GOMA, Congo (AP) — Congo’s Mount Nyiragongo erupted for the first time in nearly two decades Saturday, turning the night sky a fiery red and sending lava onto a major highway as panicked residents tried to flee Goma, a city of nearly 2 million.
There was no immediate word on any casualties, but witnesses said that lava already had engulfed a highway that connects Goma with the city of Beni in North Kivu province.
Mount Nyiragongo’s last eruption, in 2002, left hundreds dead and coated airport runways in lava. More than 100,000 people were left homeless in the aftermath, adding to the fear in Goma on Saturday night.
“We are already in a total psychosis,” Zacharie Paluku, a resident, told The Associated Press. “Everyone is afraid; people are running away. We really don’t know what to do.”
The government said it was putting an evacuation plan into place, but the announcement was made several hours after the sky turned a fiery red, and many already had fled on foot in hopes of crossing the Rwandan border post just outside town. Car horns honked and motorcycle taxis weaved as people tried to escape in panic.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission known tweeted dramatic footage of the city lit by the volcano’s glow, saying it was conducting reconnaissance flights over the city where it maintains a large base.
“The lava doesn’t seem to be headed toward the city of Goma. We remain on alert,” it said.
Some sought refuge aboard boats on Lake Kivu, while others fled to Mount Goma, the highest point in the metropolitan area. Dorcas Mbulayi left her home about an hour after the volcano first showed signs of erupting.
“We were eating when a friend of dad’s called him on the phone and told him to go and look outside,” said Mr. Mbulayi, who was still a child the last time the volcano erupted. “Dad told us that the volcano was erupting and that we were going to go to Mount Goma to escape the lava of the volcano.”
She also blamed authorities “for not informing us in time about the possible volcanic eruption.”
The lack of immediate announcements from authorities and conflicting accounts circulating on social media only added to the sense of chaos in Goma.
Authorities at the Goma Volcano Observatory initially said it was the nearby Nyamulagira volcano that had erupted. The two volcanos are located about 8.1 miles apart.
Charles Balagizi, a volcanologist, said the observatory’s report was based on the direction in which the lava appeared to be flowing, which was toward Rwanda rather than Goma.
Atop a long-dormant volcano in northern Nevada, workers are preparing to start blasting and digging out a giant pit that will serve as the first new large-scale lithium mine in the United States in more than a decade — a new domestic supply of an essential ingredient in electric car batteries and renewable energy.
The mine, constructed on leased federal lands, could help address the near total reliance by the United States on foreign sources of lithium.
But the project, known as Lithium Americas, has drawn protests from members of a Native American tribe, ranchers and environmental groups because it is expected to use billions of gallons of precious ground water, potentially contaminating some of it for 300 years, while leaving behind a giant mound of waste.
“Blowing up a mountain isn’t green, no matter how much marketing spin people put on it,” said Max Wilbert, who has been living in a tent on the proposed mine site while two lawsuits seeking to block the project wend their way through federal courts.
Electric cars and renewable energy may not be as green as they appear. Production of raw materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel that are essential to these technologies are often ruinous to land, water, wildlife and people.
That environmental toll has often been overlooked in part because there is a race underway among the United States, China, Europe and other major powers. Echoing past contests and wars over gold and oil, governments are fighting for supremacy over minerals that could help countries achieve economic and technological dominance for decades to come.
Developers and lawmakers see this Nevada project, given final approval in the last days of the Trump administration, as part of the opportunity for the United States to become a leader in producing some of these raw materials as President Biden moves aggressively to fight climate change. In addition to Nevada, businesses have proposed lithium production sites in California, Oregon, Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina.
But traditional mining is one of the dirtiest businesses out there. That reality is not lost on automakers and renewable-energy businesses.
“Our new clean-energy demands could be creating greater harm, even though its intention is to do good,” said Aimee Boulanger, executive director for the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, a group that vets mines for companies like BMW and Ford Motor. “We can’t allow that to happen.”
assembled by Bloomberg, and a hint of the frenzy underway.
