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

The Greening of the Miners

Debates about mining and the environment are often framed in terms of a "nexus" between the resources that are extracted and the resources needed to dig them up. But too few people, including policymakers, truly understand the relationship between a low-carbon future and the mining industry that will deliver it.

LONDON – Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States has turned mining – and the coal industry in particular – into a political cause célèbre over the last year. In June, during his first White House cabinet meeting, Trump suggested that his energy policies were putting miners back to work and transforming a troubled sector of the economy.

But Trump is mistaken to think that championing the cause of miners and paying respect to a difficult profession will be sufficient to make mining sustainable. To achieve that, a far more complex set of interdependencies must be navigated.

Debates about mining and the environment are often framed in terms of a “nexus” between extraction of a resource and the introduction of other resources into the extraction process. The forthcoming Routledge Handbook of the Resource Nexus, which I co-edited, defines the term as the relationship between two or more naturally occurring materials that are used as inputs in a system that provides services to humans. In the case of coal, the “nexus” is between the rock and the huge amounts of water and energy needed to mine it.

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