Leads: Nate Otjen + Juan Manuel Rubio

Research Team: Alex Norbrook '26, Grace Wang '26 + Max Widmann '24

Final project format: multiple-season audio storytelling series (fall 2023)

Discussions of renewable energy rarely consider the mining activities required to produce the critical minerals needed to develop climate adaptation technologies and alternative energy systems. Mining for the Climate examines the different narratives that are being told about the extraction, production, and development of lithium in the context of a changing climate and global histories of energy extraction. The project surveys and assesses perspectives on this critical mineral from a variety of global, national, and local actors, including government agencies, lithium mining companies, Indigenous groups, farmers and ranchers, and environmental advocates.

In June and July 2023, with support from Blue Lab and the High Meadows Environmental Institute, the research team initiated the first phase of the project. The group traveled to communities impacted by proposed lithium mines in North Carolina and Nevada, conducting interviews with people on multiple sides of the issue.

The project will result in a multiple-season audio series published by the Blue Lab. The initial phase involves producing the first season of the audio documentary, which will take a deep look at Piedmont Lithium’s proposed mine in Gaston County, North Carolina. In the next phase, the research team will develop a second season that examines the contestations over the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine at Peehee Mu’huh in Humboldt County, Nevada.