Mining and Forests

21.03. International Day of Forests - How are mining and forests actually connected?

22.03.2021 |

Forests, mining and the principle of sustainability

Historically, mining activities required large quantities of wood, for example to stabilize the shafts, to circulate water or to transport the ore. This almost led to an acute timber shortage at the end of the 17th century in Germany. To prevent this, the chief miner of Freiberg Hans Carl von Carlowitz formulated various principles in 1713 to guarantee sufficient quantities of wood were available for the construction of mines. His idea that only as much timber should be felled as could grow back through planned reforestation is considered the origin of the concept of sustainability. This laid the foundation for German forestry as well as for the principle of the sustainable use of raw materials in general.

Mining as a driver for deforestation

In the 21st century, timber is still needed in some areas to stabilize tunnels especially in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). Much more significant, however, is the clearing of large, intact forest areas for the construction and operation of mines. With 7%, mining is now the fourth largest driver of deforestation in the tropics and subtropics. About 30% of the world's large-scale mines are located in forests, with numbers likely to increase.

Mines in Forests

A low-carbon future must protect the world's forests

The global energy and transport transition are expected to increase the demand for raw materials and thus propel mining activities in forest-rich regions. In light of these expected trends, the call for mining to become more forest-friendly is growing louder and louder. When planning a new mine, efforts to protect intact forests should be made. During operation, environmental standards should be adhered to in order to protect biodiversity. Forests are home to about 80% of the worldwide biodiversity on land. Forest-friendly approaches should also be considered during mine closure where measures for renaturation could be taken.

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In the wake of these developments, in 2017 the World Bank made Forest-Smart Mining an integral part of its Climate-Smart Mining Strategy. It is intended to ensure the sustainable extraction of raw materials while guaranteeing the protection of forests. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has supported the World Bank in setting up and implementing the Climate-Smart Mining Strategy since its beginning. Climate-Smart Mining is also part of the German Raw Materials Strategy.

At the European level developments can also be recorded. The EU is currently working on a regulation on deforestation-free supply chains. This should ensure that the production of goods imported into the EU does not contribute to deforestation. You can find more information on the impacts of mining in forests and starting points for German development cooperation in the attached factsheet. In case of questions please contact Johannes Lohmeyer or Lisa Stellner.

Mining and Forests Factsheet

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