In March, President Joe Biden ordered more federal resources directed toward mining metals and minerals essential for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, including nickel, cobalt, graphite, and lithium. The presidential directive highlighted one of the most controversial realities at the center of the green energy transition: In order to switch from dirty fossil fuel energy sources to carbon-free renewables and EVs, we need more mining—historically a very polluting business.
Mining involves digging ore out of the ground, hauling it to processing plants, crushing it, separating and refining the metals, and then disposing of the waste. Land is stripped bare to make way for mines and surrounding infrastructure, which often uses considerable amounts of energy and water, produces air pollution, and generates hazardous waste.
But a suite of emerging technologies, from artificial intelligence to carbon capture, could make extraction of the so-called critical minerals and metals required for this energy transition more
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