We are heading towards a future of massively increased mining if we cannot change direction

The plan to “electrify everything” that is rapidly taking over all economic and policy planning around the world means that mining for metals and minerals will increase dramatically to supply demand for technologies like EVs and so much more.

Metals Demand

Take a look at this image from the International Energy Agency (IEA) report “The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions“, and you can see how the demand for various metals and minerals will skyrocket in the coming decades. The IEA writes in this report that “Clean energy transitions will have far-reaching consequences for metals and mining.”

And, as we’ve posted here before, they write: “…mineral demand for use in EVs and battery storage is a major force, growing at least thirty times to 2040. Lithium sees the fastest growth, with demand growing by over 40 times in the SDS by 2040, followed by graphite, cobalt and nickel (around 20-25 times).” (SDS refers to a Sustainable Development Scenario tool the IEA uses to project demand for energy to meet the various scenarios laid out under the Paris Climate Agreement goals.)

In a separate report, “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector“, the IEA writes: “The energy transition requires substantial quantities of critical minerals, and their supply emerges as a significant growth area. The total market size of critical minerals like copper, cobalt, manganese and various rare earth metals grows almost sevenfold between 2020 and 2030 in the net zero pathway. Revenues from those minerals are larger than revenues from coal well before 2030. This creates substantial new opportunities for mining companies.”

They write “substantial new opportunities for mining companies” as if it’s a good thing. As if all of this mining isn’t destroying life on planet Earth. How policy makers and the corporations with they work with can go forward with these plans without seeing the devastation that they will cause is just incomprehensible.

Metals mining alone causes > 50% of all environmental pollution annually in the US. This % is likely to increase dramatically with the prospects of the fast growing mining sector thanks to Biden’s executive order to ensure domestic supplies of metals and minerals.

Mining is the most destructive human activity on Earth. Those who promote “net zero”, “clean energy”, and “clean technology” like EVs want MORE of this destructive activity at a time when we know that we are in a sixth mass extinction, that habitat loss and over development are causing far more species and biodiversity loss than any other factor, and that without healthy, clean, intact ecosystems on Earth we doom ourselves along with countless other species on Earth to certain extinction.

Some have said that the Thacker Pass Lithium mine is a “benign” mining project, especially in comparison to other kinds of mining, like copper mining. But as you can see from the image above from the IEA report, EVs require large amounts of copper, which will lead to an increase in copper mining. Lithium is just one of many metals and minerals required by “clean technology” such as EVs, so you can’t separate a supposedly “benign” lithium mine from all those other kinds of mines: they go hand-in-hand, because if you want to build EVs you need all of these materials too, not just lithium.

(Note that we do not see the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine project as any more “benign” than any other kind of mine — digging a massive pit in the ground and piling toxic waste rock and tailings on the land destroys the land no matter what kind of mine it is.)

Reducing energy demand is mentioned only once, as a passing thought, in the 224 page Net Zero report and only once in the 287 page Role of Critical Minerals report.

Art by Kim Gillis: The blood of the Earth and all who have been sacrificed to mining, car culture, and industrialization. Thank you Kim!


Habitat Destruction for Lithium is Climate and Extinction Crisis Denialism

By Justin McAffee for the Sierra Nevada Ally, July 9, 2021

What if I told you that Glenn Miller’s opinion piece about the Thacker Pass lithium project was a form of climate change denialism? He argues that lithium is necessary to convert our automobile transportation economy from fossil fuels to electric and we should move forward with the construction of the largest open-pit lithium mine in the nation’s history, indigenous people’s concerns aside, because America needs more cars. He claims this will limit global warming.

This perspective flat out denies the reality that the loss of biodiversity poses as great a risk to humanity as climate change. In fact, the loss of biodiversity contributes directly to the climate crisis. Instead of promoting the protection of biodiversity, Glenn Miller proposes we do the opposite, and destroy a large area of Nevada wilderness.

Let’s be clear: what will limit global warming is eliminating carbon pollution. He fails to mention that electric cars would draw their power from the electric grid, which is currently fueled by 70-80% fossil fuels. Maybe that will improve, but at what cost? If we listen to Glenn Miller, we must destroy vast areas of habitat, including some 9 million acres of public land in Nevada that is being opened to solar development, and many millions more in the American West. We must also engage in an explosion of mining for lithium, copper, cobalt and other rare-earth minerals. One begins to wonder whether this is a solution or a cause of climate change.

