Extracted Forests: Unearthing the role of mining-related deforestation as a driver of global deforestation
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This report shows that:
- The direct deforestation impacts of mining in the past 20 years are highly concentrated, with almost 84% of total direct mining-related deforestation (MRD) worldwide taking place in only 10 countries. The same holds true when looking at the most mined commodities: 71% of all global direct MRD can be traced back to coal and gold.
- The indirect deforestation impacts of mining can far exceed direct impacts, but are rarely taken into account in planning and policy-making. These impacts are not yet given sufficient consideration in environmental impacts assessments and reporting, leaving them virtually invisible to policy-makers. Recent research has made the case that the indirect impacts of mining on forests are often not only greater than direct impacts, but can also be more extensive. Furthermore, the impact is often entangled with other deforestation causes such as agriculture, urbanisation and infrastructure, obscuring the role of mining as one of the key drivers behind these causes and threatening assessments of the role of mining behind deforestation.
- There are considerable discrepancies in MRD between the national, regional and local levels. In some countries, national MRD levels are relatively low, but a look into regional and local hotspots has revealed much higher impact levels than previously assumed.
- Particular attention should be paid to areas with a high-incidence of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). Due to the dynamic nature of the activity and the absence of regulation, the impacts of ASM are rather extensive, i.e. causing more superficial impacts in wider areas and potentially making it more difficult to assess and monitor.
- Mineral demand in foreign countries and sectors is an important driving force behind MRD, but its contribution is not visible when assessing the impacts of mining on forests solely in the producing countries and regions. Almost half of the global mineral demand is driven by China, the EU and the US. Within the EU, Germany leads with the highest demand, 17% of which is due to its motor vehicle sector. Globally, the construction sector claims first place, causing 18% of all MRD through its sector-specific mineral demand.
- Policy-makers and the private sector can play distinct, but crucial roles in implementing the mitigation hierarchy for avoiding and minimising MRD, as well as restoring and compensating for MRD areas. Recommendations range from the mine predevelopment, operation and post-closure phases, and include the investments in comprehensive assessments and forest recovery, the inclusion of affected populations as key stakeholders for forest protection, and the advancement of circular economy practices and a clean energy transition.