Social and ecological aspects

Climate-sensitive and environmentally-conscious mining

Coal mine and wind turbines

Climate-sensitive and environmentally-conscious mining

The global transformation of energy and transport cannot be achieved without mining. Without copper, there can be no electricity; no modern, powerful battery can be produced without lithium, cobalt and nickel and iridium, and many other mineral resources are needed for solar and wind power plants. The global energy transition - the change to renewable energies - is mineral-intensive.

This is well illustrated by two-examples:

  • The demand for copper for the production of electric vehicles is 2-6 times higher than for conventional vehicles.
  • Depending on its design, a 3-megawatt wind turbine (onshore) requires up to 355 tonnes of steel, 4.7 tonnes of copper, 3 tonnes of aluminium and 2 tonnes of rare earths. 

However, mining also pollutes the environment and endangers the climate. This is why the Extractives and Development sector programme is committed to the reduction of environmental damage and greenhouse gas emissions caused by mining and supports partner countries in their compliance with the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The energy transition and the increasing demand for extractives

The use of green technologies increases the demand for mineral resources. In its report entitled "The growing role of minerals and metals for a low carbon future", the World Bank concludes that the global demand for minerals such as lithium, graphite and nickel will probably increase by 965%, 383% and 108% respectively until 2050* - and the expansion of mining is accompanied by intensified social problems: Forests are being cleared, the infrastructure and land use is being expanded at the expense of existing nature and the technical operation of mines releases greenhouse gas emissions. Mining is not possible without environmental damage, which, however, can be offset by compensation measures and can be limited through advance planning and the use of new technologies. These measures require integrated environmental management strategies for the extractive sector, applied by companies and monitored by regulatory authorities. Development policy is now increasingly focusing on the relevance of sustainability in the extractive sector and more intensive cooperation with resource-rich countries.

Climate-sensitive mining

The aim here is to ensure the supply of raw materials for the ongoing transformation towards sustainable/green technologies - but the climate and environmental footprint of minerals extraction and processing should also be kept as minimal as possible.

Click on the video to learn why Climate Smart Mining can become the foundation for a transition to renewable energies.

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Climate Smart Mining (CSM) is an approach by the World Bank. The Extractives and Development sector programme supported the World Bank in setting up the Climate Smart Mining Facility and played a leading role in strategy development. A separate trust fund will promote projects which will sustainably operate the mining of minerals and limit the impact of mining on climate change at the same time. These projects also include activities involving Forest Smart Mining, which deal with mining in forest areas. More details about the CSM Facility can be found here.


The Renewable Power of the Mine

The sector programme published the study entitled "The Renewable Power of the Mine" in cooperation with the Columbia Centre on Sustainable Investment (CCSI). It is one of the first comprehensive studies to deal with the increased use of renewable energies during the exploration phase and actual mining operations. The study also focuses on the basic energy supply of surrounding communities. The "Renewable Power of the Mine" describes 38 case studies and highlights practical insights and lessons learned. Recommendations for governments, donors, mining companies.


*For example, according to actual production figures for 2017, 43,000 tonnes of lithium were produced to meet global demand - however, the World Bank forecasts that the demand for lithium will increase to 415,000 tonnes in 2050.  

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