Cursed Treasures

The global hunger for raw materials and its consequences for people and the environment

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Yes, we can (do better)

On a new and intelligent use of resources, as metallic raw materials serve as the foundation for the energy transition, digitization, as well as the transport and construction sectors.


The great race for resources

Our industrial production requires a secure supply of metals. Mining is a global business, subject to extensive EU legislation. It often goes hand in hand with human-rights violations, and its ecological costs are high. Yet concepts, strategies and technologies do exist that could reduce our consumption of metals – and lead to fairer ways of mining them. An overview.


Patching, soldering, fixing

«For repairs to become the default choice again, they need to be easier and cheaper.» Why repairing should be at the forefront again and how a fair repair market and more repair knowledge can pave the way.

Nationalpark Torres del Paine, Chile
Feature Interview

«You cannot just use up a country’s entire natural capital.»

Destroyed salt flats, exploited glaciers, irreversible desertification: Resource extraction has brought Chile’s ecosystem to a dangerous tipping point in many areas, disenfranchising indigenous peoples and excluding the country and its population from value creation. We spoke with Sara Larraín of Chile Sustentable about the limits of our consumption, indispensable conditions for further extraction and an attitude characterized by respect and cooperation.

Ein Fluss fließt durch eine bergige Landschaft in der Provinz Espinar, Peru

The case of Espinar – Cusco, Peru

Dead animals and sick people, dry or polluted wells: Espinar shows that national institutions are failing to manage the consequences of industrial mining, which endangers the lives of hundreds of children, men and women.

Eine Familie erntet verkrustetes Salz in der Salar de Uyuni in den Anden im Südwesten Boloviens
Indigenous rights

Protected in theory, exploited in practice

Their collective rights are recognized and enshrined in international agreements and national laws – yet indigenous communities still suffer immensely from the consequences of invasive mining projects.


Columns of smoke, resistances and ruins

It is long overdue that countries that extract or import raw materials establish clear standards and responsibilities for dealing with the consequences of mining. From the perspective of sustainability, most of the damage caused should no longer be tolerated at all.


The circular economy: recycling is only the third-best option

Even if all raw materials could be recycled, this alone would not be enough to meet the rapidly growing demand. It is crucial that all options for waste prevention and reuse be exhausted and products and infrastructure used for as long as possible. In addition, these must be designed to be durable and easy to repair.

Fußgänger und Radfahrer auf der Quais de Seine in Paris, die 2012 für Fußgänger und Radfahrer freigegeben wurde.

A viable path forward

The mobility transition offers the opportunity for a new regenerative economic model that does not repeat the mistakes of fossil fuel era. To rely solely on electric cars now would be heading in the wrong direction. A central component of a just mobility transition would be to end dependence on private cars, expand public transportation and promote healthy and active mobility options such as cycling and walking in cities as well.

The country that supplies the raw materials must be on the same level as the country that needs them. I think that is the key to a sustainable future. Otherwise we will end up with a kind of law of the jungle.
Sara Larrain, Chilean Environmental Activist

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