Are we dreaming of running before learning how to walk?

By: Anthea Sargeaunt

There is a strong draw for our society to improve our environmental footprint and embrace new green technologies. However, I suggest that there’s a problem at the core that we need to fix first.

Of course, green technologies will move us away from carbon producing-fuels, but such developments will increase mining demands. Mining is the core of producing new technology, because metals are at the core of many new processes.

Take an electric car. Aluminum is used for lightweight vehicle frames. Scandium increases its strength and allows it to bear the stresses that come with high speeds and high stresses. The amount of copper in an electric vehicle is nearly five times that of a conventional car. Nickel, cobalt, and lithium for batteries. And that’s just your car. What about your phone? Your computer? Your windmills and solar panels for power generation, your batteries to store that delinked power generation, driven by the sun and wind rather than human activity.

The future requires metals.

Photographed by: Ivan Bandura

And metals come from mines in an antiquated and physically bound process with a reputation and a history of environmental contamination. Yet, this is what we are building our green revolution on, and sometimes we forget it.

Therefore, I argue that we should, as a society, have a very strong focus on the greening of mining, so that our environmental foundation is strong.

The mining industry is well aware of what it needs to do. I am perpetually in awe of the strong environmental drive I find when speaking to people in the mining industry. The desire to create a positive impact is very powerful. But these companies can’t do it alone. They’re trying their best, but their core competency is metal extraction, not innovation. They need us, the innovators, to create new technologies which solve the dirty mining problems. They need you, your creativity and your ambition to create a greener future.

Technologies that create massive change are so important. New extraction technologies, new water treatment technologies, these things can substantially move the needle. But they take time, along time for adoption and then implementation. That’s why technologies like ours, technologies that provide mining companies the tools they need to do better now, not in the future, but with the resources and infrastructure that currently exist, are so vitally important. 2S Water’s sensor detects metals in water in real-time. Just one piece of information that didn’t exist before. But critical to process improvement, because without real-time data, processes cannot be optimized, water cannot be properly protected, and operators are left making assumptions. Simply by filling that small data gap, we can reduce freshwater consumption by increasing reuse, prevent contamination by providing early warning of changing conditions, and reduce chemical usage: one small change, so many ramifications.

2S Water’s AquaValid Sensor

We do not have the luxury to wait for massive change. Instead, we must enable step changes to reduce impact in the shortest timeline possible. We all like to imagine a world that moves with the speed of our desires. But in reality, changes are slow. So, we take the steps we can now, acknowledge the reality of the world and address it as it exists.

I want to encourage everyone to think not only of the massive change that will make our futures more sustainable, safer, and fairer but also of the innovations that will make a real difference while we work towards our final goals. If we all take one step, just one, the world will progress towards a future of which we can be proud.