Mining for net zero: The impossible task

Alan G. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


If current predictions of anthropogenically induced climate change are accurate, and they are becoming more robust and prescient with time, the world must transition away from fossil fuels and embrace transportation, energy generation, and energy storage from renewables so that future generations are not in peril. More than 190 countries have each signed the Paris Agreement, which has as its goal a reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2°C while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5°C. Additionally, more than 70 countries, including the biggest polluters, have set a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target, which covers about 76% of global emissions - a commendable and laudable goal. However, a number of fundamental challenges make achieving this goal difficult, perhaps impossible. One such challenge is the lack of a broad appreciation that there needs to be much more mining of metals and minerals, in excess of already mining more than at any other time in prior human history. For example, one estimate is that there needs to be as much copper mined over the next 20-25 years as has been mined to date. Many countries have become aware of the need for access to "critical minerals"for futureproofing, but they appear to be unaware of the fundamental issues that will hamper that access. This is a fast-moving issue. Some of the specific details raised here will become less relevant, and new ones will appear. However, the core issues raised, of the need for a more positive public perception of mining, of the need for more mining, and of the need for far more skilled talent, will not change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-276
Number of pages11
JournalLeading Edge
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023


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