Some of those investors are backing alternatives including a plan to extract lithium from briny water beneath California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, about 600 miles south of the Lithium Americas site.
At the Salton Sea, investors plan to use specially coated beads to extract lithium salt from the hot liquid pumped up from an aquifer more than 4,000 feet below the surface. The self-contained systems will be connected to geothermal power plants generating emission-free electricity. And in the process, they hope to generate the revenue needed to restore the lake, which has been fouled by toxic runoff from area farms for decades.
Businesses are also hoping to extract lithium from brine in Arkansas, Nevada, North Dakota and at least one more location in the United States.
The United States needs to quickly find new supplies of lithium as automakers ramp up manufacturing of electric vehicles. Lithium is used in electric car batteries because it is lightweight, can store lots of energy and can be repeatedly recharged. Analysts estimate that lithium demand is going to increase tenfold before the end of this decade as Tesla, Volkswagen, General Motors and other automakers introduce dozens of electric models. Other ingredients like cobalt are needed to keep the battery stable.
Even though the United States has some of the world’s largest reserves, the country today has only one large-scale lithium mine, Silver Peak in Nevada, which first opened in the 1960s and is producing just 5,000 tons a year — less than 2 percent of the world’s annual supply. Most of the raw lithium used domestically comes from Latin America or Australia, and most of it is processed and turned into battery cells in China and other Asian countries.
In March, she announced grants to increase production of crucial minerals. “This is a race to the future that America is going to win,” she said.
So far, the Biden administration has not moved to help push more environmentally friendly options — like lithium brine extraction, instead of open pit mines. The Interior Department declined to say whether it would shift its stand on the Lithium Americas permit, which it is defending in court.
Mining companies and related businesses want to accelerate domestic production of lithium and are pressing the administration and key lawmakers to insert a $10 billion grant program into Mr. Biden’s infrastructure bill, arguing that it is a matter of national security.
“Right now, if China decided to cut off the U.S. for a variety of reasons we’re in trouble,” said Ben Steinberg, an Obama administration official turned lobbyist. He was hired in January by Piedmont Lithium, which is working to build an open-pit mine in North Carolina and is one of several companies that have created a trade association for the industry.
Investors are rushing to get permits for new mines and begin production to secure contracts with battery companies and automakers.
Ultimately, federal and state officials will decide which of the two methods — traditional mining or brine extraction — is approved. Both could take hold. Much will depend on how successful environmentalists, tribes and local groups are in blocking projects.
Mr. Bartell’s biggest fear is that the mine will consume the water that keeps his cattle alive. The company has said the mine will consume 3,224 gallons per minute. That could cause the water table to drop on land Mr. Bartell owns by an estimated 12 feet, according to a Lithium Americas consultant.
While producing 66,000 tons a year of battery-grade lithium carbonate, the mine may cause groundwater contamination with metals including antimony and arsenic, according to federal documents.
The lithium will be extracted by mixing clay dug out from the mountainside with as much as 5,800 tons a day of sulfuric acid. This whole process will also create 354 million cubic yards of mining waste that will be loaded with discharge from the sulfuric acid treatment, and may contain modestly radioactive uranium, permit documents disclose.
A Decemberassessment by the Interior Department found that over its 41-year life, the mine would degrade nearly 5,000 acres of winter range used by pronghorn antelope and hurt the habitat of the sage grouse. It would probably also destroy a nesting area for a pair of golden eagles whose feathers are vital to the local tribe’s religious ceremonies.
a lawsuit to try to block the mine.
At the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation, anger over the project has boiled over, even causing some fights between members as Lithium Americas has offered to hire tribal members in jobs that will pay an average annual wage of $62,675 — twice the county’s per capita income — but that will come with a big trade-off.
“Tell me, what water am I going to drink for 300 years?” Deland Hinkey, a member of the tribe, yelled as a federal official arrived at the reservation in March to brief tribal leaders on the mining plan. “Anybody, answer my question. After you contaminate my water, what I am going to drink for 300 years? You are lying!”
The reservation is nearly 50 miles from the mine site — and far beyond the area where groundwater may be contaminated — but tribe members fear the pollution could spread.
hiring a lobbying team that includes a former Trump White House aide, Jonathan Slemrod.
Lithium Americas, which estimates there is $3.9 billion worth of recoverable lithium at the site, hopes to start mining operations next year. Its largest shareholder is the Chinesecompany Ganfeng Lithium.
A Second Act
CalEnergy, and another business, Energy Source, have tapped the Buttes’ geothermal heat to produce electricity. The systems use naturally occurring underground steam. This same water is loaded with lithium.
Now, Berkshire Hathaway and two other companies — Controlled Thermal Resources and Materials Research — want to install equipment that will extract lithium after the water passes through the geothermal plants, in a process that will take only about two hours.
Rod Colwell, a burly Australian, has spent much of the last decade pitching investors and lawmakers on putting the brine to use. In February, a backhoe plowed dirt on a 7,000-acre site being developed by his company, Controlled Thermal Resources.
“This is the sweet spot,” Mr. Colwell said. “This is the most sustainable lithium in the world, made in America. Who would have thought it? We’ve got this massive opportunity.”
unemployment rate of nearly 16 percent.
“Our region is very rich in natural resources and mineral resources,” said Luis Olmedo, executive director of Comite Civico del Valle, which represents area farm workers. “However, they’re very poorly distributed. The population has not been afforded a seat at the table.”
The state has given millions in grants to lithium extraction companies, and the Legislature is considering requiring carmakers by 2035 to use California sources for some of the lithium in vehicles they sell in the state, the country’s largest electric-car market.
But even these projects have raised some questions.
Geothermal plants produce energy without emissions, but they can require tens of billions of gallons of water annually for cooling. And lithium extraction from brine dredges up minerals like iron and salt that need to be removed before the brine is injected back into the ground.
Similar extraction efforts at the Salton Sea have previously failed. In 2000, CalEnergy proposed spending $200 million to extract zinc and to help restore the Salton Sea. The company gave up on the effort in 2004.
opened demonstration projects using the brine extraction technology, with Standard Lithium tapping into a brine source already being extracted from the ground by an Arkansas chemical plant, meaning it did not need to take additional water from the ground.
“This green aspect is incredibly important,” said Robert Mintak, chief executive of Standard Lithium, who hopes the company will produce 21,000 tons a year of lithium in Arkansas within five years if it can raise $440 million in financing. “The Fred Flintstone approach is not the solution to the lithium challenge.”
Lilac Solutions, whose clients include Controlled Thermal Resources, is also working on direct lithium extraction in Nevada, North Dakota and at least one other U.S. location that it would not disclose. The company predicts that within five years, these projects could produce about 100,000 tons of lithium annually, or 20 times current domestic production.
Executives from companies like Lithium Americans question if these more innovative approaches can deliver all the lithium the world needs.
But automakers are keen to pursue approaches that have a much smaller impact on the environment.
“Indigenous tribes being pushed out or their water being poisoned or any of those types of issues, we just don’t want to be party to that,” said Sue Slaughter, Ford’s purchasing director for supply chain sustainability. “We really want to force the industries that we’re buying materials from to make sure that they’re doing it in a responsible way. As an industry, we are going to bebuying so much of these materials that we do have significant power to leverage that situation very strongly. And we intend to do that.”
Below deck on their submarine, Indonesian sailors crowded around a crewman with a guitar and crooned a pop song called “Till We Meet Again.”
