Mineral Foundations of the Energy Transition

Implications of energy transition on increased demand for minerals and the impacts on markets, trade, security, communities, geopolitics, prices, and technology development

Implications of energy transition on increased demand for minerals and the impacts on markets, trade, security, communities, geopolitics, prices, and technology development

Dr. Morgan Bazilian – congressional testimony to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the United States Senate -September 17, 2019

The current energy transformations now occurring globally—towards increased electrification, and low-carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles, fuel cells, wind turbines and solar photovoltaics (PV) rely on significant quantities of minerals and metals. The implications of increasing mineral demand has broad ramifications that go well beyond the energy and extractives sector.

Background

Calls for a Green New Deal and energy transition are coming from many global stakeholders. Less understood are the significant quantities of minerals that will be needed to fuel that transition.  Examples include the rare earths neodymium and dysprosium for magnets in high-efficiency motors; lithium, cobalt, nickel and vanadium in energy storage; and platinum-group elements in catalysts and fuel cells. To supply the necessary minerals the mining industry is confronted with numerous challenges related to environment, innovation, investment, social license to operate among others.

Additionally, (or most) of the countries with the largest potentials (and existing markets) for these minerals are emerging and developing economies. This creates further concerns around governance and a changing geopolitical landscape. How this changing demand affects markets, trade, security, geopolitics, prices, and technology development are key questions to that require further exploration.

As one of the leading energy engineering universities in the world, Colorado School of Mines and the Payne Institute is facilitating an integrated approach to the technical and policy challenges related to the mineral foundations of the energy transition.  Through research and collaboration with industry, government and other stakeholders, Mines is providing research and data to support decision-making and further consideration of the topic.

NEWS

Water Security Issues for Lithium Mining in Chile 5/17/2022

Water Security Issues for Lithium Mining in Chile

Payne Institute Communications Associate Eleanor Igwe writes about how due to lithium’s central role in electric vehicle batteries, its demand is predicted to continue a steep rise and likely reach the level of two to four million metric tons by 2030. In addition to the stresses this will put on mining production and the environment – issues of water security are likely to become a key challenge.  May 17, 2022.  

A solar-energy trade dispute erupts at exactly the wrong time 5/17/2022

A solar-energy trade dispute erupts at exactly the wrong time

Payne Institute Communications Associate Simon Lomax and Director Morgan Bazilian write about how a complaint by a California company is tanking production just when we need it most — and could delay Xcel’s exit from coal.  Colorado’s coal phase out hasn’t happened yet – and it won’t happen without the continued construction of new power sources to take the place of old power sources when they are due to shut down. Actions that slow down or stop these construction projects, however well intentioned, only increase the risk of failure.  May 17, 2022.  

The Biden Administration Has Taken Some Bold Steps on Energy, But More Remains to be Done 5/12/2022

The Biden Administration Has Taken Some Bold Steps on Energy, But More Remains to be Done

Payne Institute Director Morgan Bazilian and Duncan Wood write about how President Biden’s recent invocation of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to include five critical minerals is an important symbolic step toward moving to a low-carbon energy and transport system. The minerals mentioned in Biden’s announcement are those that are especially fundamental to modern batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage for power systems that are increasingly reliant on wind and solar power.  May 12, 2022.

Satellite Data Offers a Broad Array of Policy Insights 5/12/2022

Satellite Data Offers a Broad Array of Policy Insights

Payne Institute Communications Associate Chris Dunn and Director Morgan Bazilian summarize how satellite data is rapidly growing in importance for informing crucial policy decisions. Insights offered fall into one of three main categories: energy security and assessment, emissions and environment, and human and national security. May 12, 2022.

Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2022 5/11/2022

Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2022

Payne Institute Director Morgan Bazilian contributed to this World Economic Forum report on how the global energy transition builds on the trends from the Energy Transition Index to provide perspective on the current challenges and recommendations on how to navigate the transition through a turbulent macroeconomic and geopolitical environment. A series of compounded shocks pose short-term risks to energy affordability, sustainability, and energy security. However, the window to prevent the worst consequences of climate change is closing fast.  May 11, 2022.

Multiple streams framework and mineral royalties: The 2005 mining tax reform in Chile 4/23/2022

Multiple streams framework and mineral royalties: The 2005 mining tax reform in Chile

Emilio Castillo and Payne Institute Faculty Fellow Kathleen Hancock write about how in economic theories, institutional change usually occurs in response to changes in relative prices. Mineral policies in mining countries frequently follow this behavior, modifying their tax systems as metal prices change. Nonetheless, Chile presents a deviation from common behavior with a mining tax reform that took place before a major increase in mineral commodity prices and when market analysts and political leaders expected prices to remain relatively constant.  April 23, 2022.  

RUSSIA’S WAR HINDERS SUSTAINABLE STEEL EFFORTS 4/20/2022

RUSSIA’S WAR HINDERS SUSTAINABLE STEEL EFFORTS

Payne Institute Communications Associate Brooke Bowser and Director Morgan Bazilian write about how climate action and sustainable practices are not a priority for the Kremlin.  Unfortunately, as the metal’s global market is rattled by war and rising prices, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine removes the focus on decarbonization to more immediately pressing issues of security.  April 20, 2022.

A Critical Minerals Policy Option for the U.S. 4/19/2022

A Critical Minerals Policy Option for the U.S.

Payne Institute Research Associate Baba Freeman writes about how the U.S.’s current policies may be insufficient to meet its strategic goal of supply chain resilience and unfettered access to critical minerals needed for its economic growth and military deterrence purposes. He proposes an additional policy approach to further enrich ongoing discussions about this very important and strategic sector.  April 19, 2022.  

Friedland’s Revenge 4/10/2022

Friedland’s Revenge

Payne Institute Program Manager Jordy Lee contributes to this article about how mining mogul Robert M. Friedland’s, the eccentric founder of Ivanhoe Mines, decision to partner with some of China’s biggest players represents a conundrum for the West. The renewable energy transition won’t be achieved, he said, without the critical metals needed “to electrify the world economy,” representing a kind of “revenge of the miners” — a vindication that, after decades of investor preoccupation with technology stocks, the world needs people like him to dig stuff out of the ground.  April 10, 2022.

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For more information about the Mineral Foundations of the Energy Transition Research Area at the Payne Institute for Public Policy, please contact our Deputy Director, Greg Clough, at gclough@mines.edu.