STUDY. Renewable energy systems and electricity storage should be an explosion in the demand of numerous metals and rare earths in the coming years. A phenomenon that will have consequences on resource extraction in the mining countries, and on their rate, in the consumer countries.
Aluminum, silver, copper, lead, lithium, manganese, nickel, zinc, molybdenum, indium, neodymium, cobalt… The list is endless. However, all these resources are not infinite, they. And the world Bank says, the demand is going to increase because of the energy transition in progress. She has just published a report entitled “The growing role of minerals and metals for a low-carbon future” and that is studying the impact of the projected growth in three renewable energy technologies are being deployed in all countries of the world : wind, solar photovoltaic and battery storage. And, paradoxically, more nations will be ambitious in the fight against global warming… the more they will have an impact on the environment by the operator of the deposits and the refining of metals.
According to figures developed by the world Bank, the increase of the demand could be particularly marked in the segment of electric accumulators, where certain metals such as aluminum, cobalt, iron, lead, lithium, manganese or nickel, may see their demand multiplied by 10. A future low energy will not be in terms of resources. This, however, could have a positive impact for the countries that have deposits, “provided, however, that they adopt long-term strategies, enabling them to take effective investment decisions“, warn the authors of the report. They feel it is necessary to establish appropriate mechanisms for the preservation of local populations and ecosystems impacted. Riccardo Puliti, senior director of the global hub of expertise in the energy and extractive industries at the world Bank, says : “If they develop their mining sector in a sustainable way, the countries that have the capacity and infrastructure to provide the minerals and metals needed for clean technologies will have a unique opportunity to boost their economies“. But to be well positioned on their markets, the countries need to have economic data to be reliable.
Always the exploitation of the countries of the South by those of the North ?
- The plants can clean the soil ?
- An installation environmentally friendly way to treat the mine water
It is clear from the megatrends of Chile, for example, and to a lesser extent, Peru and Bolivia, will play a leading role in the supply of copper and lithium. Brazil, itself, will have substantial capacity in bauxite (the ore from which it pulls the aluminum), and iron. In Africa, Congo Kinshasa shall impose on the market of the cobalt, and South Africa, on the chrome. On the side of the processing of these raw resources, it is to China that it will continue to turn, and this for almost all of the essential metals in the individual technologies, leading to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Its neighbour india, which will occupy a dominant place for the iron and steel, as well as for the rare titanium, while all the archipelagos of south-east asia will be well-positioned for the bauxite and nickel. We note immediately that, although some mining countries such as Canada and Australia also have strong capabilities, these rankings do not show any european power (or even western), demonstrating once again the dependence of the developed economies. A glimmer of hope remains, however : the world Bank report does not take into account the recycling possible of the metals. Progress in this area could help save the resources and extract less of the sub-soil.