In response to the EV editorial
The Beagle Editor: Dear Sir,
Re: Your Editorial in Vol 313, 2nd June 2023
You quote a reference:
Lithium is a non-renewable mineral. Its extraction is comparable to fossil fuels mining, resulting in soil degradation, water shortages, biodiversity loss, damage to ecosystem functions, and global warming (Campbell, 2022).
Typical of such references, there’s no title or description of the paper involved so it can be looked up to verify whether the quote is accurate or not. But in this case the paper is quickly found: an article on-line in euronews.green at:
It’s title is: We’re facing a lithium battery crisis: What are the alternatives?
The statement in bold at the beginning of your quote does not appear at all in the article.
What do you mean by that statement? That Lithium it is not re-usable? If so, it’s rubbish. Lithium is fully recyclable and Lithium batteries from all sources are being recycled. All of them? Probably not, and it’s one of the things that our governments must address better.
Lithium is an element–it’s not like sunshine. It’s not destructible except in some type of nuclear explosion.
The beginning of the second sentence in your quote: “Its [Lithium] extraction is comparable to fossil fuels mining” also does not appear in the article. It’s manifestly false in Australia. If you had chosen to say its extraction is comparable to iron-ore mining in Australia, I would have no argument. What is true is the extraction of the Lithium metal from its ores does have problems and has to be carefully managed, but that usually does not happen at the mining site.
In Argentina and Chile, Lithium comes from salt deserts (salars). The Lithium salt-containing water from underground lakes is brought to the surface and evaporates in large basins. The remaining saline solution is further processed in several stages until the Lithium salt is suitable for processing.
There are always critical reports on the extraction of Lithium from salars: in some areas, locals complain about increasing droughts, which for example threatens livestock farming or leads to vegetation drying out. From the point of view of experts, it is still unclear to what extent the drought is actually related to Lithium mining. It is undisputed that no drinking water is needed for the lithium production itself.
What is disputed, on the other hand, is the extent to which the extraction of saltwater leads to an influx of fresh water and thus influences the groundwater at the edge of the salars. In order to assess this, the underground water flows in the Atacama Desert in Chile, for example, have not yet been sufficiently researched.
Tracking down the source of your statement that “This is mainly due to the production of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) that get released into the environment during the lithium mining process making the environmental impact of lithium mining quite significant. But no-one seems to mention this.” revealed that this is almost all due to the energy used to extract and process the Lithium ore which comes from CO2-emitting fossil fuels. Particularly in hard rock mining, for every tonne of mined Lithium ore, 15 tonnes of CO2 are emitted into the air from these fossil fuels.
Presumably this also applies to iron ore mining, copper ore mining, zinc ore mining, etc., etc.
It would have been nice to mention that most major Australian ore miners are moving to renewable sources and batteries to supply their power needs, and some are electrifying their transport vehicles to eliminate use of fossil fuels there as well.
I’d like to point out two battery Electric Vehicle (EV) battery facts for you as well.
In findings pointed out by US company AutoInsuranceEZ from US National Transportation Safety Board data, vehicles that operate using petrol are tenfold more likely to catch fire compared to EVs.
I’ve not been able to establish whether “Gas” or gasoline vehicles includes both petrol and diesel, but I have assumed it does. Their figures are:
Rank Fuel Fires per Total fires
worst first type 100,000 Sales
1. Hybrid 3,474.5 16,051
2. Petrol & Diesel 1,529.9 199,533
3. Electric 25.1 52
These figures can be found at:
Who is driving the safest cars for fires now then?
The second EV fact is about the recent cars supplied by the two largest suppliers of EVs in Australia, Tesla and BYD, are made in China and contain not Lithium-Ion batteries but Lithium-Iron-Phosphate (LFP) batteries, made by BYD, which do not catch fire and do not burn.
The F in LFP stands for Ferrum, the Latin word for Iron.
Presumably the fires figures for these LFP battery EVs will be even lower than the predominantly Lithium-Ion battery EVs sold in the US. Isn’t that good for Australia? Name and address supplied