Dig This: Miners Can’t Keep Up With Wind Industry’s Insatiable Mineral Demands

The wind industry’s insatiable demand for the Planet’s (purportedly) dwindling resources has no apparent limit. Inside every giant industrial wind turbine, there’s a bevy of rare minerals which are fast becoming rarer. Then there are more mundane minerals like iron ore (used to make steel) and copper, critical to their generators, internal cabling and wine, and the transmission lines that connect them from the back of beyond.

The intelligentsia keeps telling us that we are well on our way to an all-wind and solar-powered future. But, as John Hinderaker documents below, with the wind industry’s demand for raw materials like copper fast outstripping supply, its purported progress is about to hit some very natural limits.

Reality Bites Wind
John Hinderaker
27 September 2022

It is an article of faith among many governments that we are in the midst of a transition from fossil fuel energy to “renewable” wind and solar. (Notably absent from this consensus are China, India and Russia.) In fact, no such transition is underway; wind and solar account for only a derisory portion of the world’s energy consumption, despite countless billions in subsidies. Nor will any such transition happen at any time in the future.

One of the fundamental problems with wind and solar is that they are ridiculously low-intensity. As a result, it requires a vast quantity of raw materials to produce a modest, and unreliable, amount of energy. Did you know that a single wind turbine requires 8,000 pounds or more of copper? Like me, you probably have no concept of what it takes to produce that quantity of copper, or of the vast amounts of fossil fuels that are needed to create just this one component of a wind turbine. Wind and solar installations are parasitic: they cannot be produced without using enormous quantities of fossil fuels.

This thread is one of the best explanations I have seen of the absurdity of wind turbines, as it relates to a single raw material: copper. Please read the whole thing, and bear in mind that copper is just one of a number of minerals that wind turbines and their mythical “batteries” require in enormous quantities. Cobalt and lithium are among the others.

For copper processing, size reduction is essential so typical blasting patterns are small. That means lots and lots of holes through hard rock. It can take weeks or months to drill out a single bench. Tungsten carbide drill bits are essential for economical drilling. /6 pic.twitter.com/86AP3JJMqa

— B.F. Randall (@brandall9481) September 25, 2022

Then comes the fun part: BLASTING. Ammonium Nitrate / Fuel Oil -ANFO- is the primary blasting agent. It’s 94% ammonium nitrate with diesel fuel oil. AN is manufactured from methane and requires a great deal of fossil-fuel energy and associated emissions. /8 pic.twitter.com/3QeQjXo70x

— B.F. Randall (@brandall9481) September 25, 2022

Steel to manufacture the equipment; tires; lubricating oil; grease; fuel; maintenance; batteries; wear steel; and associated transportation, mobilization, and demobilization – 100% consumptive just to pick up and move rock. /10

— B.F. Randall (@brandall9481) September 25, 2022

Next comes milling & grinding. Copper ore is hard and must be milled down to a fine sand. This step consumes vast amounts of electrical energy, which must be 100% reliable, 24/7, so much so that most copper mines operate their own power plants. Coal/gas. /12 pic.twitter.com/vwc8dDiam4

— B.F. Randall (@brandall9481) September 25, 2022

The KUC tailings pond enormous. Its construction to date has required moving tens of millions of tons of soil, rock, clay, and cover material. It’s an engineered system, requiring the use of tens of millions of tons of processed, washed, screened, and imported sand and gravel /13 pic.twitter.com/ARWGUG7qxo

— B.F. Randall (@brandall9481) September 25, 2022

Next, the concentrates (24% Cu) are smelted using coal. No other fuel will do. The KUC ore is high in sulfur. Most is removed and converted to acid, but some is released. My kids and I breathe this daily. The carbon / FF used in this step are astronomical. But we aren’t done /15 pic.twitter.com/cZZxbgeent

— B.F. Randall (@brandall9481) September 25, 2022

The end result of the mining process is new cathode copper. I directly challenge analysts calculating lifecycle impacts of VRE to account for the fossil fuel and carbon impacts expended in producing new cathode copper. Every step before cathode is 100% consumptive. /17 pic.twitter.com/EJNDKmOITM

— B.F. Randall (@brandall9481) September 26, 2022

Copper cathode is transported (diesel fuel) to a rod mill, where it is melted in an electric arc furnace and turned into rods and then wire. The EAF requires vast amounts of dispatchable electric energy. Wire is then shipped to the turbine manufacturer. /19 pic.twitter.com/huKee9be5Q

— B.F. Randall (@brandall9481) September 26, 2022

Since Roman times, copper ore grades have been decreasing, astronomically so since Edison’s and Tesla’s inventions electrified the planet. This is a function of the natural occurrence of copper in earth’s crust and the cost of extracting it. Commodity economics. /21 pic.twitter.com/RQb9sPJhlX

— B.F. Randall (@brandall9481) September 26, 2022

It’s hard to describe the internal amusement I experience every time a Wind/Solar/Battery advocate lectures me about the imminent depletion of uranium and thorium fuel or the contention that nuclear energy is “not renewable.” Windmills Forever! /25

— B.F. Randall (@brandall9481) September 26, 2022

ALL of the copper mined on earth prior to the advent of wind/solar energy was essential to civilization for uses unrelated to wind/solar. Copper requirements will continue and will even expand with technology development. Such is competing with wind/solar. /27

— B.F. Randall (@brandall9481) September 26, 2022

I don’t suppose anyone has made a serious effort to compare the amount of energy needed to produce a wind turbine and its long transmission line–copper is just one of the many raw materials that are needed–with the amount of energy the turbine produces over its pitifully short lifetime.

A final thought: prices for commodities like copper and lithium are already skyrocketing. If Western governments continue in their mad obsession with “green” energy, those prices will be utterly out of sight. This means that every projection that anyone has made of the ultimate cost of a wind and solar economy is vastly too low. It also means that the cost of pretty much everything else we buy, from cars to cell phones and anything that requires equipment to produce, will also rise beyond the resources of the average consumer. No one has yet plumbed the depth of the disaster that awaits if we continue on our present course.

2 thoughts on “Dig This: Miners Can’t Keep Up With Wind Industry’s Insatiable Mineral Demands

  1. And after that, there are around 1.2 billion IC cars need replacing with EVs, not to mention all the road transport, light and heavy plant, mobile compressors and all the myriad other fossil fuel driven devices we are supposed to replace, not to mention all the cables, charging points etc. that they need to keep going.
    So basically, it just isn’t going to happen.

  2. Just an observation on that photo of the little mines. In nature the animals will make holes like this in their landscapes. Rain comes fills the holes, trickles down slowly into the Earth. It is filtered by it and recharges aquifers. We might react with “it will bring the toxins down also” in this scene and that may be true at times but not always as that broad claim is ignoring the filtering process that mostly occurs everywhere especially since the Earth has that natural filtering medium of carbon which also does this in the air! Thus with CO2 in the atmosphere we have a natural air filter as well. Just saying there are things to notice other than just the man made changes being bad. Another thing is that those little reservoirs will allow standing water to add moisture to the air (humidity) that in a dry climate can help the plants thus again filtering processes where the plant thrives and takes in the CO2 that has filtered the air and thus it also filters and processes the elements effectively.

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