Iron ore mine Pierre-Henry DESHAYES:AFP:Getty images

矿业的绿化

伦敦—特朗普成为美国总统让矿业——特别是煤炭业——成为去年的热点政治话题。6月,在其第一次白宫内阁会议期间,特朗普提出他的的能源政策要让矿工们恢复工作,并给这个经济中陷入麻烦的部门带来转变

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但特朗普错误地认为,支持矿工的事业、尊重一个陷入困境的职业便足以让矿业变得可持续。要想实现这个目标,必须考虑更加复杂的一系列相互依存关系。

关于矿业和环境的争论,常常集中在开采资源和将其他资源引入开采过程之间的“联系”(nexus)上。我参与编辑的即将出版的《劳特利奇资源联系手册》(Routledge Handbook of the Resource Nexus)将“联系”一词定义为两种或多种自然形成、作为服务人类的系统的投入品的材料之间的关系。在煤炭的例子中,“联系”发生在石头和开采石头所需要的巨量的水和能量之间。

对决策者来说,理解这一联系对于有效的资源和土地使用管理至关重要。据2014年以来的研究,矿石等级和开采所用的水和能量的数量之间存在反比关系。换句话说,错误理解投入和产出互动可能带来深远的环境影响。

此外,由于许多可再生能源技术是建立在已开采金属和矿物的基础上,因此全球矿业将在朝向低碳未来的转型中扮演关键角色。光伏电池可以从太阳中获取能量,但制造它们要用到镉、硒和碲。风力涡轮亦然,制造它们需要大量钴、铜和稀土氧化物。

处理好矿业的资源联系需要能够平衡开采行为和新增能源需求的新治理模式,如联合国可持续发展目标(SDG)中所构想的。价值创造、利润最大化和竞争性也必须置于更大的公共品背景中分析。

一些全球矿业业内人士已经认识到风向的变化。据CDP(一家非营利性能源和环境咨询公司)对行业行为的最新调查,从澳大利亚到巴西的众多矿业公司已经开始在开采资源的同时减少环境足迹。

尽管如此,要像保护公众和地球的利益,我们无法只依靠矿业公司的商业决策。需要四个关键性转变来确保矿业的绿化趋势得以维持。

首先,矿业作业需要创新。矿石等级的下降要求矿产业提高能源和资源效率以保持盈利能力。此外,由于水短缺是行业所面临的最艰巨的挑战之一,因此生态友好型(eco-friendly)方案要比常规方案具备更强的可行性。比如,智利铜矿被迫启开始使用脱盐水来进行开采作业,瑞典的Boliden公司42%的能源需求用可再生资源满足。其他国家的矿业公司也从中汲取经验。

其次,生产多样化必须从现在开始落实。巴黎气候协定已经签订一年,,全球化石燃料市场的转变只是个时间问题。大量依靠化石燃料(如煤炭)的公司很快就将面临搁浅资产所带来的不确定性,投资者也会据此改变风险评估。

大型矿业公司可以为此做一些准备工作,包括从化石燃料转向其他材料,比如铁矿石、铜、铝土矿、钴、稀土元素和锂,以及转向矿物肥料,SDG所提出的消灭全球饥饿的目标对矿物肥料有着巨大的需求。在有可能发生产能过剩的时期摒弃煤炭甚至有可能有利可图

第三,我们需要更好的手段来评估开矿的生态风险。尽管矿产业的环境足迹要小于农业和城市化,但从地下开采矿物有可能对生态系统造成永久性破坏并导致生物多样性丧失。要保护敏感地区,需要更大的全球协调选取一批合适的矿井。综合评估地下资产、地下水和生物圈完整性将有所助益,引导可持续资源消费亦然。

最后,矿产业必须更好地将自己的价值链与创造更多下游经济机会融合起来。建立物质流(material flows,如在钢铁业中已有的那些),并将它们与“循环经济”战略(如废物减少和再利用)相结合是一个很好的起点。更彻底的变化可能来自市场大量参与到二手物质的流动中。“城市挖矿”——从废物站点回收、处理和运送可重复使用物质——可以更好地融入目前的核心行动中。

全球矿产业正处在改革自身、从化石燃料开采转向为更加绿色的能源未来提供物质材料的前夜。但这一“绿化”是艰苦工作、创新和对资源联系的复杂理解的结果,而不是政治陈词滥调的结果。

http://prosyn.org/aH5YfWV/zh;

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