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

Colorado School of Mines launches Global Energy Future initiative 1/8/2021

Colorado School of Mines Launches Global Energy Future Initiative

In collaboration with the Payne Institute of Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines today is announcing a new initiative aimed at bringing together some of the world’s foremost global thought leaders and decision makers in the energy sector to discover, collaborate and network around key aspects of our energy future.  The Mines Global Energy Future Initiative will produce annual programming focused on the role of oil and gas, renewable energy, carbon capture utilization and storage, supply chain transparency, emissions monitoring, circular economy and more – themes that all reflect Mines’ scientific and technical expertise across the energy system and demonstrates the university’s cradle-to-cradle approach to creating a sustainable global energy future.  January 8, 2021.

Forget a Fracking Ban 1/4/2021

Forget a Fracking Ban

Payne Institute Senior Research Associate Jordy M. Lee and Director Morgan D. Bazilian write an argument that the key to greening the energy industry is getting better at pinpointing which natural gas firms and states are acting responsibly—and which aren’t.  January 4, 2021.  

Accelerating the coal transition 12/25/2020

Accelerating the coal transition

Payne Institute Director Morgan Bazilian, Fellow Brad Handler, Deb Chattopadhyay, and Chandrasekhar Govindarajalu write about how the cost of wind, solar, and most recently battery storage has fallen dramatically over the last decade, providing the economic rationale for their widespread adoption to help mitigate climate change. This, coupled with the low cost of natural gas, has provided a key challenge in the power sector: how to economically and equitably decommission ∼2000 GW of installed coal capacity? Although a significant part of the existing coal capacity is older, inefficient, and unprofitable, there are complex technical, social and economic challenges that remain.  December 25, 2020.  

Rare Earths 101: Digging Up the Facts 12/22/2020

Rare Earths 101: Digging Up the Facts

Payne Institute Senior Research Associate Jordy Lee is interviewed on this podcast regarding his research of rare earth minerals, a group of 17 chemically similar elements that are durable, have a variety of modern uses, and are essential components of many renewable technologies. Lee expands on why the costs and environmental impacts make mining rare earths a challenging proposition, and how China has come to dominate the market in a way that other nations may struggle to replicate.  December 22, 2020. 

Progress towards a circular economy in materials to decarbonize electricity and mobility 12/11/2020

Progress towards a circular economy in materials to decarbonize electricity and mobility

Payne Institute Fellows Dustin Mulvaney, Sridhar Seetharaman, Director Morgan D.Bazilian, Strategy and Operations Manager Greg Clough, Ryan M.Richards, and Erin Hensley write about how over 90% of the global economy continues to use natural resources unsustainably. The linear “take-make-toss” approach to materials use still prevails over circular economy and industrial ecology ideas in practice. The shift to renewable energy is one step towards building an economy on more circular material flows. But the materials needed to decarbonize electricity and mobility are supplied by mining and extractives industries, places where impacts from natural resource extraction can be most severe. Manufacturers of wind turbines, photovoltaics, batteries and vehicles—critical technologies to the clean energy transition—still primarily rely on feedstocks and inputs from natural resources as opposed to waste for processing and production. December 11, 2020.  

Peru’s Environmental and Social Management in the Gold Mining Sector in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic 12/9/2020

Peru’s Environmental and Social Management in the Gold Mining Sector in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Payne Institute Faculty Fellow Nicole Smith, Kristi Disney Bruckner, Ashley Smith-Roberts, Verónica Morelli Bellido, Hugo Frías Ossandón, Meera Nyak, and Linda Jaramillo Urrego write a case study on how Peru is a leading source of gold in the world and is the top producer of gold in Latin America. The country’s legal framework for environmental and social management of the mining sector, including both the large-scale mining sector and the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector, is often presented as good practice. However, implementation of the legal framework has been challenging due to lack of resources, complexity of the framework, lack of alignment across national frameworks, lack of ongoing collaboration across ministries, remoteness of mining areas, and other factors. December 9, 2020.

WIM USA Celebrates 9 Nominees Selected for WIM100 11/19/2020

Women In Mining USA Celebrates the 2020 Edition of Women In Mining UK’s “100 Global Inspirational Women In Mining” and 9 Nominees from Women In Mining USA

Women in Mining USA recognized Payne Institute Faculty Fellows Nicole Smith and Sebnem Duzgun for their “above & beyond” contributions to the global mining industry, and identifies role models for future generations.  This includes making positive and impactful changes, advocacy and a desire to empower others, perseverance in the face of adversity, and an ability to find solutions to challenges.  November 19, 2020.

COVID exposes chink in US metal armor 10/29/2020

COVID exposes chink in US metal armor

Payne Director Morgan Bazilian is quoted in this article on how the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight on a chink in the United States’ economic and security armor – an overreliance on foreign countries for the minerals and metals that lie at the frontend of American supply chains.  October 29, 2020.  

Regulation to play a key role in India’s gas ambitions 10/15/2020

Regulation to play a key role in India’s gas ambitions

Payne Institute Senior Research Associate Greer Gosnell and Payne Faculty Fellow Ian Lange write about how India’s government has in recent months reaffirmed its commitment to the development of an expanded domestic gas grid and cross-border interconnections such as the long-mooted Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline. But the experience of the US gas market suggests that smart and considered government gas transport regulation could play as crucial a role in boosting Indian gas demand as simply increasing pipeline capacity.  October 15, 2020.

Sociotechnical typologies for national energy transitions 10/14/2020

Sociotechnical typologies for national energy transitions

Norbert Edomah, Payne Institute Director Morgan Bazilian, and Ben Sovacool write about the energy landscape and how it is changing dramatically. It is populated by many different and discrete energy transitions happening simultaneously in across different sectors, with dynamically different drivers, and across varying locations. This Perspective proposes a new three-part categorization to help better understand the myriad socio-technical changes being witnessed, which cut across user and market behaviour as well as institutions and technologies. We express energy transitions in three categories: Interim energy transitions, shaped by policies without necessarily public acceptance, mostly within non-democratic regimes. October 14, 2020.

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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 Strategy and Operations Manager, Greg Clough, at gclough@mines.edu.