Discover more from Green Rocks
EU's critical minerals, nickel labor, and EVs may not cut it for auto sector
Climate goes metal in this recap of news in mining to slash emissions – with new resources
A lot of interesting responses to last edition’s dig into phosphate. I’m still trying to figure out how to place it within this mining and climate conversation, and I’m interested in all thoughts. Feel free to comment publicly, privately, or on the chat we have set up.
Eyes inside Indonesia’s nickel boom
In December, two workers were burned alive after an explosion at a smelter in Morowali, Indonesia where Chinese companies have spent the last 15 years making the country the top producer. Then, at a protest over working conditions in January, two more were killed. Shortly after, three Chinese workers filed a complaint to the country’s human rights commission over labor conditions.
Reporters at Vice and Wired got in contact with workers who described grueling conditions in which workers were injured regularly and struggled to breathe, and where bosses ignored requests for more safety. Meanwhile, Bloomberg says nickel is set to catapult the country into the suite of high-income countries. This all started in 2014 and again in 2020 with Indonesia’s ban of raw ore exports, a method to spur domestic processing that the president has suggested extending to many other materials.
Most of the production at Morowali is focused on steel, but new plants are rapidly feeding battery nickel into global supply chains. These new reports on labor are valuable, because it has been difficult to get a look inside these industrial centers. Companies downstream are likely going to begin considering labor rights in their nickel supply chain as a result.
Indonesia’s uncertain climb up the nickel value chain (The Interpreter)
Nickel IPOs test Indonesia’s vision of global role in electric vehicles (Financial Times)
Nickel Powerhouse: Indonesia’s unmatched ascent and the implications for biodiversity, air, water and people (independent report from consultant Steven Brown)
Green Rocks from 2020: Nickel's future in a school, an island, and an ocean
Graphic backgrounder: Indonesia’s nickel production
Climate mining news
A leaked draft of the European Commission’s Critical Raw Materials Act targets 10-40% of demand for materials to be filled by EU countries.
Some of the world’s biggest copper producers have agreed to set net-zero emissions targets for 2050.
Rio Tinto has agreed to settle (by paying $15 milion) US claims that it bribed officials in Guinea related to an iron ore deposit.
Vale is planning to turn a waste heap in the Amazon into an iron pellet source.
Armenia agreed to restart a gold mine that threatens water quality after it took one-eighth ownership.
Chinese officials are investigating lithium producers in Yichun that may have violated environmental rules.
Congo’s state miner says it will begin exploring for minerals demanded by the energy transition, expanding from cobalt and copper into rare earths, tin, and gold.
Canada backtracked its request of three Chinese companies to divest from their Canadian mining investments.
Newmont is making a bid to buy out Newcrest Mining, which would make Newmont the largest gold producer, doubling the production of the next largest. Newcrest rejected the offer, but Newmont is expected to return.
MP Materials, the only rare earths ore producer in the US, signed a deal with Sumitomo in Japan, which would create a rare-earth magnet supply chain outside of China.
An international agreement is the first to protect biodiversity on the high seas, but it excludes activities governed by the ISA, which regulates deep-sea mining.
After a Microsoft executive visited small-scale cobalt mines in Congo, Reuters say the company called for a coalition to improve responsible sourcing of materials. No details were given.
Two EV companies, Polestar and Rivian, say the auto industry’s emissions are on track to overshoot 1.5ºC goals, so the industry needs to agree on carbon price standards and expand their own renewable energy use. Their analysis props up their own practices, and says transitioning to EVs is not enough to abate emissions.
A Chinese battery maker has begun creating sodium-ion batteries for EVs.
Thacker Pass lithium project has broken ground in Nevada, even as legal challenges over its environmental impact are still simmering.
Wales canceled all road-building projects, saying future projects must prove that they will not increase emissions or cars on the road.
Glencore was ordered to pay $700 million of a $1.5 billion penalty related to bribery plea deals, as it was hit with another lawsuit regarding the disclosure of damages to investors related to the bribery schemes.
Widespread anti-government protests in Peru are disrupting major copper producers in the second-largest producing nation. Related: check out December’s Green Rocks exploration of the Peru mining corridor.
Congolese officials say the country hasn’t been adequately compensated according to the minerals-for-infrastructure deal it struck with Chinese companies in 2008.
A gold mining company reported a worker died as a result of a blast at its mine in Zimbabwe.
Dashboard: The U.S. & Canada electric vehicle supply chain from environmental history professor Jay Turner.
The Changing Arctic and Just Energy Transitions: Exploring Patterns of Community Consultation and Consent from the University of Queensland.
Researchers in the US argue that the critical minerals measures in the Inflation Reduction Act ignore “the environmental effects of mining, non-critical minerals supply, support for recycling and definitions that avoid gamesmanship.”
Scientists in Argentina published in Nature a review of what we know about direct lithium extraction – the technique tapped to deliver more sustainable production of lithium from brines (with pilots in South America, the US, and China). They conclude there are many questions to be answered about the technology and the hydrogeology of each brine deposit before operations begin.
Can We Make Bicycles Sustainable Again? (Low-Tech Magazine)
US electric vehicle batteries poised for new lithium iron age (Financial Times)
Firms search for greener supplies of graphite for EV batteries (The Economist)
Mining, the Clean Energy Transition, and Justice (Crowdsourcing Sustainability)
Inside the EPA’s close relationship with a Montana mining company (High Country News)
EV Battery Recycling Has Boomed Too Soon (Bloomberg)
Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives (Foreign Affairs)
How America plans to break China’s grip on African minerals (The Economist)