Publications

Extracted, the 33rd report to the Club of Rome, translated by ARCoR and launched in Romanian

Extracted, the 33rd report to the Club of Rome, translated by ARCoR and launched in Romanian  33 reports to the Club of Rome were published during the 46 years of activity. The latest work, called Extracted and signed by Prof. Ugo Bardi, was translated in Romanian, with the support of Tudor Foundation, under the title Planeta epuizată – Cum goana după bogății minerale jefuiește Planeta. The launch event was celebrated on the 29th of October 2014 and hosted by the National Bank of Romania. Ugo Bardi explained how the gradual depletion of mineral resources is affecting the economy and the planetary ecosystem. The millions of years in which the Planet created all these minerals, under conditions that are unrepeatable, are now being reversed by the way we have come to extract them. Not only are we forever changing the landscape, but will also have to deal with the increasing price of extracting these minerals. As the entire world economy is depending on natural resources, the long term consequences are irreparable.  He emphasized the fact that minerals are not going extinct, but that it has become harder, more environmental damaging and much more expensive to extract them from ore. For more details about the launch event please visit the EVENTS secțion.

Plundering the Planet

Plundering the Planet, the 33rd Report to the Club of Rome, will be translated in Romanian and launched in the fall of 2014.

The report is signed by professor Ugo Bardi, a prestigious Professor in Physical Chemistry at the University of Florence. He is also the author of "The Limits to Growth Revisited" & „Extracted, How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet”. His work includes the research of materials for new energy resources. Ugo Bardi is also the President of ASPO Italy – the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas.

The report takes a detailed look at the history, the present and the future of mining and resource exploitation. Bardi points out very clearly that none of the numerous mineral resources that are extracted daily, and which are essential to the functioning of our society, will run out in the near future. But he also makes it clear that the times of cheap mineral resources will be over soon. The existence of large, easily exploitable deposits will be a thing of the past, leaving us with reservoirs of low levels of metal, oil and gas. Their exploitation will not only be more costly and more energy consuming, it will also produce more waste and have a higher environmental impact.

ARCoR will inform all its members in due time regarding the launch of the report in Romanian.

Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet

Extracted, How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet, the new Report to the Club of Rome, gives an overview of how the minerals we mine from the earth’s crust are gradually being depleted’ and it discusses how this is going to affect the industrial society, as they are vital for its operation. It gives a brief geological explanation of the creation of mineral ores, and of how entire civilisations, such as the Roman, Spanish and British empires were built on extracting and using them. Today modern mining is one of the world’s largest industries, providing the energy and resources on which economies are built. Many people do not realize how vital these minerals are to our society.
Most modern agriculture is dependent on phosphorus; lithium is crucial for batteries; there are currently no substitutes to platinum group metals for driving automotive catalytic converters; copper is vital for transmitting electric currents, rare earths are needed for magnets; and gallium, germanium and indium are essential for the electronics industry.

Fears that this mineral wealth is “running out” are being voiced with increasing frequency, as the ores, seams and wells from which we extract minerals are finite and cannot reproduce themselves as fast as we mine them. Recent studies have concluded that we are approaching a point in which the depletion of low cost mineral resources is likely to seriously limit economic growth, as metals such as copper, zinc, nickel, uranium, and gold are likely to reach their productive peak within less than two decades. Minerals are rarely found in pure concentrations so energy is needed to extract them from rock, As concentrations of high-grade ores become scarcer, mining companies have to mine progressively lower concentrations, at higher cost. For example, copper once mined at concentrations of 15% is now mined at around 0.5%-1%. So while resources will not ‘run out’, more and more energy will be needed to extract them, considerably raising their cost. Mineral production will continue until industry feels it is no longer economic, or money will needed to be diverted to mining from other targets, such as creating a better society. So far we have ignored the decline of cheap fossil fuels, believing there are viable alternatives, like new fuel sources such as tar sands or new processes, such as ‘fracking’: extracting gas from shale rock. While this is sold as a new form of cheap energy, it causes strong environmental damage and absorbs the investments needed for energy efficiency and renewable energy. It is also a short-term solution as these wells peak within two to three years, after whch their output gradually declines.

Climate change and the depletion of fossil fuels are closely inter-related problems. Using ‘dirty’ fossil fuels to extract minerals or using new processes to extract gas pollutes the atmosphere and releases ever-larger amounts of potent greenhouse gases, such as methane.

As high-grade ores and rich mineral deposits become depleted, this is likely to have geopolitical implications, with the remaining resources concentrated in a handful of countries. For example Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, Brazil and South Africa own most known uranium reserves. South Africa has 82% of world’s resources of platinum and produced approx. 71.5% of all platinum used in 2013, while only four countries (Chile, Australia, China and Argentina) currently produce almost 95% of global copper output.