Weeks later, the same sailors vanished deep beneath the Pacific Ocean while descending for a torpedo drill, setting off a frantic international search. Indonesian military officials said on Sunday, four days after the vessel disappeared, that it had broken into three pieces hundreds of meters below the surface, leaving no survivors among the 53 crew members.
Now, the video of the submariners singing is resonating across Indonesian social media, in a nation where many people are jaded by a steady stream of bad news: devastating earthquakes, erupting volcanoes and sinking ferries.
composed the song, wrote on Instagram below a clip of the sailors’ performance.
paid their respects to the spirit world, consulting with seers or collecting what they believed were magic tokens, for example.
told The New York Times in 2018 that he made a point of incorporating local wisdom and traditional beliefs while communicating the science of disasters.
“The cultural approach works better than just science and technology,” Mr. Sutopo said. “If people think that it is punishment from God, it makes it easier for them to recover.”
The latest diaster struck last week, when a 44-year-old submarine, the Nanggala, disappeared before dawn during training exercises north of the Indonesian island of Bali. Search crews from the United States, India, Malaysia, Australia and Singapore later helped the Indonesian Navy hunt for the vessel in the Bali Sea.
For a few days, naval experts worried that the sub might run out of oxygen. Then the navy confirmed over the weekend that it had fractured and sank to a deep seabed.
Among the items a remote-controlled submersible found at the crash site was a tattered orange escape suit.
a melancholic version by the Indonesian singer Tami Aulia has more than nine million page views on YouTube.
But Mr. Soekamti said his band now avoids playing it and recently declined to include it on an upcoming live album.
MALANG, Indonesia — A strong earthquake killed at least six people and damaged buildings on Indonesia’s main island, Java, on Saturday and shook the tourist hot spot of Bali, officials said.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, of magnitude-6.0, had struck off the island’s southern coast at 2 p.m. local time. It was centered in waters south of the Malang District in East Java Province and had a depth of 51 miles.
Falling rocks killed a woman on a motorcycle and badly injured her husband in East Java’s Lumajang district, said Raditya Jati, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.
He said dozens of homes had been damaged across the district, and rescuers had retrieved two bodies from the rubble of collapsed homes in the district’s Kali Uling village. Two people were also confirmed to have been killed in an area bordering Lumajang and Malang districts, and one person was found dead under rubble in Malang.
Television reports showed people running in panic from malls and buildings in several cities in East Java Province.
Indonesia’s search and rescue agency released videos and photos of damaged houses and buildings, including a ceiling at a hospital in Blitar, a city neighboring Malang. The authorities were still collecting information about the extent of casualties and damage in the affected areas.
The quake was the second deadly disaster to hit Indonesia this past week. Last Sunday, a downpour resulting from Tropical Cyclone Seroja killed at least 165 people and damaged thousands of houses. Some were buried in either mudslides or solidified lava from a volcanic eruption in November, while others were swept away by flash flooding.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 270 million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
In January, a magnitude-6.2 earthquake killed at least 105 people and injured nearly 6,500, while more than 92,000 were displaced, after striking Mamuju and Majene districts in West Sulawesi Province.
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines — A volcano in the southern Caribbean that had been dormant for decades erupted on Friday, spewing clouds of ash and smoke miles into the sky.
The volcano, known as La Soufrière, on the northern tip of the main island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, had started showing signs of renewed activity in late December. It moved into an “explosive state” on Friday morning, the National Emergency Management Organization said in a Twitter posting.
thanks to a hastily arranged evacuation of residents to local beaches. Its ash reached as far as Barbados, 100 miles east. An earlier eruption, in 1902, killed nearly 1,700 people.
Cecilia Jewett, 72, a roads supervisor with the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said she suffered through the 1979 eruption and recalled the scenes of panic and the desperate scramble for water, the sky darkened by ash and the overpowering stench of sulfur. Her father, she said, experienced the deadly 1902 event, and told stories of victims buried in ash, and corpses lying in the streets.
