will be needed in large quantities, and are set to disturb big chunks of land as production volumes increase.”

Lèbre said affected countries would require good governance to ensure energy transition happened without creating unacceptable social and environmental impacts.

The mining industry would also need to address the above risks to ensure a continuity of future supply, according to leader of SMI’s Complex Orebodies program, Rick Valenta.

“The rise of renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles will mean that metals, such as lithium, cobalt, copper and nickel will become increasingly important for society,” he said.

“In order to access the increasingly high-risk orebodies necessary to meet this demand, the mining industry needs to prove its environmental and social responsibility to an increasingly conscious public.”

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