ENERGY WILL DOMINATE FUTURE METALS DEMAND IEA TELLS MINERAL SUPPLY THINK TANK
March 4, 2022
Presentations from global mineral supply think tank published online Energy will become the dominant driver of demand for nickel, cobalt and other critical minerals as the world transitions to a clean energy future. A think tank on global mineral supply organised by Ghent University and the sustainability research group Blueridge heard that to reach Paris climate goals, nickel supply would have to grow 19-fold by 2040 and cobalt 21-fold. These minerals are crucial for clean energy infrastructure and technologies such as electric vehicle batteries said Amrita Dasgupta, Energy Analyst at the International Energy Agency (IEA). She was one of 16 speakers at the event which took place in Ostend, Belgium in October. All the presentations are now available online and a summary report can be downloaded here. Academics from UCLouvain, Ghent University, Liege University, Leiden University, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research, RMIT University, Melbourne, and the University of Delaware spoke at the event. Delegates also heard from the head of EC’s Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials Unit, the co-founder of the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies, and the Secretary General of the International Seabed Authority. Entitled ‘Global mineral supply and meeting the challenge of future demand’ the event brought together scientists, policy makers, experts and entrepreneurs to debate four themes: the impact of climate change and population growth and metal demand; Europe’s need for a secure supply of minerals and metals; Recent evolutions, including research into deep-seabed mining, and; the role of Life Cycle Assessments comparing impact assessments. PRESENTATIONS SUMMARIES Keynote speaker, Mr. Michael W. Lodge, Secretary General, International Seabed Authority, Kingston, Jamaica The demand for minerals is rising rapidly. Rising demand is the key factor accelerating the interest in sea minerals. To accommodate net zero emission targets of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 2050, the supply of critical minerals (whatever the origin) needs to increase by huge amounts. Land mining, coastal mining, oceanic/deep seabed mining (beyond national jurisdiction) are all potential sources, but one is not necessarily better than the other. There are certain advantages and disadvantages related to each of them and we need to discuss these trade-offs. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is aims to respond to the challenge of increasing interest in deep seabed mining and develop a comprehensive system of regulation. This is the first time that an extractive industry has been regulated before the exploitation starts. The ISA hopes that the benefits of mineral extraction will be available equitably. THEME 1 | CLIMATE CHANGE, POPULATION GROWTH AND METAL DEMAND Prof. Dr. Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, UCLouvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium Human influence has warmed the climate at an unprecedented rate in the last 200 years and other variables have changed. The atmosphere today contains the highest CO2 concentration in the last 2 million years. The sea level is rising faster than at any time in the last 3000 years. Arctic sea ice is at its lowest level in the last 1000 years. Averages of climate parameters (e.g. extreme heat, increased rainfall) are changing as well. The IPCC AR6 WGI report confirmed that the habitability of the Earth is threatened by climate change. We have to listen to climate scientists and biodiversity scientists. The challenge is huge: we have to consider the SDGs as a package (and not as separate goals). Mrs. Amrita Dasgupta, Energy Analyst, International Energy Agency (IEA), France Mineral demand is expected to quadruple by 2040 for the scenario consistent with the Paris agreement. Even faster transition is required for a net zero emissions scenario by 2050 and will result in a sixfold increase in mineral demand. For some minerals, growth will be even faster (lithium) depending on the selected technologies and policies. E.g. for a scenario compatible with the Paris agreement the demand for lithium will be 40 times higher by 2040 than it is today. It is concluded that the demand for critical minerals is set to soar over the next decades to reach climate change goals. Prof. Dr. ir. Bernard Mazijn, Department of Conflict and Development Studies, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium Urbanisation will increase by 54% by 2050. Regarding population growth, we expect an increase of 25% by 2050, while for welfare, we expect a rise of 130% by 2050. The latter is particularly related to the increase in purchasing power of the middle class in emerging economies. These megaforces require a growing demand for resources, currently occurring in parallel with a scarcity of water and resources, threatened food security, and degradation of ecosystems. To understand the impact of these megaforces, we should look at global carbon inequality: the poorest 50 % of the world population is only responsible for 12% of the global emissions, while the top 1% (of the world population) is responsible for 17% of global emissions. The richest 10% is responsible for almost half of total lifestyle consumption emissions. THEME 2| EUROPE AND THE SEARCH FOR METAL SUPPLY Prof. Dr. Jonathan Holslag, VUB, Brussels, Belgium The Chinese government has prioritized resource security and increased control over the minerals sector, and aims to achieve this as a mining country, as an investor in minerals abroad, and as a key processor. Except for a few specific minerals, however, China has limited control and has not yet come to dominate the supply chains. A detailed examination of cobalt, manganese, and nickel, three minerals vital for various strategic industries, illustrate that Chinese mines still deliver less than 35 % of the Chinese demand. Much of Chinese processing capacity is dependent on foreign industries such as electric vehicles. While the ambition of resource security and control has been affirmed, it is not yet achieved. Mr. Peter Handley, EU DG GROW, Brussels, Belgium China is amassing patents and knowledge in, among other areas, metallurgy and material science and it is further advanced than the rest of the world in these areas. Moreover, China is rolling out standardisation strategies and is becoming significant in standardisation committees. The access to critical raw materials is a geopolitical challenge, specifically with regard to resource security and competition. History teaches us that those who have (geopolitical) control over such resources, also drive innovation and hold the power and wealth. However, control