“Those stories come back to my mind on hearing that the La Soufrière was acting up,” she recalled when interviewed last December. “It’s just too much. These young people would not understand. They think it’s just an explosion.”
“The sulfur, what it does to your eyes, your breathing, your very existence,” she continued. “It was a time I would not want to relive.”
Government officials began conducting outreach last winter in areas closest to the volcano, briefing residents on evacuation protocols in case of an eruption, Mr. Gonsalves said in an interview in January.
The prime minister acknowledged then the challenges of conducting emergency operations during the pandemic but said that strict health protocols — like the obligatory use of masks and social distancing where possible — would be in place during evacuations and in shelters.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a population of 110,000 spread across three dozen islands. Most people live around the capital, Kingstown, on the southwestern coast of St. Vincent island. Though known as a boaters’ paradise, the country also has high rates of poverty and unemployment.
Ernesto Cooke reported from Kingstown, and Oscar Lopez from Mexico City.
A volcano erupted in Iceland on Friday, essentially turning the night sky into a real-life lava lamp.
No injuries were reported. Just joy — and the odd traffic jam.
The eruption occurred on Friday evening near Mount Fagradalsfjall, about 20 miles southwest of the capital, Reykjavik, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said on Twitter. The agency said that the lava fountains were small by volcano standards, and that seismometers were not recording much turbulence.
Friday’s event was nothing like the eruption 11 years ago of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, which spewed so much ash that it grounded flights across parts of Europe for weeks.
Still, it was southwestern Iceland’s first eruption in about 800 years, and the lava was stunning. So a lot of people were excited.
and Instagram, noting that she had once filmed a music video at the site.
“We in iceland are sooo excited !!!” she added. “We still got it !!! sense of relief when nature expresses herself !!!”
an unusually busy spell of seismic activity in southwestern Iceland that began around December 2019. Tens of thousands of quakes have shaken the area in recent weeks, leading scientists to believe that an eruption could be imminent.
There is a long history of volcanic activity in Iceland. The country straddles two tectonic plates, which are themselves divided by an undersea mountain chain that oozes molten hot rock, or magma. Quakes occur when the magma pushes through the plates.
wrote on Twitter as the lava started flowing slowly southwest, away from Reykjavik.
wrote Sigridur Kristjansdottir, a seismologist in Iceland. Nonspecialists also expressed excitement online.
The colors in the sky were indeed spectacular. Imagine the Northern Lights, but in blood orange instead of the usual electric green. Or the glowing orbs of an early Mark Rothko canvas.
Or Björk’s orange hair, circa 2011, a few years before she filmed her music video in the vicinity of Mount Fagradalsfjall.
On Earth, the heat generated from the radioactive decay of elements in Earth’s mantle drives convection currents, pushing and dragging large plates of Earth’s crust around. When the plates collide, mountains form, and parts of Earth’s crust are recycled into the mantle. When the plates are pushed apart, the partially molten mantle rises upward to fill the gap. Plate tectonics is an essential part of the cycle that brings material from the planet’s interior to the surface and the atmosphere, and then transports it back beneath the Earth’s crust. Tectonics thus has a vital influence on the energy and matter transfer that ultimately makes Earth habitable.
Until now, researchers have found no evidence of global tectonic activity on planets outside our solar system. A team of researchers led by Tobias Meier from the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern and with the participation of ETH Zurich, the University of Oxford, and the National Center of Competence in Research NCCR PlanetS has now found evidence of the flow patterns inside a planet, located 45 light-years from Earth: LHS 3844b. Their results were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
LHS 3844b is an exoplanet orbiting the red dwarf star LHS 3844, discovered using the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. It orbits its parent star once every 11 hours, and its radius is 1.32 times that of Earth. It has a low albedo, indicating that its surface may resemble that of the Moon or Mercury.
