Bloomberg Green: Dirty Mining Drives the Climate Revolution
This week cleaning up the mining industry from BHP to Anglo American and Glencore. Miners are making commitments to go green. But just how can they contribute to fixing climate change. The mining industry has to come up with huge amounts of these raw materials to feed the green transition. And if they can't do so in a clean way then they won't be able to do so. Turning a problem into a solution why we should mine waste rather than the earth in a circular economy.
We will run out of metals and materials that fight from technologies that we need. So quite simply we have stopped the manufacture and from volcanoes to asteroids. We look at the frontiers of science and investment to the next phase of the mining industry. Let's dig in to the metals when they're still in solution when they're
hot. We don't have to dig in open pits. We can do it with wells. And better still we recover geothermal energy to power the whole operation from Bloomberg's global headquarters in New York. I'm giving lines and this is Bloomberg Daybreak. Mining is in a unique position among the most polluting industries. While it alone is responsible for up to 7 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions as well as deforestation wildlife destruction and other polluting effects the metals that it produces will also be crucial in the green transition. Lithium and cobalt are critical elements in today's electric batteries and demand may only increase over the coming years. So in this episode of Bloomberg Green we take stock of how the
biggest mining companies are cleaning up their act. Then after a groundbreaking report from the UK's Royal Society of Chemistry we'll speak to one of the authors advocating for a circular economy and how the mining of E waste will be just as important as digging up new materials from the ground. Finally the moonshot that could change how we think about mining entirely. We speak to Professor Jonathan Blondie about mining directly from volcanoes and we find out just how far away we are from bringing back precious metals from space. But now back to our core question. CAC mining truly be part of the green transition. Ryan Husk it investigates. It's An Inconvenient Truth. The Green Revolution needs materials plastics concrete and especially metals are needed to build the turbines solar panels and electricity networks that will drive the planet's push to net zero. But where do those materials come from. At the moment they're largely dug from the earth by machines which activists say endangers both climate and communities. Mining wherever it happens has some kind of impact.
Mining and processing is associated with serious and significant environmental climate and social impacts. It's the industry that produces the largest amount of global waste. It's also the deadliest industry for those who oppose us. More environmental defenders are killed every year for opposing mining than any other industry. Mining is one of the most resource intensive industries around both in terms of water energy and human capital. Diggers released millions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere and runoff often pollutes local environments. But all the big miners say that cleaning up their operations and their minerals use in the green transition justifies the harms that they can't prevent. But it's not true. We're debunking this
whole greenwashing of the mining industry that we're seeing from governments and the mining industry themselves that just because a few of the metals they mined are going towards the renewable energies and electrification which of course we need most of the demand for metals and minerals. And the mining industry is coming from general societal construction and infrastructure and the money things across the economy some of knaves. Recent research is telling me titled Re Mining is a myth. It says that whilst there has been marginal improvement in mining in recent years it's simply not enough. But as ESG becomes ever more important to investors mining companies often claim to be decarbonising and otherwise green refine their operations. Guy Johnson a miner's website and you're bound to find net zero commitments tree icons and lots of talk of electric diggers Mayer says. This is all a smoke screen. We're also facing this big kind of greenwashing that we're in a new era of mining that
is more sustainable and green than it used to be dirty. But now it's becoming highly technological and cleaner especially in Europe and other rich nations who are saying this. But the findings of studies from respected bodies like the Responsible Mining Foundation have found otherwise. So if. Mining is a mess. What are the alternatives. The Royal Society of Chemistry
recently urged companies to recover precious metals from E waste. And there are some out of this world proposals for space mining too. However for the meantime conventional mining looks set to stay albeit with increasing pressure to go as green as possible. The best way to achieve that might be through regulation minimizing harm and funneling precious resources towards genuinely green projects. That was Ryan has to get there now. Let's dig deeper into how specific companies are dealing with climate change. With us now from Panama is our senior commodities reporter James Atwood. So
