Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mine locally to support renewable energy construction

I highly recommend the introductory articles on economic geology in the November issue of Nature Geoscience - .    The article “Minerals for a low-carbon society” offers some fascinating insights, including “A shift to renewable energy will replace one non-renewable resource (fossil fuel) with another (metals and minerals).”   The volume of minerals (and the energy to produce and process them) needed for renewable energy projects is staggering.    They project that the world will need to produce as many mineral resources by 2050 as we have since the beginning of civilization.  This has particular significance for Arizona products such as copper, aggregate, and limestone (for concrete).

To meet the World Wide Fund for Nature's projections for renewable energy in 2050, "40 million tonnes of copper will be required to build the latest generations of wind and solar facilities."  [Right, solar farms. Credit, ASEIA]

The authors report that 10% of world energy consumption is used in mining and processing of mineral resources, and that will grow as lower grade ores from more remote regions are tapped.

They argue the environmental benefits to mine locally. "A case can be made for more metal production near centres of demand, similarly to the locavore movement that proposes looking closer to home for our food. It seems unreasonable to shun green beans grown in Kenya while using copper from the Congo. Green technologies should incorporate domestic mining, which reduces the financial and environmental costs of transporting metals from far-flung sources and decreases the carbon footprint, while providing jobs and wealth to the local community."

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