“Observing signs of tectonic activity is very difficult, because they are usually hidden beneath an atmosphere”, Meier explains. However, recent results suggested that LHS 3844b probably does not have an atmosphere. Slightly larger than Earth and likely similarly rocky, it orbits around its star so closely that one side of the planet is gravitationally locked towards its sun. One hemisphere of the planet is in constant daylight and the other in permanent night. With no atmosphere shielding it from the intense radiation, the surface gets blisteringly hot: it can reach up to 800 degrees Celsius on the dayside. Common rocks, like granite and basalt, melt at temperatures of 900 to 1,200 degrees Celsius. The night side, on the other hand, is freezing. Temperatures there might fall below minus 250 degrees Celsius. “We thought that this severe temperature contrast might affect material flow in the planet’s interior”, Meier recalls.
Cool rocks are brittle and tend to break, becoming much more liquid-like as they heat up. The team ran computer simulations with different strengths of material and internal heating sources, such as heat from the planet’s core and the decay of radioactive elements. The simulations also included the large temperature contrast on the surface imposed by the host star.
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“Most simulations showed that there was only upwards flow on one side of the planet and downwards flow on the other. Material therefore flowed from one hemisphere to the other”, Meier reports. Surprisingly, the direction was not always the same. “Based on what we are used to from Earth, you would expect the material on the hot dayside to be lighter and therefore flow upwards and vice versa”, co-author Dan Bower at the University of Bern and the NCCR PlanetS explains. Yet, some of the teams’ simulations also showed the opposite flow direction. “This initially counter-intuitive result is due to the change in viscosity with temperature: cold material is stiffer and therefore doesn’t want to bend, break or subduct into the interior. Warm material, however, is less viscous – so even solid rock becomes more mobile when heated – and can readily flow towards the planet’s interior”, Bower elaborates. Either way, these results show how a planetary surface and interior can exchange material under conditions very different from those on Earth.
As a result, the researchers suggest that LHS 3844b could have one entire hemisphere covered in volcanoes comparable to terrestrial volcanism as found in Hawaii and Iceland. Here mantle-plumes form very hot lava with low viscosity.
“Our simulations show how such patterns could manifest, but it would require more detailed observations to verify,” says Meier.
“For example, with a higher-resolution map of surface temperature that could point to enhanced outgassing from volcanism, or detection of volcanic gases. This is something we hope future research will help us to understand.”
Similar tremors have been observed ahead of volcanic eruptions in the past, and the Icelandic Meteorological Office said that magma movements were a likely cause for the continuing activity. The agency has warned that an eruption could occur within days or weeks.
“The two tectonic plates are moving away from each other, and that movement has created the conditions for magma to come to the surface,” said Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a research professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland.
Dr. Einarsson said that out of the five volcanoes in the Reykjanes area, magma movement had been observed near at least three of them since the seismic episode began in December 2019. “We may be entering a new active period in the peninsula,” he added. “There seems to be food for some eruption.”
Iceland has about 30 active volcanoes, but volcanologists say an eruption in Reykjanes won’t threaten inhabited areas on the peninsula. “We’re talking about an effusive eruption, rather than explosive,” said Dr. Sigmundsson, explaining that the lava would likely bubble out with little explosive force.
He added that any activity is unlikely to be as disruptive as the eruption that occurred in 2010, when another volcano in Iceland released a plume of ash so vast that it caused one of the most significant air-traffic interruptions in decades, stranding millions of passengers in Europe, some for weeks.
The meteorological office said the volcanic activity could occur near Fagradalsfjall, 20 miles south of Reykjavik, or near the Keilir mountain close by. Hundreds of volcano enthusiasts have been riveted to live cameras in the area, and a website asking “Has there been an eruption yet?” has kept them up-to-date. (It still read “Nei” — No — as of Thursday afternoon, but a playlist on the website helped with the wait.)
The meteorological office said that among possible scenarios, the ongoing seismic activities could decrease in the coming days or weeks, but the peninsula could also face more earthquakes, up to magnitude 6.5.