James as we've heard the mining industry is both necessary for humanity and harmful to the planet at the same time. So what are companies doing. Are they making any real progress on going green. Companies are making progress at different rates to decarbonise. When the first wave that they've been focusing on is really to switch to renewable power sources. So signing
agreements with solar and wind power providers. That's a fairly mature process. Some companies here in Latin America even until August comes to mind have already reached that objective number next. And arguably more important if it is to to replace their diesel machinery on site those big haulage trucks that use a whole lot of diesel other equipment. OK. So if you were to rank companies which are doing the best and the worst when it comes to that E in ESG. Well it depends a lot on what they produce. I mean inevitably steelmakers aluminum makers produce a whole lot of carbon that
energy intensive processes. So they've got a lot of work to do. I mean other companies some of the copper companies that operate here in Latin America Anglo American comes to mind that just rolled out their first prototype truck that uses green hydrogen. So their plans and plans of the industry in general is to replace the diesel churning fleet with with vehicles that can operate on on greener sources. OK well you're talking about trucks which
brings me to electric vehicles for example in which batteries require a lot of these metals lithium cobalt. They're necessary for the making of green products. So as we transition towards those green products that inherently mean that this problem is going to get worse before it gets better. Well the there is that big sort of
tension. So the mining industry has to come up with a. Huge amounts of these raw materials to feed the green transition. And if they can't do so in a clean way then they won't be able to do so. The E N E G is also very much tied to the S. So if companies can't produce clean away and show the local populations and local governments politicians that they are able to produce in a more sustainable way then they won't be able to ramp up and meet the rising demand. All right. Thanks very much to our senior commodities reporter James Atwood. Coming up turning trash into treasure. We speak to Matthew
Davies of the Royal Society of Chemistry about why a waste could be part of the solution when it comes to mining and the green transition. This is Bloomberg Real Yield. From Bloomberg's global headquarters in New York I'm Kailey Leinz and this is Bloomberg Green electronic waste is a growing problem for the world. Old phones laptops appliances and toys are often just sent to landfills rather than recycled due to the difficulty and associated costs. But the UK's Royal Society of Chemistry says this can't go on. Twenty twenty one alone saw almost 57 million tonnes of discarded electronics much of which contains rare and valuable metals. So instead of letting all
these precious metals go to waste and harming the environment further why can't we mine e waste. Joining me now is Professor Matthew Davies RTS fellow and head of Applied Photo Chemistry at Swansea University. So if you could just answer that question for me why can't we do this or why aren't we. There's big problems with processing of electronic waste. Currently the critical materials within the waste disappeared and in relatively small volumes that makes them complex and difficult to extract and end of life. So really what we need to do is rethink our design of products from designing them for easier
disassembly and device so we can really extract these critical raw materials. OK so if it begins with design what kind of products are we talking about here that need to be designed better phones tablets. What. What are they. To be quite frank everything but particularly at technologies that we need to deploy very quickly. So things like solar energy technologies could be better designed to allow or re manufacture at end of life. If we think of forms one big problem with mobile phones is that people tend to stockpile them. So I think some stats for the UK show that for every fall in use there is another four phones in a drawer somewhere going to waste. What we need to do is make people aware of the degree of critical
materials within a phone. So a survey from the Royal Society of Chemistry showed that 60 percent of people would be more likely to recycle mobile phones after they were made aware of the content of critical raw materials within the phone. OK so does there need to be incentives in place to get people to do that. Yeah the other incentives really need to be placed on manufacturers and producers of goods. So they should one to recover those materials of end of life fit so they can feed them back into their manufacturing cycles. That is a source of potentially lower cost materials rather than
directly mining from the earth as I'm sure you're aware has great environmental consequences as well. So we need to increase our use of what we call secondary materials and what we also need to do to make this a reality is get our big industries to talk to each other. We need to create opportunities for what's known as industrial symbiosis. And what this means is a waste from one industry could potentially be used as a feedstock for another industry. All of this needs to be within a package where
