As the natural and traditional resources which humans have mined for hundreds of years are becoming more and more valuable, urgent action will be needed over the next decade to ensure that the world can keep moving and thriving in a sustainable way.
However, the dangers of exploitation are as prevalent as ever as multi-billion dollar businesses have shown little remorse for the destruction of ecosystems across the planet over the past 50 years. That is why critical innovations are required in the quarrying and mining industry, as the value of resources grows by the day and they are becoming a much more important bargaining chip between superpowers on the negotiating table, such as between China and the US.
But hope is not lost as there are innovators who are aiming to transform the industry from one which is inherently damaging to the planet, to one which helps to heal and provide resources in a sustainable way.
This may sound like something from the film ‘Total Recall’ but the potential for mining asteroids and other planets for water, metals, minerals, and other energy resources is limitless.
Saturn and Jupiter alone are said to have rain consisting of diamonds which happens as a result of the incomprehensible atmospheric conditions which exist there. We’re not kidding either, check out this BBC Science report.
It is also a well-known fact that Mars has huge deposits of water frozen at its poles.
Though the technology may be a long way from being developed, the fact that the population is rising and less usable resources will exist on earth, it really may come to a time where push comes to shove sooner than many believe.
Laszlo Kestay, a research geologist for the U.S Geological Surveys Astrogeology Science Centre, found that the available metal and water resources on near-earth asteroids alone are “Immense when compared to current needs. The estimated amount of resources could sustain a million-fold increase in human activity in space for another million years.”
As the demand for resources grows, more strain will be put on communities and natural environments which suffer as a result of mining and quarrying.
That is why the likes of CEMEX, one of the biggest mining businesses on the planet, is working with environmental agencies like the RSPB to restore mineral sites which are no longer in use to natural heathland, reed bed, woodland, or wet grassland which are home to invertebrates, aquatic plants, birds and mammals.
The need for innovation
The UK relies on the quarrying sector to employ over 76,000 people while it also makes over £13 billion on exports while spending over £20 billion on imports.
However, the industry has seen a decline in recent years which means innovation will be needed to provide key materials for the future of construction, transport and technology.