When will demand for virgin resources be exhausted?

This post can also be seen on Greenopolis.

Aluminum seems like a fairly innocuous and ubiquitous material. It has many applications: foil for wrapping food, take-out containers, soda cans, electronics components, appliances, cooking wares, car parts. It’s all around us. But how many of us stop to think about where metals like this are coming from?

The great thing about aluminum is that it is considerably easy to recycle, it uses less energy and is extremely less polluting than creating virgin aluminum. Plus recycling it is cheaper than extracting bauxite ore (the base for aluminum). So why are we still creating virgin aluminum? And at what cost?

Virgin materials for making metals like aluminum are often found right in the middle of someone’s homeland, their source of health, wealth, and livelihood. The extraction of these materials requires the removal of people from their land.

The Dongria Kondh people of Niyamgiri mountain in India know what will come of them if a British mining company gets their way. Vedanta Resources wants to mine bauxite ore for making aluminum from their sacred land. But the Dongria Kondh will not have any of this. They’ve seen the destruction that has ensued on neighboring villages from Vedanta’s refinery. The naturally abundant water that comes from mountain streams is used not so much for drinking, but to keep the refinery processes running. Giant toxic slurry pits are a blunt forboding of what could come of Niyamgiri mountain.

The type of mining that would occur on the mountain would involve open pit mines that would eventually completely destroy the mountain. Here’s an example of an exhausted open pit bauxite mine in Kosovo:

This short film gives us a small hint of what would be lost if the mine operation goes forward. After watching the film visit Survival International’s website. They’re the only international organization supporting tribal peoples worldwide.

Watch:

There are a few small actions you can take to prevent the destruction of people, cultures, and land.

Buy less: Simply keeping the things you have longer rather than buying new will help keep virgin resources from being extracted.

Buy used: Used cars, used appliances, used cooking ware – you get the idea.

Buy recycled: Support brands like If You Care, who make 100% recycled aluminum foil.

Close the loop, recycle: One of the reasons why the US is not a global leader in aluminum recycling is because its citizens are not recycling. Be sure to sort out your aluminum goods from your other trash, regardless of whether you’re at home, at work, at a picnic, on vacation, or on the road.

Post inspired by this one at Elephant Journal.

Photo sources:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Survival International
  3. Independent Commission for Mines and Minerals

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3 Responses to “When will demand for virgin resources be exhausted?”

  1. Kate Says:

    I was just having a similar conversation about virgin resources at brunch today. Thanks for such a great article (and action plan!)

  2. Liz Says:

    I would’ve liked to have been a part of that conversation. It’s crazy how much we take for granted all of the mining/extracting/processing involved in every single product we have. Amazing.

    Along the same lines, I just watched the documentary about gold mining in Guinea called “End of the Rainbow.” An unhappy situation all around. It’s harsh, but I recommend it.

  3. my plastic obsession confession Says:

    […] when will demand for virgin resources be exhausted? […]

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