Latest News


Climate transition: after oil, a new dependence on strategic metals?
Climate transition: after oil, a new dependence on strategic metals?
31 October, 2022 by
Climate transition: after oil, a new dependence on strategic metals?
Russian miner Alrosa PSJC has discovered 22 new diamond deposits in Zimbabwe, according to the southern African nation’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

After a century of geopolitical tensions around access to oil, experts fear that the energy transition will create, especially in Europe, new dependencies on countries that produce metals crucial for low-carbon technologies and energy. electrification of the planet.

1. What are the climate transition metals? Cobalt, nickel, manganese, lithium conduct electricity in car batteries. Rare earths (neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, etc.) are used in hard disks or permanent magnets for wind turbines. Copper and aluminum generally conduct electricity. Platinum is used for hydrogen.

These metals allow industry, electronics, transport or energy systems to do without hydrocarbons and no longer emit the greenhouse gases that warm the planet.

Metals will be “at the center of efforts to decarbonize and electrify the economy as we move away from fossil fuels,” says a McKinsey report published in early 2022.

They will become as important as coal was for steam engines in the 19th century, or oil in the 20th century.

2. What needs to be achieved to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050? According to the IEA, global demand for critical metals could quadruple by 2040 if the world complies with the commitments of the Paris climate agreement.

For this transition, it will be necessary to produce more metals by 2050 than humanity has produced throughout its history, estimates Olivier Vidal (Institute of Earth Sciences, Grenoble, CNRS.

Two visions oppose each other: some anticipate a shortage, while others affirm that technological development and recycling will make it possible to support the increase in production.

According to a study by the University of Louvain, Europe is exposed to “critical shortages over the next 15 years”, especially in lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper and rare earths.

The European continent, which imports almost all of its critical materials, would only manage to cover between 5 and 55% of its needs in 2030, but it has untapped resources such as cobalt, gallium, germanium or lithium, answers the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA). Provided that “mining permits” are granted, underlines Bernd Schaefer, its leader. New lithium mining projects were launched, including Monday in France, by the Imerys group.

The United States has just opened its first cobalt mine in decades, in Idaho. Car manufacturers like Tesla want to enter directly into the capital of mining operators.

3. What are the producing countries? The cobalt market is dominated by one main player at each end of the value chain: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accounts for 70% of world production, and China covers more than 50 % of refining.

South Africa represents 37% of world manganese production and Guinea 22% of bauxite (which is used to make aluminium, editor’s note).

For lithium, the main producing countries are Australia, Chile and Argentina. Bolivia has the largest untapped reserves.

4. What are the geopolitical risks around these metals?” The triangle of oil and gas – Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States – has governed the world for forty years. A monopoly which will gradually give way to a bipolarization of the world between the United States and China, major users of energy transition metals,” said Philippe Varin, author of a report on the supply of mineral raw materials to French industry.

In Africa and elsewhere, China and its companies have taken “40% control of the value chains for the metals needed to manufacture batteries. This geopolitical change of scenery will generate tensions on metals,” he says, in calling for the development of a “metals diplomacy” with a view to “partnership with resource-rich countries”.

Strategic raw materials “could be the subject of a confrontation between China and the United States in the years to come,” adds Emmanuel Hache, prospectivist at the IFP Energies nouvelles research center.

“At the beginning of all conflicts, we always find raw materials on the front line,” underlines the Cyclope, annual guide to raw materials, linking for example the coup d’etat in Guinea in 2021 to the exploitation of bauxite.

By Arnbethnic


Climate transition: after oil, a new dependence on strategic metals?
Administrator 31 October, 2022
Share this post