A new map indicates the effects of rare earth elements

A new map indicates the effects of rare earth elements

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Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

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Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

A map created by the Globalization Debt Observatory in collaboration with the EJAtlas of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), the Institute for Policy Studies and CRAAD-OI Madagascar, documents 28 social and environmental conflicts derived from the extraction, processing and recycling of these metals.

Impacts on water, soil, air and health, lack of transparency and participation in decision-making, human rights violations, criminalization and violence against communities are some of the impacts documented along rare earth supply chains, according to the “Rare Earth Impacts and Conflicts” report. a map.”

China, Chile, Brazil, Finland, Greenland, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malawi, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, and Sweden are some of the scenes of these conflicts, which will worsen as the demand for these conflicts increases. Minerals increase. As the EU Critical Raw Materials Act indicates, rare earth elements are strategic for the green and digital transformation, as well as for the defense and aerospace industry.

What are rare earth elements and why are they important?

Rare earth elements (REEs) are a group of 17 chemical elements that are essential for the digital transformation and energy transition. They have unique magnetic, optical and electronic properties that make them essential for wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, LED and LCD displays, and also for the production of aircraft, missiles, satellites and communications systems.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) indicates that to meet net-zero emissions targets, rare earth extraction must increase by a factor of 10 by 2030. In fact, production has already increased by more than 85% between 2017 and 2020, mainly driven by demand for magnets. Permanent electric vehicles and wind energy technology.

The transfer is far from fair

While a key question for industrialized economies remains how to secure sources that can meet the growing demand for materials critical for the green and digital transformation, the map of impacts and conflicts of rare earth elements highlights the increasingly unsustainable and inequitable distribution of environmental, social and health resources. Burdens on communities across global rare earth supply chains. Some questions need to be addressed urgently, such as:

  • How can we envision fair and environmentally sustainable energy transitions and digitalization that do not exacerbate unjust and unsustainable practices or violate human rights?
  • How can we challenge and rethink energy demand scenarios (energy for what, for whom, at what cost) and set clear boundaries?
  • How can we rethink industrial design (extending product life, increasing recycling and reducing e-waste, waste generation, and energy use)?
  • How can we develop energy transition policies that do not push aside environmental, social, or participatory rights in the name of climate urgency (e.g., seeking solutions beyond technological fixes)?
  • How can we ensure that this transformation takes into account biophysical limits?

more information:
Mapping the impacts and conflicts of rare earth elements. odg.cat/en/publication/report- …rare earth elements/

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