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TOPIC: mining

This Happened

This Happened — October 21: Aberfan Disaster

116 children and 28 adults died as a coal waste heap slid and engulfed a school in Aberfan, South Wales, on this day in 1966.

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This Happened — October 13: Chile Mining Rescue

On this day in 2010, the Copiapó mining accident in Chile comes to a happy end as all 33 miners arrive at the surface after surviving a record 69 days underground.

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Rare Earth Race: How China And Russia (And EVs) Are Pushing France Back Into Mining

The government is launching a "major inventory of French mining resources", to prepare for the relaunch of mining in France of the minerals needed for the ecological transition. A concern for sovereignty in the face of Chinese domination of the sector.


PARIS — The world of mining holds an important place in the imagination of France's past, from writer Emile Zola's "Germinal" in the 19th century to the many films about the "black faces" in the 20th. Perhaps, mining is about to also become its future.

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Lithium Mining: How The Clean Energy Rush Repeats Old Cycles Of Global Exploitation

The search for clean energy is essential in an age of alarming climate change. Lithium extraction represents a great opportunity, but the maltreatment of communities affected by this extraction must be considered if we want to interrupt the vicious cycle of wealthy countries exploiting resource-rich countries.

COPIAPO — The scientific community continues to warn that burning fuels to obtain energy is simply not sustainable for the planet. Among all the alternatives that currently exist, perhaps the most popular one for the transportation sector is electric energy. At first glance, it sounds tempting: electric trains, cars and buses capable of transporting people over long distances, equipped with almost limitless batteries, and charging stations distributed throughout the territory.

But to make electric batteries, which are also found in mobile and portable devices, lithium is needed. This mineral is currently experiencing high demand precisely because of its large energy storage capacity. Extracting it requires large amounts of water and chemicals. This is where some people are already asking: can we justify everything, in the name of energy transition?

The largest sources of lithium in the world are found in brine deposits in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, making them the focus of attention for investors. But indigenous communities that depend on these territories and the resources found there demand prior dialogue and informed consultation before allowing the extraction of the mineral.

"To us, the salt flat represents our entire life," explains Lesley Muñoz Rivera, a representative of the Colla community in Copiapo, Chile. "The salt flat is a water reservoir. When they propose to extract large quantities and tons of water to dry them in the sun and obtain this lithium carbonate, they are harming the water. I define the Colla people as a water-based community, and if we don't have water to live and provide for our animals or crops, how are we going to survive?"

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Moataz Hagag and Mourad Higazy

"The Mine Of The Dead": Inside Egypt's Desert Gold War

There is a long history of mining in Egypt that goes back thousands of years, but has largely been dormant over the past century. But it's picking up now, with troubling ramifications.

ASWAN – Standing at any point in the deserts of Aswan and looking out across the vast expanse of sand that stretches out toward the horizon in all directions, the vastness, the seeming emptiness, it is hard to imagine that this is the staging ground of a slow brewing war.

But in the last few years, the Eastern Desert has become a warzone.

Warplanes conduct reconnaissance missions. There are ambushes along desert roads, raids, military trials, the deaths of security forces, men toting guns on social media to tout their strength.

But this isn’t a war of ideology or a political struggle over the fallout of revolution and counter-revolution. No. The frontier lands of Aswan are the site of a different conflict: a gold war.

“Gold is like fish, and the desert is like the sea,” says an informal miner in Aswan, describing their work to Mada Masr. And the fishermen are many, from smugglers and local tribesmen to groups of Egyptian laborers, migrants and miners.

Estimates put the reserves of the Sukari mine, one of the biggest mines in the Eastern Desert, at around six million ounces of gold alone. The price of a single ounce of gold in Egypt is now over $1,900.

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Alexis Gaçon

Inside Canada's Mining Boom — And What It Could Mean For China

Canada’s subsoil is among the world’s 10 richest in graphite, lithium and cobalt. Only China can say the same. A report from Quebec, home to North America’s biggest graphite mine project.

QUEBEC CITY Even in late spring, Quebec skies can be surprising. Once past the Saint-Michel-des-Saints sign, huge snowflakes begin to fall.

“We know how to entertain!” says Julie Paquet, Vice-President of Communications and ESG Strategy at Nouveau Monde Graphite. The mining company has set up shop in the heart of a rural village of 2,500 inhabitants, a hotspot for snowmobile enthusiasts.

The village is abuzz with activity, but this time it’s not because of tourists in search of northern adventure: it’s the mine that’s bringing the crowds. “We’re doing a lot of tours at the moment. There’s been a lot of interest in graphite in the last months,” says Julie Paquet.

The spherical graphite that the company is starting to produce is used in the anode of lithium-ion batteries, those put in electric vehicles. “We talk a lot about the cathode, with cobalt or nickel. But graphite makes up 95% of the anode. It’s essential,” adds Paquet.

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Pierre Haski

The U.S.-China Tech War Is Slipping Toward A Point Of No Return

Beijing recently placed an export ban to the U.S. of two key metals. The move is a retaliation for U.S. bans of Chinese tech. The question remains of whether the superpowers can compromise before a total tech war breaks out.


PARIS — You will be forgiven if you've never heard of gallium or germanium. They are two critical metals that have suddenly become the center of the newest in a series of new cold wars between the United States and China.

Beijing announced this week that starting from August 1, Chinese exports of gallium and germanium will require prior authorization. The application must specify the recipient and the final product to justify the export. China cites “national security” as the reason behind the new regulation.