we consider the entire lifecycle of the product and the environmental and economic costs both of production use and end of life. And this is where we can improve greatly. Is there an intellectual property issue for the companies that make these products. Because in theory to know what and how to set up cycle then you have to know exactly what's in them and how it's made. Yeah this needs certainly very careful consideration. One prime example of this is battery technologies for electric vehicles. So manufacturers are very reluctant to share their chemistries with the world because of IP issues of course. But what we could do is create secure data sharing networks where this information is provided to recyclers and recycling facilities at end of life to allow those materials to be recovered effectively. The other option of course is for industries to take this in-house and recycle and recover their
own products. Like I said and become more suit Larry's businesses. And of course you mentioned kind of the detrimental environmental impacts of traditional mining. Explain how this is more efficient and what efficiencies can be derived by mining waste and remanufacturing these products. OK. Quite simply we cannot mitigate climate change if we continue with our wet materials use. So last year is estimated
that we extract it around 100 gigatons of materials from the Earth's only well less than 9 percent of these were cycled in the end. All elements would become critical as we continue along this path. We will run out of metals and materials that are vital from technologies that we need. So quite simply we have to re manufacture. Thank you so much to Professor Matthew Davies RTS fellow and head of Applied Photo Chemistry at Swansea University. Coming up the mining moon shots from solutions deep under the earth too. Among the stars we look at two ideas that could solve many problems associated with mining taking materials directly from volcanoes and asteroids in space. This is Bluebird Green. From Bloomberg's global headquarters in New York I'm Kailey Leinz and this is Bloomberg Green. Now we've taken a look at how
to reform the mining industry and understood a more circular economy can reduce waste and demand for raw materials from under the earth. But what about alternative solutions that could supersede both of those options. John Blondie is an Oxford University and Royal Society professor. He is also an expert in volcanoes. His research focuses on the relationship between magma and the formation of orcs which we eventually dig out of the ground refining into metals that we use now. John is
investigating how we can use this knowledge to extract minerals directly from volcanoes. He joins me now to discuss. So John this is super fascinating. And my first question is are we talking about active volcanoes here or dormant ones dormant would be better to active just that little bit too dangerous to drilling into an active volcano. But I would
imagine even with dormant volcanoes there are some challenges just considering the depths of which you need to go down into to extract these materials and also the temperature which can be 450 degrees Celsius. Absolutely. But it's worth remembering we've been drilling fairly routinely to those DAX temperatures. A pilot plant in Japan reached over 500 degrees in 1995. The Icelanders are past masters at drilling to even higher temperatures. So the technology exists. It's been done. There are some safeguards and some challenges but it's really not that big a problem. OK so once you've worked through all
those challenges doing it the best way. Why is it better than traditional mining. Or many reasons. So if you think of the cycle of making ores what nature does is it delivers these metals under ancient volcanoes to the surface. They cool down and then erosion and uplift take place. And many millions of years later we dig a big hole in the ground. We excavate the oil. We throw a ninety nine percent of all the rock. We crush it up. And then we extract the the metals from cold rock. What I'm proposing is that we should short circuit that whole
process. Let's dig in to the metals when they're still in solution when they're hot. We don't have to dig an open pits. We can do it with wells. And better still we recover geothermal energy to power the whole operation. So much less waste. Much greener source of energy. No environmental scars on the landscape. And it's a much easier process to set up and building an enormous underground or open pit mine. It's hard to say the exact value of the resource because that depends on how easy it
is to recover. But if we look at the size of these bodies of brine at the DAX I've talked about there are certainly tens many tens of billions of dollars worth of metal down there. So to put that in perspective a very large sum of the largest copper mines in the world would have a value roughly two times that but would have significantly greater capital expenditure costs in being built and would have much greater environmental consequences. So I think that gives you a sense of the scale of the opportunity we're talking about. And are there any companies that you know of currently trying to take advantage of that opportunity.
