Mining is necessary for the green transition. Here’s why experts say we need to do it better

Scott Odell, an Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) visiting scientist, discusses the impact of dust created from mining operations on local agricultural fields and water.

Scott says, “If the mine lasts 60 years, you’re going to have tailings left there for hundreds of years, and somebody needs to manage that."


Before a solar panel can be installed on a roof or an electric bus can hit the streets, manufacturers first have to get their hands on key metals and minerals. But to meet the demands of the transition away from fossil fuels, experts say more sustainable approaches are needed to minimize the effects the mining industry can have on the planet, people and their communities.

The question of how to pull off this balancing act is one of the many topics that world leaders, policymakers, researchers and others will discuss at the ongoing COP28 climate conference in Dubai.

“We are going to need to mine more to mitigate climate change,” said Scott Odell, a visiting assistant professor at the George Washington University and visiting scientist in MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative. “But mining has its own social [and] environmental impacts we have to be concerned about.”