Together, the four forest-rich nations accounted for about 80% of tropical deforestation caused by large-scale mining operations from 2000 to 2019, according to the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
While at least 70% of deforestation is done to clear land for agriculture, scientists have labeled industrial mining an emerging concern due to the growing global appetite for minerals used in mining technologies. clean energy to fight climate change.
“The energy transition is going to require very large amounts of minerals – copper, lithium, cobalt – for decarbonized technologies,” said co-author Anthony Bebbington, a geographer at Clark University in Massachusetts.
“We need more planning tools from governments and companies to mitigate the impacts of mining on forest loss.”
For the study, the researchers studied global satellite images and tracking data of forest loss as well as location information for industrial-scale mining operations from the past two decades. The study did not measure the impacts of small-scale and artisanal mining, which can also be a challenge as pollution is unregulated.
A total of 26 countries have been responsible for most of the world’s tropical deforestation since 2000.
But around the industrial mine sites, the four countries dominated. The heaviest losses have been recorded in Indonesia, where coal mines on the island of Borneo have expanded to meet fuel demand from China and India.
Ghana and Suriname have also shown high rates of deforestation around gold and bauxite mines supplying materials used in aluminum and other products. In Brazil, the extraction of gold and iron ore has led to mining deforestation.
Mining operations often clear forests to make way for the expansion of mining sites and tailings storage facilities, as well as to build access roads and settlements for miners.
Road construction and development activities are often not included in environmental impact assessments, carried out before a mine is approved, said Juliana Siqueira-Gay, an environmental engineer at the nonprofit Instituto Escolhas. profit in Brazil, which did not participate in the study.