The transition into a greener method of energy generation inevitably requires greater mining activity. Can we accept this sustainability paradox?

London, UK, 28 May 2021, ZEXPRWIRE, The idea of mining further raw materials in order to be more eco-friendly seems counter-intuitive. Surely digging up technology metals will lead to more waste? But scientists suggest that increasing mining activity could be the best way to reach the UK government’s target of net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.

When it comes to sustainability, we’re at a crucial crossroads. We all know that fossil fuels are running out at an astonishing rate. With road transport contributing to one-fifth of the UK’s GHG emissions, electric vehicles (EVs) offer the opportunity for a greener alternative — but only if produced responsibly.

The lack of recycling infrastructure for EV batteries has got us hurtling towards another possible sustainability crisis. The lithium (Li-ion) batteries that power electric vehicles require specific end-of-life management. Yet the UK, which is the second-largest producer of EVs, doesn’t currently have sufficient recycling facilities in place, meaning batteries end up in landfill where they pose an e-waste risk.

Organisations such as Technology Minerals are working on recycling initiatives. Down the line, correct management of spent Li-ion batteries will mean that lithium, cobalt, and other essential elements can be reclaimed. But recycling isn’t the only part of the life cycle that needs addressing. What about the raw materials?

Replacing the estimated 1.4 billion internal combustion engine vehicles worldwide with electric cars will require 40 times the quantities of cobalt, neodymium and lithium currently being mined. Many people, understandably, resist the idea of increasing mineral extraction due to the negative environmental impacts. Nevertheless, scientists believe this is the way to go — at least in the short term.

However, as Andrew Bloodworthfrom from the British Geological Survey suggests, “It isn’t just about mines. It’s the whole supply chain. So, even once you’ve mined your lithium, you’ve still got to go through all the refining, all the chemical treatments, to get to the point where you are making batteries.”

Bloodworth’s comments highlight the need for a circular economy that accounts for every part of the EV battery life cycle. To mitigate the very real risks of both carbon emissions and e-waste, we need a framework that responsibly sources, processes and recycles rare earth elements for electric vehicle batteries.

This comprehensive approach is exactly what Technology Minerals is setting out to do. The company, which is now approaching IPO, brings together a range of battery metal projects for the sustainable extraction and recycling of Li-ion battery metals for reuse.

While increasing the mining of metals for batteries may seem a paradoxical way to tackle the sustainability crisis, it could be the most effective step forward. Companies like Technology Minerals are taking an innovative leap to bring about real change in this area.