Minerals and Metals Essential for Clean Energy Transition

To meet growing global demand from a growing population, Europe must recognize its responsibility in securing raw material supply for industry. The European mining sector can secure the vital raw materials needed for existing and future products and technologies. It can enable change to a climate neutral, service and welfare orientated, circular and resource efficient and more connected society.

The recently published Report from the International Energy Agency ‘The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions’(link is external) reveals a number of key aspects for the clean energy transition. In a scenario that meets the Paris Agreement goals, clean energy technologies’ share of total demand rises significantly over the next two decades to over 40% for copper and rare earth elements, 60- 70% for nickel and cobalt, and almost 90% for lithium, with a quadrupling of minerals requirements for clean energy technologies by 2040. A different scenario would even require six times more mineral than today.

Many EU and international studies have already confirmed that mineral raw materials will be even more decisive for a transition to a Low-Carbon society. Today’s reliance on fossil fuels will be replaced with one on raw materials, many of which the EU sources from abroad and for which global competition is becoming increasingly fierce. For metal ores and industrial minerals with high exposure to climate technologies such as wind turbines and e-mobility, the pace of the climate transition plays a major role in their demand. The rate of the transition needed or strived for (our “ambition level”) will thus steer the demand for metal ores and industrial minerals.
The global population is expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050, including three billion new middle-class consumers. All of these have the right to secure their livelihoods and, if possible, increase their standards of living. This will increase demand for products and their related raw materials. The world has a viable pathway to building a global energy sector with net-zero emissions in 2050, but it is narrow and requires an unprecedented transformation of how energy is produced, transported and used globally, the International Energy Agency said in a landmark special Report ‘Net Zero by 2050’(link is external)  released this week.

‘When we speak of climate change adaptation, the European mining sector can secure the availability of the essential materials for a modern, climate neutral and resource efficient economy’, highlights Mark Rachovides, President of Euromines. For example, the new infrastructure for alternative energies requires an increased use of metals and minerals, in particular steel for pipelines; copper and graphite for electricity cables, generators and electric motors; aluminium, primarily for electricity cables; and a host of other metals and minerals including phosphorous, potassium and nitrogen for biomass production. Also, solar photovoltaic panels and thermal systems use a combination of up to 22 non-ferrous metals, silicon, chemicals (e.g. organic electrolytes) and a specific type of flat glass.

As published by Reuters on 10th May 2021, mining companies need to invest nearly $1.7 trillion in the next 15 years to help supply enough copper, cobalt, nickel and other metals needed for the shift to a low carbon world, according to consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

In this context Euromines is prepared to take the necessary steps and bring its value added to a climate-resilient society, fully adapted to the unavoidable impacts of climate change, with reinforced adaptive capacity and minimal vulnerability.

Source: The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions, World Energy Outlook Special Report, IEA, 2021

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