Professor Richard Herrington is former Head of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum (NHM) and visiting Professor at both the University of Exeter and Imperial College. Trained as an economic geologist, Richard’s 40 years of experience includes working in the mining industry which has framed his approach to developing minerals research that provides solutions to the challenges of discovery and recovery of useful minerals. The bulk of his current research is focused on metals critical for our modern economy seeking supply solutions that ensure sustainable outcomes. He is currently working on projects focused on copper, cobalt and lithium from conventional and unconventional sources.
Mining a green future
Society’s ultimate ambition will be to recycle and reuse the metals we need. However, new-mined resources will be required for the foreseeable future to enable the proposed green technologies and infrastructure. We must carefully balance the need to mine with the requirement to tackle environmental and social governance issues and to deliver sustainable development goals, ensuring outcomes are beneficial for both people and planet. True effects on biodiversity loss have not been included in mining project evaluations to date and thus a new approach is needed embracing principles outlined in the recent Dasgupta report on biodiversity loss. To mitigate the need to mine greenfield resource, new frontiers for supply should include neglected mined waste and seeking more regulated mining areas in our own backyards rather than relying on sources with less controllable, fragile and problematic supply chains. The debate about mining our deep ocean, as alternative to terrestrial sources, needs to be resolved. Based on such a broad analysis, we can then make balanced societal choices about metal and mineral supply to deliver the green revolution.