over resources has also led to environmental damage, human cost and conflict. Prof. Dr. Gavin M. Mudd, Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia Prof. Mudd concludes that of all the metals/minerals studied, there is no evidence of resource depletion. On the contrary, new deposits and expanding resources have always been found to meet global demands. The great challenge of modern mining remains the increasing environmental (and social) footprints and mine wastes. Decreasing ore grades and, arguably, increasing mine wastes are leading to higher energy costs, putting pressure on carbon costs. There is a variety of solutions or approaches, but we have a long way to find these and to transition mining to the 21st century needs and demands. THEME 3 | RECENT EVOLUTIONS: INNOVATION, CIRCULAR ECONOMY AND DEEP‐SEA MINING Prof. Dr. Eric Pirard, ULiège, Liège, Belgium Green growth requires the use of more metals: there has been an exponential growth in the use of these metals since the 1960s. Raw material consumption is concurrently decreasing. However, the statistics do not reflect all metals imported within finished products. There is a need to monitor the flows of metal and promote a more circular approach. It will take a long time to establish a circular economy, for now: new metal inputs will still be needed and waste generation will still occur. Dr. Kurt Vandeputte, SVP Government Affairs Umicore, Antwerp, Belgium As electrification increases, the physical supply chain needs will need to follow. If one link is missing, the whole supply chain will be impacted. Faster charging rates, longer battery power, the cost of batteries and the embedded CO2 are all dependent on which metals are used in the cathode. Thermodynamics and historical habitats in industry and trade determine the current state of the battery production. Recycling everything available on the current market would only provide 10% of the future needs related to the green energy shift. Mr. Dirk Nelen, R&D researcher sustainable material, VITO – Flemish Institute for Technological Research, Mol, Belgium Materials acquire value from their functionality and their ability to satisfy fundamental human needs. These needs are constant through cultures and over time. Human “wants” on the other hand, can never be satisfied, differ between cultures, and are not constant through time. The linear economy mode was dominant in the last century and focused on waste management. In a circular economy the focus is more on stock management. The aim is keeping up the value of materials over time. There are various indicators to measure performance for both economies. We cannot establish the success of a circular economy using the parameters of a linear economy. Circularity is not the objective of establishing a circular economy, sustainability is. Dr. Carsten Rühleman, Chief Scientist of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) Dr. Rühleman addresses the potential of polymetallic nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton-Zone (CCZ) as a metal source for the future production of batteries in Europe. The CCZ zone is known for being densely covered with manganese nodules, rich in manganese, nickel, copper and cobalt. These metals are urgently needed for the transition from the hydrocarbon era to a renewable energy era. European contract holders have access to battery metals for at least 280 million 60kwh batteries, representing 17,000 GWh, which could supply a large part of the 36 planned European gigafactories. THEME 4 | COMPARING IMPACT THROUGH LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENTS Prof. Dr. Jo Dewulf, UGent, Ghent, Belgium Planetary boundaries are already exceeded for nutrient balance, climate change and biodiversity loss. There is a tension between demands to dematerialize and the current demand for more metals. The key set of tools for decision making are Life cycle assessments (LCA) which consider environmental effects, social life cycle assessments (sLCA) and Life cycle costing (LCC), representing the economic dimension. Environmental Impact Assessments are the most advanced in terms of assessing sustainability. Prof. Dr. Ester Van der Voet, Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University, The Netherlands There are three types of environmental impacts of mining; (1) those directly related to where the mine is situated; (2) metal cycles and emissions; (3) energy use related to mining. This last impact is more important as metals are energy intensive compared with other materials or biomass. The overall expectations is that GHG emissions per kg of metal will stabilize or decline but the overall GHG-emissions of metal production will increase with a factor 2-3. From an environmental point of view, every type of mining is preferable to land-based mining. There is only one published study (Paulikas et al., 2020) using LCAs comparing land-based mining with seafloor mining. LCAs suffer from several limitations and these are explored. Assessing sea floor mining implies developing new impact categories of impact assessment. Prof. Dr. Saleem Ali, Minerals, Materials and Society Program, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, United States A lot of exploratory mining projects are taking place in high biodiversity ecosystems on land. Many of these terrestrial mining projects are in sensitive ecosystems compared with the deep sea. One needs to extract less deep sea material compared with land based sources. This is because the concentration of metals in nodules is orders of magnitude higher than that in terrestrial reserves. The precautionary principle is a risk-based decision making tool and is not science. This is why an LCA approach is more important, while still considering the precautionary principle and alternatives. The goal of deep seabed mining is to increase the stock of metals so as to achieve a circular economy. Sea floor minerals can contribute to several SDGs, especially to SDG 12 by focusing on high-grade resources and minimizing waste. The full list of speakers: Prof. Dr. Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (Université catholique de Louvain) Mrs. Amrita Dasgupta (International Energy Agency (IEA)) Prof. Dr. Bernard Mazijn (Ghent University) Prof. Dr. Jonathan Holslag (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) Peter Handley (European Commission) Prof. Dr. Gavin Mudd (RMIT University) Prof. Dr. Eric PIRARD (University of Liège) Dr. Kurt Vandeputte (Umicore) Mr. Dirk Nelen (VITO) Dr. Carsten Ruhlemann (BGR) Prof. Dr. Jo Dewulf (Ghent University Prof. Dr. Ester van der Voet (Leiden University) Prof. Dr. Saleem Ali (University of Delaware) Mr. Michael Lodge (International Seabed Authority) Dr. Marijn Rabaut Dr. Noémie Wouters Prof. Dr. Johan Vande Lanotte.