What may seem like a bureaucratic measure is actually the disguised Chinese response to the countless restrictions and sanctions imposed by the United States on Chinese technology in recent years.

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Maciej Pietrzak

“Poland’s Chernobyl” — Portrait Of A Nation Addicted To Coal

In Gdansk, year-long waits for medical care, empty playgrounds and windows dirtied by smog have caused this Polish coastal city’s residents to deem it “Chernobyl”. But Europe's most coal-dependent country does not plan to stop importing it anytime soon.

GDANSK — The trucks are usually unloaded at night, without any tarps covering their contents. “We keep our doors and windows closed, but our entire family continues to have upper respiratory problems,” said a resident of Gdansk’s port neighborhood.

They live amid clouds of coal.

Cars on the road are dirty, and black sludge covers the renovated facades of buildings. Those who live here have given up trying to rid their windowsills of it. It’s of no use: the coal dust gets everywhere.

But it isn’t just cleanliness which is causing deep concern among the city’s residents. “We are most afraid for our health. Plenty of people have complained of issues which began with the arrival of the dust. These primarily include problems with their sinuses, upper respiratory tracts, and headaches,” said Paulina Konarska, a member of the Nowy Port District Council. “People are coughing up black phlegm," she added. "Our clinic cannot keep up with admitting patients, and wait times for the pulmonologist are now over half a year,” she said.

The situation shows no signs of improvement in the near future, and uncertainties among residents have caused them to take it upon themselves to look for answers.

Iwona Lubaszka, who lives in the center of the Nowy Port neighborhood, says her daughter personally reached out to the Provincial Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, who told her that “the situation will not improve until it rains.” According to Lubaszka, the PIEP launched an investigation into one of the post-area companies in May, although complaints of coal pollution came much earlier.

Her neighbor, Małgorzata Motog, remembers April 23 as the worst day of smog. “This was the first warm, sunny and dry day of the year,” she said. “People went outside to ride their bikes, or to tend to their gardens.” And, recalls Motog: “a huge cloud of dust was floating above everyone.”

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Kateryna Mola

How The War In Ukraine Could Overturn Everyone's Plans For The Arctic

Russia owns 60% of Arctic coastline and half of the region's population. In recent history, NATO has not been overly concerned with the defense of the Arctic region because the U.S. military has been focused on the Middle East. This is all changing since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


KYIV — As important as the Arctic is for studying climate control and ecology, various states have eyes on it for another reason: resources. Climate change has made the Arctic more accessible for mining, and much of that area is in the Russian Arctic. In order to exploit these potential natural resources, Russia turned to foreign investors and foreign technology, from both the West and China. The war in Ukraine is throwing all of that into question.

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Russia's invasion of Ukraine will have a profoundly devastating impact on the development of Russian Arctic infrastructure, as well as shipping routes through the Arctic. Western companies have left or are about to leave the market, and counter-sanctions threaten those who still cooperate with the Russians.

Given that Russia does not produce the sophisticated equipment to operate in such a complex region and soon will not even be able to repair the equipment it possesses, we can expect Russia's activity in the Arctic to slow down.

Yet, Vladimir Putin has continued to emphasize the Arctic as a priority region, and extended invitations to cooperate to both India and China.

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Christian Putsch

Meet Ibrahim Traoré, Russia’s Favorite New Strongman In Africa

While Russia is suffering bitter setbacks in the Ukraine war, it is successfully expanding its influence in Africa. With Burkina Faso, Moscow has succeeded in detaching another country from the French sphere of influence. The Kremlin was not only motivated by security policy, but also by digging into the resources available.


Experience shows that the number of well-wishers after coups d'état is close to zero.

The situation is different for Burkina Faso's new military ruler, Ibrahim Traoré. Although he received the expected condemnation for his September 30 coup from the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and the West African confederation Ecowas, he also received benevolent words — from Russia.

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They came from Russian oligarch Yevgini Prigozhin, founder of the Kremlin-affiliated mercenary group Wagner.

"I congratulate and support Captain Ibrahim Traoré," the Putin loyalist announced just hours after the coup, when the whole world was still puzzling over who exactly is this soldier, who is just 34 years old and has emerged from the middle ranks of the army hierarchy.

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Camila Parodi

The Dark Hidden Cost Of The Mineral That Makes Green Energy Possible

As the world moves to renewable energy, demand for lithium has surged. But the race to extract the precious mineral comes with hidden costs for local communities and the environment. So just how green is the energy transition after all?

We know that the transition to renewable energies is urgent and that fossil fuels must be replaced. But are we making the same mistake if we switch to extracting other resources using the same model?

Since 1997, U.S. company Livent has been extracting lithium, a metal that is crucial for renewable technologies, from the Salar del Hombre Muerto, a salt flat in northern Argentina.

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María Mónica Monsalve

Mineral Mining, The Dirty Secret Of The Clean Energy Industry

Green technologies are crucial to reducing carbon emissions, but they require ramping up the need for mining of minerals. And since mineral extraction can cause grave natural destruction, how can we ensure renewables are truly good for the environment?

BOGOTÁ — In the course of international debates on climate change, 2015 was a key year. Representatives of 196 nations signed the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep the average rise in world temperatures to well below 2°C. Signing the pact was challenging enough, but implementing it was and will be even more difficult.

The UN's climate change panel (I.P.C.C.) of scientists in fact noticed an increase in climate-warming emissions between 2010 and 2019. While the sources of this rise are varied, they are largely based on our collective energy consumption, specifically the use of fossil fuels.

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