Researchers Say a Worldwide Inventory of Mines is Needed

Mining is a necessary industry, especially since we depend on everything from sand and iron to gravel and copper in the modern world. Even with the shift to the use of cleaner energies as we work to reduce our CO2 emissions globally, we know very little about what goes on in this crucial industry around the globe. Experts believe that the lack of strong data on different aspects of mining operations and the absence of a comprehensive inventory of mines around the globe may be obstructing efforts for sustainability in this sector.

A recent article published in the “Nature” journal looks into this.

University of Melbourne’s Tim Werner and Victor Maus, a Novel Data Ecosystems for Sustainability Research Group researcher, stated that little was known about the ongoings of the mining sector on a global level. This is despite the fact that in the last few decades, mining for cobalt for smartphones, lithium for electric vehicle batteries and neodymium for wind turbines has grown exponentially.

The extent to which mining is causing loss of biodiversity; deforestation; soil, water and air pollution; community displacement; loss of livelihoods and land; and human health hazards, remains unknown as a result.

In a statement, Maus explained that independent studies were needed to shed light on the extent of risks created by mining and their effects on communities as well as the environment in different parts of the world. The researchers believe that the scarcity of mining data is the result of several thing, including illegal, informal or disused mining sites as well as limited reporting by companies.

This lack of data, they argue, means that nearly one-half of mining impacts globally haven’t been documented. To address this issue, Werner and Maus suggested measures that could be taken. The measures include the following:

  • Improving data sharing and gathering practices among researchers
  • Acknowledging and addressing how underestimating mining risks may impact parties globally
  • Using advanced techniques such as AI and remote sensing to fill data gaps
  • Improving corporate transparency in the mining sector.

In their report, the authors stated that the scale and urgency of this issue couldn’t be overstated. They add that with the demand for minerals expected to increase significantly in the coming decades, particularly for clean-energy technologies, transparent and comprehensive data on the impact of mining is necessary. In the authors’ words, “what cannot be measured, cannot be managed.”

It remains to be seen how major mining companies such as Hecla Mining Company (NYSE: HL) will collaborate with others in an effort to nurture a concerted way of making the overall industry more sustainable in its operations.

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