Although mining provides many valuable minerals, it is crucial to understand how we should practice mining ethically to prevent harming our society and the environment.
Mining has existed on the planet since prehistoric times. Mining has played a role throughout the millennia, from the time of the first men, who used stone, to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, who used more sophisticated mining processes and uses of the mined materials. The industrial age and the ability to mass produce have resulted in our modern-day demand for more minerals. The demand for the metals and minerals we rely on in our daily lives will continue to rise. If you really think about it and look around, you will notice that most of the objects you are surrounded by are not made from plant-based resources. From the cement you walk on to the screen you're reading this on, mining practices have a significant and ongoing impact on our world and way of life.
Despite these benefits, mining processes can also harm the environment in other ways. For a long time now, mining activities have been dictated by profits. And as it grew in popularity, more and more companies, including investors, were motivated by how to extract minerals at the lowest possible production cost. As a result, prospecting, exploration, construction, operation, maintenance, expansion, abandonment, decommissioning, and repurposing of a mine began to have an impact on social and environmental systems in a variety of positive and negative ways, both directly and indirectly.
While some level of corporate human rights due diligence has become the industry standard, the same cannot be said for environmental due diligence. For example, as per United Nations Environmental Program, lithium, a critical ingredient in electric vehicle batteries, is extracted in some of the world's driest places, such as South America's Atacama Desert. Here, water is required in large quantities for the evaporation techniques, with estimates ranging from 500,000 to two million litres per ton. This has resulted in consequential land-use change that has had negative environmental consequences such as deforestation, erosion, contamination, alteration of soil profiles, contamination of local streams and wetlands, and an increase in noise, dust, and emissions.
In terms of labor, mines have had a history of work-related injustices, such as overworking with low pay, poor working conditions, and hazardous work environments, resulting in several deaths. According to Statista's Research Department, there were 72 mining fatalities in the United States alone in 2010 due to work-related accidents. Thirty-seven miners in the United States also died in work-related accidents in 2021. When faced with declining ore body quality and a rush to meet market demand, it is easy to see how financial calculations can trump environmental concerns and ignore the true costs of mining. And yet, are we willing to discuss other ethical issues before mining ethics?
Ethics is commonly understood to be the moral principles that influence a person's behavior; however, with so many people on the planet, the scope for differences in ethical beliefs and standards is vast. For example, there is some debate in the community about whether certain practices, such as mining, are intrinsically unethical and should thus be avoided. Some see the concept as a contradiction, while others are concerned that mining still exists at all or find the subject extremely boring.
In his paper, 'The Missing Ethics Of Mining,' Shefa Sigel says, "I don't know why mining vanished from environmental and development ethics. Perhaps the idea was that resource extraction would be handled in a different policy sphere, or maybe there was an assumption that managing climate, forests, biodiversity, and other ecological stresses implied an inherent reckoning with the limits of extraction. If this was the case, it certainly has not worked."
To support ethical mining, we designed and came up with DAO METALLIKA. Leveraging blockchain technology, Metallika provides an opportunity for fast, convenient, reliable, and transparent communication between various participants in the exploration and mining cycle. Furthermore, with smart contracts embedded in our transactions, Metallika actively engages with all the companies in the mining value chain and encourages mining operations in the most ethical manner possible.
Through our innovative lean model, we have initiated a process that has helped make mineral sourcing sustainable, economically reasonable, and, most importantly, ethical. Our goal is to produce only when the customer generates the need for minerals. Metallika, in this best way, promotes responsible mineral sourcing as we only procure minerals when the customer demands a product.
Using a pull strategy to maintain responsible mineral sourcing as per the orders of the United Nations, our supply chain only extracts and collects the natural minerals within the required amount. Metallika has also introduced practical innovations that benefit the company, protect human rights laws, fulfil moral ethics, and protect environmental sustainability. With blockchain, ethical mining will be supported, and better practices will be ensured, saving minerals, time, and energy.
Keep the conversation going! Let us know your thoughts on the impact of ethical mining on environmental sustainability.