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Responsible Mining and Energy

Demand for natural resources like minerals, oil and gas continues to grow — but at what cost to the planet that sustains us?

© CI/photo by Bailey Evans

Our global economy is fueled by natural resources extracted from the Earth, but removing them can cause erosion, pollution, deforestation and species loss. As development increasingly encroaches on formerly pristine areas, we must find ways to work in harmony with nature.

Why are mining and energy important?

Resources to build

Aluminum. Iron. Gold. Lead. If it can’t be grown or made, it was probably mined. These materials are used in almost everything — from buildings and cars to cell phones and laptops — yet most of the world’s store of metals and minerals remains undiscovered.

Energy to fuel growth

As the world’s population continues to grow, demand for sources of energy continues to rise. Global energy consumption is expected to increase 56% from 2010 to 2040, and more than 85% of the increase will come from developing nations.

Jobs and prosperity

The mining, oil and gas industries are leading engines of job creation and economic growth — particularly in developing countries — as well as a large source of revenue for many governments.

What are the issues?

> 60% of global greenhouse emissions

Climate change

Mining practices release greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. And we burn fuel in order to power our vehicles and heat our buildings. All told, more than 60% of total global greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy sector.

3.2 million hectares degraded

Habitat destruction

Mining activities, especially those using open-pit mining techniques, and oil and gas development projects often require clearing large areas of land — with significant loss of plant and animal habitat as result. In China, coal mining has degraded an estimated 3.2 million hectares (7.9 million acres), with only about 10% of that land being restored.

1,000 tons of mercury released


Mercury is one of the most harmful pollutants to both people and wildlife. Toxic levels of mercury are released from coal-burning power plants and from mercury amalgamation, a practice used in illegal and small-scale gold mining that results in about one unit of mercury emitted into the environment for every unit of gold produced. This practice leads to almost 1,000 tons of mercury released into the environment each year.

4 million gallons of water

Excessive water use

Industrial mining uses large amounts of water — and that’s only expected to increase in the coming decades. In the U.S., where some parts of the country are facing a historic drought, an estimated 4 million gallons of water per day are withdrawn for mining purposes.

Our solutions

Conservation International works to develop tools, practices and guidance to address key challenges associated with the mining and energy sectors.

Key engagements

Conservation International engages companies and industry associations in the energy and mining sectors who demonstrate willingness to pursue leadership positions on environmental and social responsibility, and who promote responsible business practices for avoiding, mitigating and offsetting negative impacts and ultimately delivering positive impacts for healthy ecosystems and societies. Conservation International has two major global engagements with BHP and Chevron.

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