Mining for renewable energy materials could threaten biodiversity, researchers have found.
Scientists at the University of Queensland, Brisbane found a high degree of overlap between areas used for mining essential minerals like lithium, which is used for car batteries, and areas with high levels of biodiversity as yet untouched by industry.
Conservationists are “often naive to the threats posed by significant growth in renewable energies”, the researchers said in the study published in the journal Nature Communications, pointing out that 14 percent of protected areas contain metal mines or have them nearby.
Overall, the researchers found that eight percent of mining areas were within the range of areas designated as protected by national governments, and seven percent were within the same range of key biodiversity areas.
Using this metric, 50 million square kilometers of the earth’s land surface is influenced by mining, with 82 percent of mining areas focused on elements needed for renewable energy production.
Elements including lithium, cobalt, and nickel are essential for rechargeable batteries, which are used for power storage in wind and solar projects, as well as in electric cars.
New mines are planned to target these substances, adding to the global surface area covered by mining activities.
“Increasing the extent and density of mining areas will obviously cause additional threats to biodiversity, and our analysis reveals that a greater proportion of mines targeting materials for renewable energy production may further exacerbate threats to biodiversity in some areas,” the scientists wrote.
Read rest at The Telegraph
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