Sustainability Considerations for the Metal Mining Industry
Metals are a core component of green technology, yet the gathering and refining of metals is far from being environmentally friendly due to air and water pollution, as well as damage to natural habitats. It’s an ongoing quandary for the metals industry and the world.
How Governments Push Back
Governments generally regulate mining to limit its impact on the environment. Certain countries, such as El Salvador and China, have begun to expand regulations in response to environmental factors. China increased its regulation of the metal industry to reduce air pollution, which has led to the country’s ongoing problem with smog. New regulations resulted in the closing of metal refineries, plants and mines.
El Salvador chose to ban all faucets of metal production last month in lieu of revised regulations. The unprecedented move resulted from the country’s limited supply of available clean water, which new mines could potentially pollute.
Decisions such as China’s and El Salvador’s emphasize the growing importance of the environment, renewable energy and environmentally-friendly practices to a government and its constituents.
How Metal Is Giving Back
- Metal is essential for green technology. Companies focused on green technology rely on metals to make products like wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles.
- Raw metals, such as copper, aluminum and especially lithium have grown in demand due to their use in environmentally-friendly products. All three of these metals are used by manufacturers of electric cars.
- Metal alloys assist in the production of green products, as well as extending the longevity of items. Since each alloy has unique physical and mechanical properties, they can be used in different ways.
- Aluminum alloy is used for alloy wheels because it’s lightweight and resistant to corrosion, which reduces gas mileage for non-electric cars and extends the lifetime of the wheel for both electric and non-electric cars.
- Metal is a crucial component of green products and initiatives, which complicates its position in a world that’s becoming more conscious of the environment.
How Science Is Fighting Back
Scientists recognize the metal industry’s unique situation and its invaluable role in green technology. Many have begun research into ways to reduce the industry’s sizeable carbon footprint and make it more environmentally friendly.
One method, developed by an MIT researchers, produces metals and other alloys without carbon emissions. Another method creates green technology for cooling products, which release gases that contribute to global warming, through a new type of alloy. A third method makes more durable and longer lasting alloys for large-scale building and engineering projects.
Another series of methods or tactics focus on sustainability practices, which many companies in the metal industry have adopted.
In the U.S., these practices include government programs, such as the Lean and Clean Advantage, which analyzes and reviews a company’s processes and resulting waste and provides alternatives for reducing waste.
The metal industry occupies a unique position in today’s greener world. It’s necessary in a variety of products, including green technology, and it’s often considered the alternative to throwaway, plastic products, such as straws. Its production and refinement contributes to global warming and pollution.
How the industry responds to alternatives and initiatives by scientists and governments will directly impact its future with the governments that control and grant access to resources the industry needs to thrive.
So far, the metal industry is conducive to being more environmentally-conscious. Aside from participating in government initiatives, the industry has begun to publish magazines, host trade shows and support conferences that focus on environmentally-friendly practices.