According to a study published in Science, one of the top peer-reviewed science publications in the world: “Current rates of extinction are about 1000 times the likely background rate of extinction. Future rates depend on many factors and are poised to increase. Although there has been rapid progress in developing protected areas, such efforts are not ecologically representative, nor do they optimally protect biodiversity.”

Read the rest at the Sierra Nevada Ally

The Thacker Pass Lithium Mine will Worsen the Crises we Face

In his recent opinion piece, “Thacker Pass Lithium Mine is Important for Limiting Global Warming,” Glenn Miller makes the same fundamental error so many others do these days: believing that climate change is the main crisis, rather than a symptom of the real crisis we face, which is industrial civilization and its impacts on the living world.

It’s not surprising he makes this error. The industrialists have done a lot of work in the past few years to make sure we all believe that climate change is the existential crisis we face. Once industrialists, including, yes, even fossil fuel companies, saw the writing on the wall with the increasingly dire IPCC reports coming out year after year, and the public’s escalating panic about the implications of continued fossil fuel mining and burning, they quickly jumped on the technotopia bandwagon. You know, the one that says if we can invent enough new technologies to help us deal with the problems caused by the old technologies, everything will be just fine. And of course, the corporations will be ready to sell us all these new technologies at a large profit (as well as even newer technologies to solve the problems created by the new technologies, and so on ad infinitum).

The previous decade has been one long PR campaign by the World Economic Forum, the UN, economists, governments, and of course, corporations, for technology solutions to this climate change crisis. We can replace the entire grid with wind, solar, and battery storage technologies! (Never mind that this will require 2.4 billion tons of steel, 1.9 million tons of copper, 2.6 billion tons of concrete, 133 million tons of composite fiber, 2.6 billion gallons of lubricating oil, and so much more). We can suck CO2 from the air and bury it underground with carbon capture technologies! (Never mind that this experimental technology has not been proven at scale, and besides which, where are you going to store billions of tons of CO2 underground, and who’s going to pay for it?).

READ THE REST at the Sierra Nevada Ally.

The Wildflowers vs. The Bulldozers

Two hundred years ago, the place where I sit writing these words was the site of a massacre.

According to Harley Jackson, an elder from the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, the story goes like this.

A group of Northern Paiute / Western Shoshone / Bannock people, or Nuwu, as they call themselves in the Paiute language, were traveling and hunting through the center of their traditional territory, and camped in the broad saddle now known as Thacker Pass, which Harley calls “our main pathway.”

Drawn by the herds of antelope, deer, and elk, the strongest hunters traveled east, over the Santa Rosa Mountains and into Paradise Valley.

Most of the group remained behind. I can imagine them camped here, perhaps gathering roots and bulbs, trapping rabbits and tanning deer hides, fishing for trout in the creeks, harvesting wild bamboo for arrow shafts and willow for cradleboards and shelters, and knapping obsidian into knives, arrowheads, and other tools while telling stories around the fire.

With the hunters away, danger approached. A raiding party from another tribe – the Pit River Tribe from what is now northeastern California — came upon the family group left behind at Thacker Pass. They swept down quickly, killing those who resisted and seizing the rest as captives to take back to their territory.

When the Nuwu hunters returned from Paradise Valley, they found disaster. A full moon shone above Thacker Pass, and the rotting entrails of their relatives were spread out across the sagebrush.

This is why, in Paiute, Thacker Pass is called Peehee mu-huh, or “rotten moon.”

READ THE REST at The Sierra Nevada Ally

At Thacker Pass

At Thacker Pass, by Rob Lewis

Tilting sea of sagebrush, ancient fragrance rising.
Circular distances
weaving baskets of stone, time, silence. The windmind
where you wandered before your name before the dials and settings of Progress closed and ordered your gates. * Dusty shoes outside the tent which shifts in dying wind. Sitting in the doorway far ridge at dusk looking back at you and then you are there and all points between spread open flying the widening moment freed of words. * Distant headlights, crawling somewhere. A mile off? Seven? A wagon train?
An electric car?
A boat lost at sea sinking in its track. * The road once was trail for Paiutes on horseback,
the land side to side
planted with prayers. Now it is on a schedule, caught in economic crosshairs (exposed, sky whispering calling water
for Her birds.) Counting 5…
1…. Blow it up for lithium. * In a room in a building in a mind
in a belief
in an economic plan everything is stuck. There, The Branching ends.