Climate technologies require enormous amounts of metal. I’m Ian Morse, and this is Green Rocks, a newsletter that doesn’t want dirty mining to ruin clean energy.
Meticulous metal mixtures in batteries, wind turbines and solar panels are crucial to our renewable energy future. These are the technologies that many expect will clean up humans’ rapid assault on the planet. They are expected to be rolled out in colossal amounts.
That means a lot of metal. The promise that minerals will save the planet is amassing hefty investment for mining companies. For them, the energy transition has become a marketing tool. Many have branded their copper, lithium, aluminum, cobalt, and nickel projects as crucial to a sustainable planet. Lesser known material like graphite, tellurium, indium, zinc, and iron ore (despite its ubiquity) have also been pulled under the climate action umbrella.
This newsletter evaluates this well-endowed vision of a particular kind of climate action. For centuries, the mining industry has been linked to human rights abuses and the obliteration of ecosystems. So far, the energy transition presents an opportunity to see these destructive practices in a new [green] light. What other options are there? Who gets to decide?
Reporting on the minerals needed for clean energy is haphazard and disconnected. This newsletter brings it all together.
I’m Ian Morse, and a journalist of natural resources. I spent 2.5 years in rural Indonesia – the first year teaching English, and afterward covering the environment, natural disaster, politics, development, science and the like. I lived on the island of Sulawesi, which is rapidly becoming the world’s source of battery nickel.
So I reported on it. My work tracked the battery nickel supply chain, published with The New York Times, Washington Post, Mongabay, and Al Jazeera. I put together a handy visualization – from a potential Tesla source to the waste pumped into the ocean.
The Green Rocks logo was created by Wawan Akuba.
I tweet here: @ianjmorse
The result of the above tangled posture, taken while reporting this story: