March 30, 2017

Rare Earth Makes ‘Green Energy’ “Not-So-Green”


A recent editorial in the Tyler Morning Telegraph highlighted the “not-so-green” environmental reality of the rare earth elements needed to make ‘green energy’:

Producing one ton of rare earth metals, he [Texas Christian University Energy Institute Director Ken Morgan] said, results in one ton of liquid radioactive thorium waste. Plus, 10,000 cubic meters of waste gases, and 2,000 tons of mine tailings. Extracting rare earth metals is environmentally devastating, Morgan said.

As the rush to fuel ‘green’ technology grows, the human costs of rare earth are being exposed. For example, in Congo, “artisanal” cobalt mines rely on child labor:

Shockingly, 40,000 children are estimated to be employed in artisanal mines in southern DR Congo, including in cobalt extraction. Verisk Maplecroft’s cobalt risk assessment — part of its commodity risk service — reveals that human rights abuses are widespread in the sector and can occur within both industrial and artisanal mines. According to the research, the country is rated “extreme risk” for child labor, modern slavery, trafficking and occupational health and safety.