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Living Lightly column

Not all Mining is the Same

By Lauriston Muirhead, Wodonga Albury Toward Climate Health (WATCH).

Previously I have written about how mining and using fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) is comparable to mining and using asbestos.  Despite the jobs and wealth created, risks are so great that it is best to leave these products in the ground and use better, cheaper alternatives.  I described how, back in the day, companies with vested interests in asbestos fought to prevent or delay the end of the industry.  They used misinformation, created fake science and used political bullying tactics.  The fossil fuel industry is doing the same today.

It suits the fossil fuel industry and allied interests to pretend that anyone who is against fossil fuels must be against all mining.  We need to carefully differentiate between fossil fuel mining (which must end as soon as practically possible) and the mining of some other minerals – which the world currently needs more of.

As the price of renewable energy and storage falls, so will the fossil fuel price.  It is happening now.  The fossil fuel industry will either end in stranded assets with significant financial and job losses or Australia can plan for a smooth transition.  Workers are going to be redundant either way through no fault of their own.  Plans must include decent retirement for older workers, relocation and new jobs in similar industries (such as other forms of mining and power generation) and retraining and support for those who would prefer to try something else.  Germany is an excellent example of this transition.  We must not repeat the Federal shut down of the Australian car industry.

The end of fossil fuel mining does not mean the end of mining in Australia.  On the contrary, Australia has capacity for more mining.  The world needs to safely extract more resources such as iron ore, lithium, aluminium etc.  There is a fundamental difference between mining and burning fossil fuels compared with mining and processing most other minerals.

It is not possible to use fossil fuels without methane leakage during extraction and CO2 emissions when burning the product.  Increasing levels of these gases are heating the planet to levels not compatible with stable human societies.

Use your power – during any election, make sure you vote only for those who understand, plan and act for a safe, rapid and just transition.