University of Oulu

Renn O, Gloaguen R, Benighaus C, Ajjabou L, Benighaus L, Del Rio V, Gómez J, Kauppi S, Keßelring M, Kirsch M, Komac M, Kotilainen J, Kozlovskaya E, Lyytimaki J, McCallum C, Mononen T, Nevalainen J, Peltonen L, Ranta J-, Ruiz S, Russill J and Wagner F (2022) Metal Sourcing For a Sustainable Future. Earth Sci. Syst. Soc. 2:10049. doi: 10.3389/esss.2022.10049

Metal sourcing for a sustainable future

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Author: Renn, Ortwin1; Gloaguen, Richard2; Benighaus, Christina3;
Organizations: 1IASS Potsdam IASS Potsdam, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e.V., Potsdam, Germany
2Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden Rossendorf, Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology, Freiberg, Germany
3DIALOGIK gemeinnützige Gesellschaft für Kommunikations- und Kooperationsforschung mbH, Stuttgart, Germany
4Asistencias Técnicas Clave, sl, Seville, Spain
5Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland
6Institute of Human Factors and Technology Management IAT, University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
7European Federation of Geologists, Brussels, Belgium
8University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland
9Faculty of Technology, Oulu Mining School, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
10Sazani Associates, Carmarthen, United Kingdom
11Agency of Innovation and Development of Andalusia, Málaga, Spain
12Department of Accounting and Financial Economics, University of Seville, Seville, Spain
13SRK Exploration Services, Cardiff, United Kingdom
14Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, Fraunhofer Institute, Stuttgart, Germany
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Frontiers Media, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-05-03


Drastic measures are required to meet the standards of the Paris Agreement and limit the increase of global average temperatures well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels. Mining activities are typically considered as unsustainable but, at the same time, metals such as cobalt and lithium are essential to sustain the energy transition. Several sustainability goals defined by the United Nations (UN) require large quantities of raw materials. Exploration and extractives activities are required in order to contribute to meeting sustainability standards. Future sourcing of metals will need to implement procedures that go well beyond current ecological, economic, and social requirements and practices. In this paper we assess the usual sustainability criteria and how they apply to the extractives sector. Sustainability can only be achieved if one accepts that the natural capital can be substituted by other forms of capital (so called weak concept of sustainability). Sourcing the raw materials increasingly demanded by our societies will need transparent and inclusive stakeholder participation as well as a holistic understanding of the impact of extractives activities to reach this weak sustainability status. Our analysis shows that the sustainability of mining cannot be reached without harmonized political instruments and investment policies that take the three pillars of environmental, economic, and social sustainability as a major priority.

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Series: Earth science systems and society
ISSN: 2634-730X
ISSN-E: 2634-730X
ISSN-L: 2634-730X
Volume: 2
Article number: 10049
DOI: 10.3389/esss.2022.10049
Type of Publication: A2 Review article in a scientific journal
Field of Science: 1171 Geosciences
Funding: This research has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement n° 776487 (INFACT).
EU Grant Number: (776487) INFACT - Innovative, Non-invasive and Fully Acceptable Exploration Technologies
Copyright information: © 2022 Renn, Gloaguen, Benighaus, Ajjabou, Benighaus, Del Rio, Gómez, Kauppi, Keßelring, Kirsch, Komac, Kotilainen, Kozlovskaya, Lyytimaki, McCallum, Mononen, Nevalainen, Peltonen, Ranta, Ruiz, Russill and Wagner. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.