Environmental Organizations Urge More Study and Stronger Regulations on Remining to Protect Communities and the Environment

A new report recommends guardrails before remining can be a safe and sustainable source for clean energy.


Geoffrey Nolan, Earthjustice, gnolan@earthjustice.org

Soraya Ututalum, Earthworks, sututalum@earthworksaction.org

Eoin Bannon, Transport and Environment,  eoin.bannon@transportenvironment.org

 EarthworksTransport and Environment (T&E), and Earthjustice released an independent peer-reviewed remining report published in Minerals that is considered one of the first and most comprehensive literature reviews on the issue.

“Remining” refers to the process of using mine waste as a source material to extract minerals or create other materials of economic value. As the demand for clean energy technologies increases to address the climate crisis, questions remain on sustainably securing the minerals needed to fuel the energy transition.

Developed to help policy makers initiate discussions with impacted communities and Tribal governments, “Remining for the Energy Transition,” analyzes remining in the United States and the European Union (EU). Specifically, the policy brief — which is informed by the published report — identifies the capacity for generating energy transition minerals from waste deposits, expected benefits and dangers, and best practices that reinforce gains and mitigate risks.

“The report shows prospects for remining minerals in the United States,” said Aaron Mintzes, Senior Policy Counsel of Earthworks. “But remining is mining, and current laws do not go far enough to stop dangerous mining practices.”

Mintzes warned that before it can be regarded as a viable option, more research, better data, and strong regulations such as mine waste characterization, an overhaul of the 1872 mining law, and Free and Prior Informed Consent from Indigenous Peoples must be enforced to protect people, communities, and the environment.

“There is significant potential for remining in Europe to reduce the region’s demand for transition minerals,” said Cecilia Mattea, Battery and Supply Chains Policy Manager of T&E. “The EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) provides the framework to prioritize such projects, but environmental safeguards and community involvement are essential, as is the review of the EU Extractive Waste Directive.”

In November 2023, the EU reached a provisional agreement on its CRMA. Their green transition will lead to a massive increase of local production of batteries, solar panels, permanent magnets, and other clean technologies, which will require abundant access to a range of raw materials.

“While remining offers a possible option to accessing transition minerals and concurrently addressing lingering pollution issues at old mining sites, it should only move forward in a sustainable and just way,” said Blaine Miller-McFeeley, Senior Legislative Representative of Earthjustice.

He added that the report demonstrates how strong regulations, oversight, and community engagement are essential components of remining projects. “Only with these in place can remining realize its theoretical benefits and avoid new injuries to ecosystems and impacted communities, many of which are already living with the harmful legacies of toxic mines that the industry has failed to clean up in the past,” he said.

Included in the report are recommendations for mining companies to apply due diligence and traceability requirements, implement mandatory circular economy plans, and incorporate impact assessments in the permitting process.

Following the report launch, Earthworks, T&E, and Earthjustice will present their report findings to government, community, and other stakeholders. The information-raising campaign will also include a webinar in Belgium and the United States on January 16 and 17, respectively. Climate and human right experts, as well as community leaders will be attending the two events.

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