The promise of a carbon-neutral world thanks to renewable energies hides a darker reality, which rarely makes the headlines. Over the next 30 years, we will have to extirpate as many metals as have been extracted in the entire history of humanity. Green, the energy transition? Journalist Celia Izoard sows doubt in her essay The Mining Rush in the 21st Century.

“Which multinational, which state has not committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050? From one end of the globe to the other, this promise is made in press conferences, on screens and leaflets: we will no longer emit greenhouse gases in thirty years. »

Celia Izoard opens her essay by recalling this commitment that we all now know. The world will be carbon neutral and the race to get there has already begun. Such enthusiasm for new sources of energy is reminiscent of the beginnings of the pre-industrial era… and the rush towards fossil fuels.

These same fossil fuels have nevertheless caused global warming whose acceleration has no equal in the history of our planet. To remedy this, the only salvation is through renewable energies. The sun, wind and water will power our societies thanks to solar panels, wind turbines and other hydroelectric dams.

Exit gasoline vehicles, which will be replaced by electric models. At the same time, the world is turning more than ever to digital: phones, screens, watches and other gadgets whose sales are increasing year after year.

Celia Izoard points out in particular that a 3 megawatt wind turbine approximately 120 meters high contains 3 tonnes of aluminum, 2 tonnes of rare earths, 4.7 tonnes of copper, 335 tonnes of iron and 1200 tonnes of concrete.

According to various analyses, it would be necessary to extract up to 28 times more copper, 74 times more nickel and multiply the production of lithium by 1000 to achieve carbon neutrality objectives. Can we really talk about renewable energies if they are based on the expansion of mining activities and their non-renewable resources, whose environmental footprint often leaves something to be desired?

Because despite the industry’s promises, the “green” mine does not exist, says the author. Promises denounced among others by SystExt, a French association which is interested in the impacts of mining activities.

“Whatever the country, whatever the regulations in force to exploit deposits which contain only a few grams of gold or a few hundred grams of silver per ton of rock, more water is necessarily required, more energy, more chemicals. The lower the grade of the deposits, the more polluting the mine,” writes Celia Izoard.

The work has the merit of raising questions that are practically non-existent in public debate. This is the elephant in the room that no one is talking about: are our consumption patterns sustainable in the long term? “The story of transitions turned out to be a story of additions,” writes the author. In a way, the transition is a promise that has already been made twice and which, in both cases, resulted in increased consumption of the riches of the subsoil. »