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The Imperative of Bolstering Critical Mineral Supply for a Greener Future


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Critical Mineral Supply

In the shadow of advancing green technologies such as electric vehicles (EVs), wind turbines, and solar panels, a looming challenge presents itself—the potential shortfall of critical minerals essential for these technologies. The International Energy Agency (IEA) highlights the urgent need for increased long-term investments to secure a stable supply of these minerals, essential for a seamless transition to clean energy.


The Growing Demand Versus Supply Discrepancy

The IEA's recent report sheds light on a critical issue: the projected demand for essential metals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, and copper will soon outstrip supply if significant measures are not taken. Although metal prices saw a dip in 2023, easing market pressures, this short-term decrease masks the looming long-term challenges. For instance, the expected global supply of lithium is set to meet only half the demand by 2035, with copper faring slightly better, fulfilling just over two-thirds of the demand.


The Role of Investment and Innovation

To combat these challenges, the IEA estimates that approximately $800 billion in mining investments will be required by 2040. This investment will support the extraction and processing of these critical minerals, ensuring they can meet the burgeoning demand from the clean energy sector. Moreover, the report emphasises the pivotal role of recycling in reducing the need for raw mineral extraction. Enhanced recycling technologies and practices could decrease new supply requirements by up to 30% by 2040.


The Necessity of Recycling and Behavioural Changes

While traditional base metals like aluminium have established recycling processes, the recycling of newer, high-demand minerals such as lithium and nickel remains insufficient. These materials are crucial for battery storage and clean energy applications but are currently under-recycled. Promoting behavioural changes and innovative recycling technologies will be crucial in addressing this deficiency.


Conclusion

As we edge closer to a cleaner energy future, the need for a robust and reliable supply chain for critical minerals becomes more apparent. While the recent reduction in metal prices has provided temporary relief to consumers and driven down costs in industries like battery manufacturing, it also poses risks to the sustainability of long-term mineral supply. Strategic investments and a strong focus on innovation in mining and recycling are essential to ensuring that the clean energy transition is both achievable and sustainable.

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