Unearthing the future: The complexities of mining in the age of climate change and technology

Ernest Scheyder’s book, The War Below: Lithium, Copper, and the Global Battle to Power Our Lives, delves into the essential yet contentious role of […]
Suggested reading for the mineral industry published by Atria/One Signal Publishers.

Ernest Scheyder's book, The War Below: Lithium, Copper, and the Global Battle to Power Our Lives, delves into the essential yet contentious role of mining in sustaining modern civilization. Without mines extracting lithium, copper, and other critical minerals, the infrastructure for electric vehicles, solar panels, cell phones, and countless other technologies essential to our daily lives would not exist.

Despite their crucial role in advancing technologies that combat climate change, mines face widespread opposition. This opposition stems from concerns over environmental impact, disruption to habitats including rare plants and sacred Indigenous sites, and the legacy of outdated mining laws and technologies that fail to meet 21st century standards.

Scheyder's narrative portrays the clash among industry giants, conservationists, community groups, and policymakers grappling with the ethical dilemmas of resource extraction. He argues persuasively that while mining offers solutions to pressing global challenges, it also exacts its own toll on ecosystems and communities. For example, he explores the complex dilemma surrounding a proposed lithium mine in Nevada, highlighting its potential to significantly reduce global automakers' reliance on fossil fuels. However, at the same time developing this mine could lead to the extinction of a unique flower species found exclusively in that region.

Scheyder's exploration into rare earths mining in California reflects a broader geopolitical landscape where Washington aims to lessen dependence on Chinese mineral supplies, critical for advanced industries. The paradox emerges as a hedge fund manager's initiative to revive this sector requires leveraging Chinese expertise, despite efforts to reduce reliance on China. This dual dynamic underscores the complexities of achieving true minerals independence: while striving to disentangle from Chinese dominance, the U.S. finds itself intricately linked with China in the global mineral supply chain. This scenario highlights the balance and challenges in navigating global economic interdependencies while pursuing strategic autonomy in critical resources.

The War Below emerges as a compelling call for a balanced approach to resource management, grounded in a thorough understanding of the interconnected challenges facing our modern world.

Ernest Scheyder, a seasoned senior correspondent for Reuters, specializes in reporting on the green energy transition and the pivotal minerals supporting it. With a career that has spanned coverage of the US shale oil revolution, politics, and environmental issues, Scheyder has also held significant roles at the Associated Press and the Bangor Daily News. 

Book details: 384 pages hardcover, copyright: Jan. 30, 2024, publisher: Atria/One Signal Publishers.


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