Mining for lithium, like most metals, is a dirty business. In fact, the demand for Li-ion batteries rose from zero percent market share in 1991 to 80 percent in 2007, and the European Commission expects the tonnage of lithium used in batteries to double between 2010 and 2020. Of course, alternatives to Li-ion batteries do exist with huge potential, but none are economical enough to produce yet to be anywhere near ready for mass production. As with most mining operations that involve humongous hunks of metal filled with pressurized water, the fracking process is hardly foolproof. This is why it’s so important to properly dispose of Li-ion batteries (or products containing them) at hazardous waste or battery recycling locations. That brine is then left to evaporate for months, which creates a chemical concoction containing manganese, potassium, borax, and salts, which is filtered and placed into another evaporation pool. They are a necessity, and thanks to the rechargeable nature, actually not all that bad for the environment. NASA Deems 2020 the Hottest Year in Recorded History, Next Global Climate Strike Announced for March 2021: Everything We Know, These Are — Hands Down — The Greatest Vegan Items From Trader Joe's. But hopefully, in the future, we will see more significant shifts away from fracking and towards renewable energy. Finally, expanding lithium mining operations could insulate lithium prices against potential shocks. The bottom image is of an Alberta oilsands operation, but it’s an in situ underground facility and doesn’t represent the enormous open-pit mining … A friend of mine is adamant that the extraction of lithium for batteries (and the creation of battery cells themselves) is a very environmentally-damaging procedure, potentially even more-so than oil (open-cut mines vs oil wells), and that this is only going to get worse as more and more EV cars hit the roads, age, and need their batteries replaced. The U.K., where fracking has been a controversial topic, has just allowed a local company to drill a set of wells for the first time since the company created a small earth tremor after drilling in 2011. Not only for the workers or the equipment, but also for nature and the people who live in the area where the fracking has occurred. 100% BS through and through. Chemicals are used but the dangers those pose are presumably nothing compared to the damage fracking is capable of inflicting. Lithium-ion batteries are an essential part of many modern pieces of technology. That brine is then left to evaporate for months, which creates a chemical concoction containing manganese, potassium, borax, and salts, which is filtered and placed into another evaporation pool. . Lithium Mine vs. Oil Sands Extraction ... a close up view of a small fraction of the areas surveyed in the Landsat satellite images. Dear EarthTalk: Is the extraction of lithium for lithium ion batteries really worse for the environment than fracking? Jahdn We are confident our new method will completely replace traditional mining. In 2016, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the battery his vehicles use are mostly made of nickel and graphite, with lithium itself merely “the salt on the salad.” With no viable alternatives anywhere near mainstream production, Li-ion batteries look like they’re here to stay for a while. As a result, unsafe practices can cause catastrophic damage to water sources the world over. A more diverse lithium supply could also help break up the oligopoly that currently controls the trade. Lithium mines don't look a heck of a lot different. May 12th, 2016 by Guest Contributor . Some countries have been trying to pass legislation that does away with this process, but even as environmentalists struggle to gain ground against their corporate and political adversaries, the novel threat of lithium mining has shifted a bit of focus away from the issue. Dear EarthTalk: Is the extraction of lithium for lithium ion batteries really worse for the environment than fracking? Fracking vs Coal - Analysing the Differences Request information. Obviously mining anything is going to be a huge-scale operation but it's pretty open and shut that driving an electric car has smaller impact on … “Like any mining process, it is invasive, it scars the landscape, it destroys the water table and it pollutes the earth and the local wells,” said Guillermo Gonzalez, a lithium battery expert from the University of Chile, in a 2009 interview. For all intents and purposes, lithium mining is cheap and effective. The impact of lithium extraction in South America is mostly its massive use of water. But the expense of the raw materials and the immaturity of the production processes will keep these emerging battery technologies on the drawing board for years to come while lithium ion continues to dominate the market. Dear EarthTalk: Is the extraction of lithium for lithium-ion batteries really worse for the environment than fracking? EarthTalk is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to increasing environmental literacy in the U.S. through leveraging media channels. Mining and processing of lithium, however, turns out to be far more environmentally harmful than what turned out to be the unfounded issues with fracking. The ions inside Li-ion batteries can react if the wall between them is compromised, generating enough heat to potentially catch fire. They power our cell phones, our laptops, our tablets, and electric cars. Geothermal energy production was another topic as Richard Perry, administrator of the Nevada’s Division of Minerals delivered a talk on mineral, geothermal and oil production in the state. This can endanger the communities where the lithium is being mined because it can cause droughts or famine if operations are not kept in check. How about against natural gas, even considering fracking vs lithium mining? Based on what is currently known, fracking is a much more dangerous process than lithium mining, but unfortunately, both seem to be essential to the world today. I guess we're looking at the long-term vs short-term impact on the environment. That’s not to say that some green-loving people haven’t found the means to escape the digital shackles, but by-and-large, we are all of us tied to our tech. 3:55 am. Wendy McKee Yet li-ion batteries, pound for pound, are some of the most energetic rechargeable batteries available. The most glaring problem seems to be regulation. We carry lines of products from quality manufactures as well as a number of quality items we manufacture ourself. This can