Metals are crucial to the way in which energy is generated and used.
With respect to prospects for the mining industry, much attention has been paid to the implications for the sector of a decline in the demand for coal over time (notwithstanding the potential for carbon capture and storage to help manage associated GHG emissions).
In comparison, little attention has been paid to the implications of growing demand for materials required in the construction of renewable technologies and zero emission infrastructure. Minerals and metals will play a key role in the transition to a significantly lower carbon future, with potentially significant changes for the minerals and metals market.
The future move to a low carbon economy, based on low carbon electricity generation and energy-efficient energy-using technologies, has huge potential to shift both the scale and composition of the demand for minerals and metals.
An article in Nature explains, “a transition to a low carbon society, [is] a change that will require vast amounts of metals and minerals. Mineral resourcing and climate change are inextricably linked, not only because mining requires a large amount of energy, but also because ‘the world cannot tackle climate change without adequate supply of raw materials to manufacture clean technologies’” (Ali et al. 2017, 367).
A review of the literature shows that the issue of commodities supply of the carbon-constrained future typically focuses on the minerals and metals that are required for specific technologies, concerns about the capacity of the industry to supply elements required to meet a low carbon future, the environmental and energy-use impacts of increased extraction of those resources, and the relative vulnerability of developed countries to the supply of critical elements required for the clean energy transition. This study provides a summary of the material implications of a low carbon transition.
It uses wind, solar, and energy storage batteries as proxies, and focuses on base metals, including aluminum, copper, iron ore, nickel, lithium, and steel and some key rare earth metals such as molybdenum, neodymium, and indium.
These metals were chosen because they are commonly identified as elements required for the manufacturing of greenhouse-gas-free technologies.
The report then maps production and reserve levels of relevant metals globally, focusing on implications for resource-rich developing countries. It concludes by identifying critical research gaps and suggestions for future work.
While the study’s intended audience is the World Bank Group and relevant client governments, it is also meant to engender a broader dialogue between the mining and metals constituency and the climate change and clean energy community.
Too often, effective collaboration between the two has been hampered by perceptions of conflicting interests: this study is an attempt to break through that logjam, effectively demonstrating that a low carbon energy shift will be very much dependent on a robust, sustainable, and efficient mining and metals industry.
The report’s objective—building awareness of the opportunities provided by a changing commodity market for mineral-rich developing countries ...