Given the problems we are likely to face within the current century a new strategy is needed to maintain a society with an energy flow and a surplus comparable to present levels. This will require a profound transformation and a restructuring of the industrial system.

The three main solutions are to substitute the most costly minerals to extract with more common, cheaper ones; to recycle and reuse up to 95% of all minerals; and to use renewable energy sources such as sun (through photo-voltaics), wind, soil and water. This would create a better functioning economy that could provide the surplus necessary for substituting fossil fuels with non-carbon based resources, mitigation measures and, perhaps, geo-engineering. For more information please contact: Daphne Davies at +4407770230251 or d.davies@clubofrome.org, or Alexander Stefes at astefes@clubofrome.org


Notes: The Club of Rome is a global think-tank of individual members and 35 National Associations, which published one of the first environmental texts: The Limits to Growth in 1972. Its mission is to undertake forward-looking analysis and assessment on how to more towards a more resilient and sustainable planet. www.clubofrome.org.

Ugo Bardi is a lecturer in physical chemistry at the University of Florence. He is a member of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) and a Full Member of the Club of Rome. He blogs at ‘Resource Crisis’ and is the author of many books about mineral resources. His most recent book is The Limits to Growth revisited.

Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet is published by Chelsea Green, which publishes books on the politics and practice of sustainable living. Book details:. ISBN 9781603585415, paperback, 368 pages, £17.99. is available via the Book Depository and all good high street and online retailers.

BANKRUPTING NATURE: DENYING OUR PLANETARY

Boundaries, by Anders Wijkman and Johan Rockström, lays out a blue-print for a radically changed economic system that links economics with ecology, arguing that this is the only way to generate growth in the future.

“The challenges of sustainability cannot be met by simply tinkering with the current economic system”, saythe authors. We need a ‘circular economy’ that decouples wealth and welfare from resource consumption, and assigns a value to natural capital, so the depreciation of the earth’s resources and the loss of biodiversity are taken into account in national budgets.

This economic model should reform the tax system: raising taxes on resource use and reducing those on labour. It should be based on business models where revenue is earned through performance and high-quality service - extending product-life - while also creating more work opportunities. A key element of a circular economy is to design industrial systems that recycle and reuse materials wherever possible and phase-out fossil fuels. A pre-condition would be to introduce mandatory reporting by major companies, in particular bank and financial institutions, on how their activities affect the environment, in particular the risks associated with high-carbon investments.

The scientific evidence is overwhelming that,without taking these measures, human pressure on the planet is at a level where it poses a major risk for the future prosperity of society as we know it,say the authors. We have already overstepped the ‘planetary boundaries’, thus destabilising the earth’s ‘operating system’, as evidenced by the recent spate of devastating storms.

In the book, the authors take a fairly upbeat view on possible short-term measures to stem the overuse of resources – such as reforms on land use, and the development of renewables - but say that this is not enough to solve long-term resource depletion.

A recent review of the book in Nature says “Bankrupting Nature deserves our attention…. The book’s arguments are familiar but rarely have they been gathered together in one place to clarify the links between politics, economics and ecology”.

PLUNDERING THE PLANET

In the 33rd Report to the Club of Rome, Ugo Bardi has taken a detailed look at the history, the present and the future of mining and resource exploitation. Bardi points out very clearly that none of the numerous mineral resources that are extracted daily, and which are essential to the functioning of our society, will run out in the near future. But he also makes it clear that the times of cheap mineral resources will be over soon. The existence of large, easily exploitable deposits will be a thing of the past, leaving us with reservoirs of low levels of metal, oil and gas. Their exploitation will not only be more costly and more energy consuming, it will also produce more waste and have a higher environmental impact.

It was already clearly formulated in the Limits to Growth that we will not “run out“ of minerals and substances in the near future, but the Report also recognised that there would always be higher costs associated with obtaining them. The energy demand has increased dramatically since we have to mine ores which are progressively lower in concentration. The evidence is mounting that it will probably be the energy and its availability that ultimately sets the limits to our economies and societies.

Switzerland will not be spared with the respective future implications. The current debates on energy policy, the creation of energy through unconventional methods such as fracking, shale gas, etc., and the possible solutions that are offered, will form a new framework for economics and politics – also in Switzerland.

In particular, these new conditions will have an influence on the implementation of the Swiss energy policy, as well as on the Swiss financial industry, regarding investments in sustainability-related themes such as clean technology as well as industry at large. The Swiss international platform for commodities trading will equally be affected by the emerging challenges and opportunities related to the evolving imminent resource constraints.

We are looking forward to discuss these issues with the author of the Report, as well as with our honourable guest-speakers and the public to draw on the findings of the Report about the implications on Switzerland and available solutions regarding resource constraints.