Renewable energy production will exacerbate mining threats to biodiversity

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2020-09-01

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17928-5

Affiliations: 6

Authors: 4

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Research Highlight

Wildlife threatened by mining in renewable-energy future

© aeduard/Getty

© aeduard/Getty

Mining the materials for the expanding renewable-energy industry could prove worse for biodiversity than climate change.

International agreements to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions have led to a surge of interest in renewable energies, such as wind and solar, but building the infrastructure could harm biodiversity. Currently, habitat degradation threatens more than 80% of endangered species, while climate change affects 20%.

A team that included researchers from the University of Queensland mapped global mining areas, totalling nearly 50 million square kilometres of land. They found that more than 80% of this area is for materials essential for renewable-energy production, such as lithium, titanium, and copper, and around a third of these mines overlap important biodiversity conservation sites, including protected areas and remaining wilderness.

Conservation efforts must ensure that mining does not simply replace threats related to climate change as countries work towards renewable-energy targets.

Supported content

  1. Nature Communications 11, 4174 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-17928-5
Institutions Share
The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia 0.75
University of Vermont (UVM), United States of America (USA) 0.08
McGill University, Canada 0.08
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), United States of America (USA) 0.08