How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet
Foreword by Jorgen Randers
As we dig, drill, and excavate to unearth the planet’s mineral bounty, the resources we exploit from ores, veins, seams, and wells are gradually becoming exhausted. Mineral treasures that took millions, or even billions, of years to form are now being squandered in just centuries–or sometimes just decades.
Will there come a time when we actually run out of minerals? Debates already soar over how we are going to obtain energy without oil, coal, and gas. But what about the other mineral losses we face? Without metals, and semiconductors, how are we going to keep our industrial system running? Without mineral fertilizers and fuels, how are we going to produce the food we need?
Ugo Bardi delivers a sweeping history of the mining industry, starting with its humble beginning when our early ancestors started digging underground to find the stones they needed for their tools. He traces the links between mineral riches and empires, wars, and civilizations, and shows how mining in its various forms came to be one of the largest global industries. He also illustrates how the gigantic mining machine is now starting to show signs of difficulties. The easy mineral resources, the least expensive to extract and process, have been mostly exploited and depleted. There are plenty of minerals left to extract, but at higher costs and with increasing difficulties.
The effects of depletion take different forms and one may be the economic crisis that is gripping the world system. And depletion is not the only problem. Mining has a dark side–pollution–that takes many forms and delivers many consequences, including climate change.
The world we have been accustomed to, so far, was based on cheap mineral resources and on the ability of the ecosystem to absorb pollution without generating damage to human beings. Both conditions are rapidly disappearing. Having thoroughly plundered planet Earth, we are entering a new world.
Bardi draws upon the world’s leading minerals experts to offer a compelling glimpse into that new world ahead.
Reviews and Praise
“Although Ugo Bardi’s fine book focuses on extraction, it also discusses geological formation of minerals and ores, mining, metallurgy, coinage of precious metals, debt, waste, pollution, climate change, and the dark side of mining. Interspersed are short digressions written by other experts on related topics ranging from soil fertility and plants as miners, to peak oil and coal, and the Hubbert depletion curve. The book is clearly written and insightful. Highly recommended!”--Herman Daly, author of Ecological Economics; professor emeritus, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
More Reviews and Praise
"Although mining the earth’s crust for its amazingly versatile mineral resources has been going on for centuries, the damaging environmental side effects from our increasing demand for precious metals have become obvious only in the last few decades. Yet, according to Italian chemistry professor and ecological expert Bardi, who wrote this report for the Club of Rome, a global think tank devoted to addressing political and humanitarian concerns, worldwide mineral depletion not only impacts climate change but strains the international economy and often harms the indigenous cultures where mining takes place. After taking readers through a tour of mineral mining’s colorful history, Bardi explains the multistage process of bringing minerals to market, from extraction to refinement, before addressing mining’s dark side, including reckless waste and child labor in Third World countries. With input from other mineral experts, Bardi also rebuts critics who argue that emerging technologies, like a ‘universal mining machine,' will be able to solve most of these problems. A skillfully written guide to a crucial, little-understood subject and an urgent wake-up call.”
"Our massive global mining infrastructure is showing signs of strain, writes Bardi (The Limits of Growth Revisited), University of Florence professor of chemistry, in this insightful if pessimistic description of the industry’s history, operation, and future. All mined minerals including carbon (coal, oil, gas) are unrenewable resources whose supply is already dwindling. Sadly, as with global warming, there are skeptics and denialists who insist that (a) it’s not true, and (b) technology will fix matters. These same opponents state, correctly, that we have extracted a minuscule fraction of the oil, iron, or even gold in the earth’s crust. But they ignore that, as ore quality diminishes and extracting becomes harder, the price rises. For example, platinum (essential in catalytic converters), silver, and oil cost four times more than in the year 2000. They also assume that technology will produce a 'universal mining machine,' which will consume ordinary rock, extracting whatever is valuable. Although theoretically possible, such a machine would require immense amounts of energy and leave behind unthinkable quantities of waste. Bardi concludes that things must change, and though his is not an encouraging book, readers will appreciate his intelligent, lucid, and disturbing account of our mishandling of mineral resources.”
“Ugo Bardi’s book is an effective piece of work for stimulating thought and debate on this planet’s mineral wealth, and how we should view this issue within the framework of sustainability. The book goes into the history of how human society has used minerals, their relationship with the evolution of human civilization, and how we should use these resources in the future. There is a wealth of information in this volume that deals with important minerals like uranium, lithium, rare earths, copper, nickel, zinc, phosphorous, and others. Readers would find the material presented very informative and a valuable basis for discussions on minerals policy.”--Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman, UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; CEO, The Energy and Resources Institute
"Most decisionmakers and citizens view money as the primary driver of our societies. Yet our civilization is first dependent on extraction of natural capital—minerals, ores, and particularly energy–that are the precursors for everything in our economies. Ugo Bardi and guest authors provide an excellent overview on the history, significance, and future of minerals and energy and how this relates to our human ecosystem. Wide boundary thinking at its best."--Nate Hagens, former editor, The Oil Drum; former vice-president, Solomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers
"The world economy is now phenomenally large in comparison with the planetary base that is the setting for all economic activity. Natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce, and the planet's sinks for absorbing waste products are already exhausted in many contexts. In Extracted, Ugo Bardi tells the story of our planetary plunder from its beginnings up through the present. He tells it with verve and insight, and he offers a powerful perspective on what the implications are for the future. This newest report from the Club of Rome demands our serious attention."--James Gustave Speth, author of America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy and former dean, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
"Here is the book many of us in the sustainability world have been looking forward to: a comprehensive, readable, historically informed inquiry into the depletion of Earth’s mineral resources. Extracted should be on the reading list of every introductory class in economics—as well as environmental studies, geology, history, political science . . . heck, everybody should read it."--Richard Heinberg, senior fellow, Post Carbon Institute; author, The End of Growth
About The Author
|Size:||6 x 9 inch|
|Publisher:||Chelsea Green Publishing|
|Pub. Date:||April 22, 2014|
Available In/Retail PricePaperback, 368 pages, $24.95
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