No ICT without mineral extraction

published Oct 13, 2022

Keynote on Thursday at the Plone Conference 2022 by Johan Yans and Olivier Vergeynst.

Mining/extraction of mineral resources (for ICT and other usages) logically involves geological, technological and engineering concerns. However, it also deals with numerous other essential aspects, although less discussed by medias/citizen/experts, such as economy (“circular economy”), sociology (“social acceptability” or “perception of mining by the citizen”), ethics (“artisanal mining”), geopolitics (“strategic/critical commodities”, “national strategies”), environment (“waste”, “post-mining”), teaching (including popularization), land management (zones dedicated to extraction), philosophy (“needs” of ICT for Humans), history (current impacts of former supplies), law (how to legislate/regulate?)…

With his experience in various countries/projects, Johan Yans will expose some of these aspects, with a particular focus on the supply of geological resources for ICT needs. Olivier Vergeynst will then introduce the basics of Sustainable IT, highlighting some best practices to start reducing your impact as ICT professional or as simple user of digital devices and services.

Copper and gold prices were already high before the war in Ukraine. True for lots of minerals. Not for gas, that was influenced a lot by the war.

Each year we extract 92 billion tons of minerals each year. That is one swimming pool every two seconds. 60 percent of cobalt in the world is extracted from the DRC, Congo. A lot is done artisan ally, by hand.

The list of critical raw materials is rising, so materials that are important, in our view from Europe, but that have supply risks. Europe needs to import a lot.

International Resource Panel says we need to extract less minerals if we want to keep below 2 degrees warmup in 2060. But the expectation is that we will extract two times as much.

We can extract minerals in Belgium, there is a lot of zinc and lead. Of course we say: not in my back yard! There are a lot of downsides.

The ICT industry accounts for more green house gases than civil aviation. And between 60 and 90 percent of our equipment ends up in land fills, instead of being recycled.

We have an Institute for Sustainable IT. Impact is mostly for user equipment, that takes the most energy and minerals. Manufacturing an iPhone 11 taks 72 kg of carbon emissions, which is about 80 percent of the emissions for its total life cycle.

For data usage, the main impact comes from videos. Online video is 60 percent, 20% other videos, like meetings, 20 % other content. If you can choose a lower transmission rate on Netflix, that helps.

Sustainable IT is good for business. Get ready ahead of regulations, and you will have a chance to catch up with your competitors and go beyond them. Risk management: unsustainability is a vulnerability.

Choose for eco-design of digital services. First question: what can I avoid developing? Write efficient code. Reduce bandwidth. Divide infra needs. Extend the lifetime of your product: if your product can still run on older phones, you avoid the need for your users to buy a new phone. More clients. Business growth.

Demonstrate your engagement. You can become a member. Or just sign.

A few tips: