Home ENVIRONMENT EU is now the second largest cause of mining-related deforestation, reports shows

EU is now the second largest cause of mining-related deforestation, reports shows

by EUToday Correspondents
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  • 14 percent of the global forest destruction associated with mining is attributable to the EU.
  • Between 2000 and 2020, raw materials imported into the EU consumed an area of forest twice the size of Germany.
  • WWF calls for more circular economy and due diligence obligations for companies.
From 2000 to 2020, over 755,861 square kilometers of forest were cleared in the vicinity of raw material mines – an area more than twice the size of the Federal Republic of Germany. This is shown in a report published today by WWF Germany and the Vienna University of Economics and Business.

According to the report, the EU is one of the biggest drivers of forest destruction by mining for raw materials such as coal, gold and copper: 14 percent of global forest destruction in connection with mining can be attributed to the EU. This puts the EU behind China (18 percent) and ahead of the U.S. (12 percent).

“Our hunger for raw materials is destroying forests elsewhere, poisoning groundwater and robs people and animals of their livelihoods. Companies in whose production raw materials are relevant need to do much more to create transparency in their supply chain and opt for raw materials that are mined in an environmentally compatible manner. The German government must also urgently drive forward circular economy. It is the key to stemming the climate crisis and biodiversity loss at the same time,”  Tobias Kind-Rieper, Global Lead on Mining and Metals at WWF Germany.
Between 2000 and 2020, the raw materials imported into Germany consumed an area of forest as large as Malta. Within the EU, Germany is the largest importer of mining-related forest destruction: 19 percent of this was accounted for by the Federal Republic, closely followed by Great Britain (also 19 percent) and Spain (11 percent). The largest deforestation footprint for resources within Germany is the automotive industry (17 percent), followed by mechanical and plant engineering (11 percent) and lignite mining (9 percent). lignite mining (9 percent). Globally, the construction sector is responsible for most of the deforestation caused by mining (18 percent).

While the demand for resources is concentrated primarily in industrialized countries in the global North and emerging economies in Asia, the extraction of these resources is destroying forests in a few countries, primarily in the global South. Over 80 percent of deforestation for extraction of raw materials in the last 20 years has taken place in just ten countries, most notably in Indonesia (3537 km²), Brazil (1654 km²) and Russia (1276 km²). The countries with the highest proportion of mining-related deforestation in the country’s total deforestation are. Suriname (29 percent), Guyana (21 percent), and New Caledonia (six percent).

According to the study by WWF and the Vienna University of Economics and Business, coal and gold caused the greatest destruction: 71 percent of all direct deforestation caused by mining worldwide can be traced back to these two raw materials. The indirect deforestation caused by the construction of roads, settlements and energy infrastructure far exceeded the direct deforestation caused by the mine itself. WWF is therefore calling for the environmental impact assessment of mining activities to also consider the indirect consequences of the projects in the future.

“The dimensions of forest destruction caused by global mining are alarming. Due to the growing demand for raw materials, the loss of rainforests in particular has accelerated rapidly. Mainly responsible for this are our unsustainable production and consumption patterns.” Stefan Giljum, Professor of Ecological Economics at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration

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