A CONTRADICTION IN SUSTAINABILITY: THE ENERGY TRANSITION AND RAPIDLY EXPANDING FRONTIERS OF EXTRACTION
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Abstract The Global North finds itself heading full throttle into the energy transition, a transition from high to low carbon emission energy sources with the goal of fulfilling the vision of environmental, economic, and social sustainability. Alternative energy sources are being adopted to achieve carbon neutrality and to mitigate environmental deterioration. Shifting to alternative energy sources requires an increased amount of minerals, however, and this demand can only be met with increased extraction. The increased opening up of so called green mineral extraction projects calls for investigation of the sustainability of the energy transition in terms of its impact globally. Remote Sensing (RS) and Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques were used in combination with an interview analysis to determine the socio-environmental impacts of increased mining in the context of the energy transition. Specifically, two graphite mines in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, are examined. This research applied a spatial focus by conducting a Land Use Land Cover (LULC) change analysis. The LULC change findings were further substantiated using community data. The LULC change analysis revealed the heterogeneous nature of change that comes paired with the early stages of mining operations. Overall, the analysis identifies the landscape changes noticeably because of the mines’ presence, causing a reduction in vegetation. Moreover, farmland is stripped away where the mines emerge, which impacts the population’s livelihood. The affected communities inside the concession zone are displaced and must navigate compensation and resettlement arrangements. Outside the concession zone, communities expand from migration and resettlement. Furthermore, the mines cause negative health and environmental impacts because of deforestation, graphite dust and water contamination. The results are discussed as they pertain to discourses of extractivism driven by the energy transition. Extraction driven by the energy transition is not inherently sustainable, and the findings indicate how energy transition-induced mining affects localities even in the early stages. The pursuit of sustainability through the energy transition exhibits internal contradictions as it drives processes which threaten sustainability in key places of green mineral extraction.