We actually pitched somewhere between conventional geothermal and there are quite a lot of companies worldwide and mining. There are a lot of companies worldwide companies that occupy that middle ground between geothermal and metals. There aren't many of them. In fact I I would wonder whether there are really any companies well-placed at the moment to access this resource with the right expertise in those two sectors. There's going to need to be some investment both from
research agencies governments agencies probably from venture capital. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect something to happen in the next five to eight years. I think that's a reasonable time horizon to get going with this. Absolutely. All right. Thank you so much to John Blondie's professor at the University of Oxford and the Royal Society.
From under the earth to the skies above it space mining has the potential to transform our relationship with materials no longer limited to resources of the Earth. And while it's often limited to the realms of science fiction one small European nation is betting big on the frontiers of space. Our Quicktake Originals team took a deep dive into Luxembourg's extraterrestrial ambitions whether its alien moon or the expanse. Weird science fiction be without space mining.
But real world space mining companies backed by big names and millions of dollars ultimately haven't materialized. Enter Luxembourg one of the smallest countries in the world today. It's helping companies launch sustainable space mining endeavors on the moon and beyond. At some point in the future we will become multi planetary as you'd almost like to see. So why
not help to accelerate that right. And with a decades long track record of making space a profitable business. Luxembourg is betting big on everything from space resources satellites and training the next generation of space entrepreneurs. The footprint that Luxembourg has in space is so much bigger than the footprint that Luxembourg has on Earth and I think that's hugely exciting. Luxembourg now has the largest space budget per capita in the world. We tripled the number of space companies in Luxembourg in less than six years. We have more than 70 companies in the space sector. This small country's big ambitions could open the door to an entirely new world of possibilities scientific discoveries and exploration that will allow humanity to take that next giant leap.
In 1985 after the steel crisis during the 1970s and 80s the government keen to diversify its economy helped blunt Europe's first private satellite operator C.S.. The space and satellite sector now represents nearly 2 percent of Luxembourg's total GDP and its thriving space ecosystem highlights the benefit of being a small country. Decisions to enter new industries and create legal frameworks for new companies all happen quicker here. In 2017 they became the second place to make harvesting resources in space legal. After the USA Luxembourg's policies and investment have attracted the likes of ISE Space a private lunar robotic exploration company first launched in Japan. And what we're seeing now looking forward to the lunar ecosystem is that any business on earth has committed to doing the moon construction energy resource exploration and resource utilization. All those
businesses that are currently active on Earth translate it into the lunar environment. We just need to provide a cheap way of the ISE. Space was also awarded to contracts from NASA to collect lunar regolith and transfer ownership of the resource to the agency as part of the Artemus program to the moon. And if we're successful this will make ISE to shore up. So the entity look at it in Luxembourg the first company to should you put in practice.
The Law of space resources that was passed in 2017. But getting to the moon and delivering resources is only part of what an economy on the moon will need. Yeah our objective is to be the utility company of the solar system providing energy wherever people may go. Modern Electric also follows closely with the Luxemburg Space Agency's emphasis on utilizing space
resources for the future space economy. Yes. So in situ resource utilization or we call it ISE are you. It basically stands for utilizing what's available locally. When you go to the moon for example ISE are you as applied. Like OK let's use the local resources that we have on the moon to produce goods. If you're able to use the resources in space you don't need to launch everything from the ground. And for example you can think
of bugs as refueling satellites in space by using fuel generated in space or servicing satellites which was different equipment which is produced in space whether it's satellite communications or utilizing space resources. Luxembourg is showing that the new space economy can benefit everyone and is no longer an exclusive club for only a few. You can watch Quicktakes full investigation on Bloomberg dot com slash Q T. So from making big companies pollute less to implementing a circular economy mining remains a balancing act between environmental destruction and green progress and will until scientists find a new solution to using metals in our technology. That's it for this week of Bloomberg Green. But you can keep the conversation going by following us on YouTube Instagram and Twitter. Act Climate from Bloomberg's
global headquarters in New York. I'm Covid Lines and this is Bloomberg Green.