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Clara Ferreira Marques

A Mining Boom — But Without the Waste to Match?

Growing demand for clean-energy minerals copper and nickel means more unwanted material will be dug up, too. It doesn’t need to become a hazard.

A load of muck from the Vale Copper Cliff mine in Canada.

A load of muck from the Vale Copper Cliff mine in Canada.

Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg

Hello and welcome to Elements, our daily energy and commodities newsletter. Today, Bloomberg Opinion’s Clara Ferreira Marques explores the need to figure out what to do with all the waste generated by the mining that’s supplying the energy transition. To learn more about France’s race to fix its nuclear plants, click here. Want to know how a Dutch company is working to produce zero-carbon eggs? Read this. If you haven’t yet signed up to get Elements sent to your inbox, you can do that here.

Almost exactly four years ago, a tailings dam near the Brazilian town of Brumadinho collapsed, releasing some 10 million cubic meters of mud in a few minutes, killing 270 people. Time has passed, but the questions raised by the Vale SA catastrophe — and other smaller, less visible accidents since — have not. In fact, the question of managing billions of tons of waste has only become more urgent.