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

The US is worried about its critical minerals supply chains – essential for electric vehicles, wind power and the nation’s defense 4/6/2021

The US is worried about its critical minerals supply chains – essential for electric vehicles, wind power and the nation’s defense

Payne Institute Program Manager Jordy Lee and Director Morgan Bazilian write about how when U.S. companies build military weapons systems, electric vehicle batteries, satellites and wind turbines, they rely heavily on a few dozen “critical minerals” – many of which are mined and refined almost entirely by other countries. The level of dependence on imports worries the U.S. government.  April 6, 2021.

Comparative Analysis of Selected African Natural Gas Markets and Related Policies

Comparative Analysis of Selected African Natural Gas Markets and Related Policies

John Ayaburi, Shashwat Sharma, Payne Institute Senior Research Associate Dr. Greer Gosnell, and Director Morgan D. Bazilian write about the discovery of natural gas resources across the African continent that have inspired debate on how such resources should be developed and best utilized. In several African countries, the discovery of commercial quantities of natural gas reserves has led governments to explore a number of strategies, investments, and policy directions. Two contrasting cases are that of Nigeria, which has pursued policies promoting domestic natural gas consumption and export, and Ghana, which has focused on encouraging sectoral-level domestic consumption.  April 5, 2021.

Governments have identified commodities essential to economic and military security 3/31/2021

Governments have identified commodities essential to economic and military security

Payne Institute Faculty Fellow Rod Eggert and Director Morgan Bazilian contribute to this article about obtaining critical minerals necessary to break the U.S. dependence on foreign production. The U.S. Defense department will help facilitate the building of facilities to process rare earths, part of an effort to secure supply independent from China.  March 31, 2021.

The material foundations of a low-carbon economy 3/19/2021

The material foundations of a low-carbon economy

Payne Institute Program Manager Jordy Lee, Senior Research Associate Sara Hastings-Simon, and Director Morgan Bazilian write about how the transition to a low-carbon environment is rapidly accelerating and with it the potential for severe environmental and social degradation. The extraction and processing of key materials have already begun to affect developing economies, and policy changes are essential to ensuring a just transition.  March 19, 2021.

Why don’t environmental bonds fully cover reclamation costs? 3/17/2021

Why don’t environmental bonds fully cover reclamation costs?

Payne Institute Faculty Fellow Graham Davis and Peifang Yang write about how governments often require that extractive industry firms post environmental bonds as financial assurance to cover eventual reclamation liabilities. Such bond requirements frequently do not fully cover the reclamation cost. We show that a revenue-maximizing government may reasonably require a bond amount smaller than the full reclamation cost.  March 17, 2021.  

Understanding and Disrupting Key Convergence Nodes of the Illicit Gold and Mercury Supply Chains in Latin America and Africa 2/18/2021

Understanding and Disrupting Key Convergence Nodes of the Illicit Gold and Mercury Supply Chains in Latin America and Africa

Payne Institute Faculty Fellows Nicole Smith, Sebnem Duzgun, Strategy and Operations Manager Greg Clough, William Soud, and Katy Seguin have received an NSF award for their research on “Disrupting Operations of Illicit Supply Networks (D-ISN)” that will enhance national health, prosperity and welfare by contributing to a better understanding of illicit supply chains and the ability to detect, disrupt, and disable them. The project involves an examination and comparison of key convergence nodes in the global supply chains for illicit gold and mercury in Latin America and Africa. It specifically focuses on Peru and Kenya because of the similar characteristics they share on their respective continents as important trading hubs to other regional markets via both air and maritime transport, as well as acting as trading hubs for other illicit commodities and goods.  February 18, 2021.

In Colorado, President Biden’s Energy Leasing moratorium on public lands brings praise, lawsuit 1/27/2021

In Colorado, President Biden’s Energy Leasing moratorium on public lands brings praise, lawsuit

Payne Institute Fellow Brad Handler contributes to this article on how the White House ordered a leasing pause while oil, gas, and leasing practices undergo a review. The order makes tackling climate change a priority and will be in place for public lands and waters while leasing and permitting practices for fossil fuel development undergo a “rigorous review.”  January 27, 2021.  

Rethinking energy solutions: Energy demand and decentralized solutions 1/22/2021

Rethinking Energy Solutions: Energy demand and decentralized solutions

Payne Institute Fellow Dolf Gielen, Advisory Board member David Victor, and Director Morgan Bazilian and others collaborated on this paper that identified three areas for rethinking energy solutions for immediate action. All three are designed to address the drivers of demand and consumption through measures like remote working, digitalization, and the reshaping of urban spaces and their use; maximizing sustainable energy independence at local and individual levels through, for instance, decentralized renewable energy solutions and efficiency enhancing measures; and influencing behavior towards responsible consumption such as encouraging new trends in mobility, less material consumption, and sharing vs. ownership models.  January 22, 2021.  

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.

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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.