How would the moon mining work

The extraction of raw materials harms the environment and people

Until now, economic growth has mostly been linked to the consumption of raw materials such as coal, oil or metal ores. Since the occurrences on earth are limited, of course, it cannot go on forever. A rethinking is slowly starting here. We have to think about how we can use the available materials more sparingly. Repair and recycling are good examples. This also applies to renewable raw materials: If consumption is too high, the ecosystems suffer.

In plain language: If we mine raw materials - regardless of whether they are renewable or non-renewable - then this is often at the expense of the environment. Rainforests are often cut down and arable land is destroyed. This destroys natural habitats for plants and animals. In addition, mining uses vast amounts of water and sometimes even causes rivers to dry out because the water table drops. In addition, the groundwater is polluted. Pollutants and heavy metals that are exposed during mining pollute people and the environment in equal measure.

Most of this does not happen in the countries that use most of the raw materials, but in the so-called developing countries, because these are often rich in raw materials. But the raw materials are more likely to be needed in the form of products in the industrialized countries, in those countries where people have more money to buy consumer goods. This leads to a disproportion: just one fifth of the world's population consumes four fifths of raw materials. In other words: the countries that own the raw materials do not have much of it - the real profit, the added value, remains in other countries.

In the so-called developing countries in particular, workers get very low wages - for hard, unhealthy work under very poor conditions. Many of them are contract workers. Occupational safety is often written in lower case. There is often a lack of protective clothing such as helmets and gloves. Many accidents occur - not only, but also especially in small-scale mining, where working conditions are often even worse than in large-scale industrial mining. In addition to the workers, the residents also suffer. In South Africa, for example, 7,000 people were evicted from their homes to make way for a new platinum mine.

What many do not know: In almost every product that we buy from us, there are such raw materials: oil, wood, metals, for example. Modern IT devices contain up to 60 different chemical elements, including 30 metals. Let's take the example of a cell phone or smartphone: Our cell phones contain a number of metals, especially copper, but also nickel, zinc, tantalum and gold.

Example of the Congo

The Republic of the Congo is one of the most resource-rich regions in the world. Above all, the country has cobalt reserves. Cobalt is a component of batteries. But tin, diamonds, tantalum and gold are also mined. Coltan in particular is very popular. This is an ore from which taltan is extracted, an important metal for the electronics industry.

But the population of this poor country has very little of the income. Because companies pay very little taxes. Many metals are illegally mined and smuggled, some of the money flowing into the pockets of rebels. To this day there are armed groups fighting for natural resources. Ultimately, the extraction of raw materials supports a corrupt government and finances weapons for civil wars - on the backs of the population. This is also affected when it comes to the environmental impact and damage to health.

Cobalt and coltan mining

The soil and water near the cobalt mines are often contaminated. This deprives the farmers of their livelihood, because they need healthy fields and fields for their work. People who live in the vicinity of the metal mines often suffer from lung diseases caused by air pollution.

The mine workers are also concerned that the radioactivity, which is often caused by cobalt and tantalum ores, can damage their health. In addition, there are diseases caused by dust and pollutants. The fatal thing: Many children have to work in the cobalt mines. They often work without protective clothing. No helmets, no gloves, just a chisel in hand. They cannot go to school, they toil like adults.

The miners only earn around two to four euros a day, of which they cannot even buy enough food for their families, let alone medicine. The mining companies and raw material traders, on the other hand, earn well - the demand for the metals is high.

Again and again, metals are one of the causes of wars - there was a cruel civil war that revolved around the mining of the much sought-after tantalum. Countless people had to flee and lost their homes or died.

Extraction of raw materials in other countries

But in other countries too, the extraction of raw materials often leads to social grievances and damage to the environment and health. In gold mining, for example, especially in South Africa: In order to extract the gold that is needed for contacts and circuit boards, harmful substances are used. Cyanide, for example. These substances end up in the soil and in drinking water. To get only 0.024 grams of gold, 100 kilos of hazardous waste and overburden are created. In some places, lunar landscapes are created with craters that are filled with water. All of this can result from metal extraction.

Over 20 million people work directly in mining worldwide, many of them as small prospectors without any protection. 1 to 1.5 million of them are children. According to an estimate by the environmental organization Germanwatch, a total of over 100 million people are dependent on mining.

This shows the two sides of the coin "raw material extraction": environmental and nature protection on the one hand, human rights on the other.

What Germany has to do with it

There are only a few metal deposits in Germany. But Germany is one of the largest metal processors in the European Union. At the same time, this means that a lot of raw metal has to be imported. The Federation of German Industries estimates that around 80 percent of imported raw metals leave Germany as refined end products. Thus, on the one hand, Germany is economically dependent on the extraction of raw materials in other countries, and on the other hand, our country is also responsible for the conditions in the extraction countries.

The federal government has developed a strategy together with the private sector to dismantle trade barriers and to liberalize the raw material markets. So this strategy simplifies trading. Human rights associations and non-governmental organizations criticize that ecological, development policy and social issues only play a subordinate role.

Of course, there are international norms, laws and standards, the problem is that these are not adhered to in many places. Here, the processors in the importing countries are called upon to exert pressure on the mining companies. It is the duty of large corporations, for example from the IT and mobile communications industry, to monitor suppliers or to make the purchase of raw materials subject to certain requirements, compliance with which is regularly checked.

How we can save raw materials

We consumers are at the very end of this chain - and yet we are also the beginning. Because if many people in this country buy a new smartphone after a year at the latest and dispose of working computers, laptops and tablets, this will boost demand. And in this case the demand does not ensure better conditions in the mining countries, but in many cases worse. Our buying and throwing culture leads to overexploitation of nature - and also of the people who have to work in the extraction of raw materials.

In addition, many people in the industrialized nations like to buy cheaply and that we have more and more products per capita. And this also contributes to the fact that the workers in the mining areas and those who work for the large corporations are often not adequately paid. Fairly manufactured products are usually a bit more expensive.

Last but not least, many valuable raw materials still end up on the trash. Including precious metals such as gold or palladium. If we were to give all of our old electrical appliances to the dealer or recycling center, many metals could be recovered and recycled. It is even better to give away or sell functional devices that we no longer want instead of scrapping them. Repairs also prevent more and more raw materials from being extracted from the earth. That would be responsible handling - not just with raw materials.