Strategic metals are an essential ingredient of modern technologies, but poor regulation has led to environmental ruin.
A new Global Gold Rush is under way. But today’s prospectors aren’t the fortune hunters of old, panning for precious nuggets on the American frontier. They’re mining companies hoping to find lucrative deposits of technology metals, the 17 elements vital for the production of smartphones, laptops, electric cars, wind turbines and other technologies.
Although these metals are abundant in the earth’s crust, they are difficult to find in commercially viable concentrations. Extracting individual elements from the host mineral’s chemistry is a complex and energy-intensive process, involving strong acids and other hazardous chemicals. Radioactive materials such as uranium and thorium are often found alongside the elements, and these can end up in the “tailings” – a toxic stew of waste products from the refinement process.Read more