travel through the ground into nearby streams, rivers, lakes, and water supplies. The pressure then allows the gas to flow out of the head of the well and can be carried out vertically or horizontally to the rock layer, thus creating new pathways to release gas or extending existing channels. Some of the chemicals used in the sand-water mixture are equally toxic if they leech into the soil or water table. – Mitch Newhouse, Oak Park, IL. — Mitch Newhouse, Oak Park, IL. This isn’t the same as fracking re … This is facilitated by a high-pressure mixture of water, sand, and chemicals that is injected as the hydraulic drill presses down. It comes from the Earth, of course, but it doesn't require strip mining or blowing the tops off mountains like other resources do. The process is named for what happens when the rock is fractured apart. Mining companies prospecting lithium in northern Tibet, salt plains of South America, and Chile as well as lithium at Bolivia's Salar De Uyuni require extensive extraction operations and water in a dry land. Your email address will not be published. The oil sands mining does intact dig up oil saturated sand that is in many cases unable to support vegetation, remove the oil and replace the sand with clean soil. There is no fracturing of stone or sprays of acid and other toxic chemicals as with other mining industries. Using Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Cells as fuel for transportation, agriculture & industry means reduced emissions into the atmosphere, of course, at point of use, ie cars, trucks, buses, even aircraft & shipping. Also, I never suggested using taxes for either. But thanks to some misinformation on the Internet, lithium extraction has gotten a bad rap. Worse Than Fracking? They need their devices to live and work and adapt to an increasingly technological world. You simply don't open strip mine for lithium as the image implies. Ben & Jerry's Is Now Making Dog Ice Cream — but What Is It Made Of? SECProto 32 days ago. Why do you bury this truth? The truth is that there is a difference in insitu SAGD and oil sands mining. Currently Li-ion batteries’ biggest problem may be their tendency to combust—remember the recall of 500,000 hoverboards and then the infamous early version of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7? Dear EarthTalk: Is the extraction of lithium for lithium ion batteries really worse for the environment than fracking? They call lithum "white gold" for a reason. March 1, 2020 @ Traditional lithium mining is done through either hard rock or brine evaporation. Water is diverted from other uses, like feeding llamas and growing quinoa. The first problem is that the “lithium mine” is actually BHP Billiton’s Escondida copper mine in Chile (the world’s largest). 3:49 am, You will always attack Canadian oil sands but will not tell the truth when it comes to the environmental costs of lithium mining. Until those practices are mitigated and the processes stabilized, both lithium mining and fracking will continue to be environmental problems. As Mark Sumner points out on Daily Kos, a pair of photos released by the community group Saskatchewan Proud shows a badly scarred and stripped mine site on the top along with the text “This is a mine where lithium is extracted for electric car batteries.” On the bottom is a photo of a neat and orderly fracking drill site surrounded by vibrant-looking green forest and lakes with the text “This is an oil sands site in Alberta…Tell me more about how your electric car is better for the environment.”. Posted February 19, 2018 by Charles Morris & filed under Newswire, The Tech.. As EVs proliferate, global demand for lithium is rapidly outpacing the rate at which it can be mined or recycled, but an international team of researchers are working on a … That's a difficult thing to calculate - taxes on the manufacture of different inputs makes that transparent to calculate. This meme contrasting a photo of an open-air mine with that of an oil sands Paul Today, just four companies (Chile’s SQM, U.S.-based FMC Corp and Albemarle Corp, and Australia’s Talison) produce 85 percent of all lithium. Tougher environmental regulations, a flood of cheap natural gas from fracking, and a sudden decrease in demand from China, has pushed natural gas even further in … We are looking to replace the brine evaporation side, which will drastically undercut the economics of hard rock mining as well. Benzene and toluene are both known to cause cancer but are as of yet exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Required fields are marked *, Stay up-to-date on the latest climate and environmental news and information as well as green living tips by subscribing to our free weekly e-mail newsletter…. Based on what is currently known, fracking is a much more dangerous process than lithium mining, but unfortunately, both seem to be essential to the world today. While it’s true that chemicals are used to refine lithium after it is collected, potential dangers pale compared to those from fracking, which involves pumping harsh chemicals underground to break up shale layers to free natural gas, which can lead to groundwater pollution and even cause minor earthquakes. The good news is that lead-acid batteries are 99% recyclable. Lithium Extraction For Batteries Hardly A Concern, run our EarthTalk environmental Q&A column for free in your publication. If the oil or gas wells are not built sturdily enough, they can leak and contaminate groundwater in something called “flowback.”. Manufacturers have mitigated such issues in most applications, but the problem can still rear its ugly head when improperly discarded Li-ion batteries are exposed to pressure and heat in a landfill or recycling facility that can stimulate combustion. About Roughneck City. —Mitch Newhouse, Oak Park, IL In a world of modern technology, lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are hard to escape; they’re in cell phones, laptops, and basically anything else with rechargeable batteries. Some of the most promising include batteries made from sodium-nickel chloride, silver zinc or aluminum graphite. On top of that, not all the chemicals found in fracking fluid are known, and the federal government has yet to require that companies disclose what they are. “This isn’t a green solution – it’s not a solution at all.”, Your email address will not be published. Dear EarthTalk: Is the extraction of lithium for lithium ion batteries really worse for the environment than fracking? 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