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

How to Avoid a New Cold War Over Critical Minerals 10.22.2022

How to Avoid a New Cold War Over Critical Minerals

Payne Institute Fellow Cullen Hendrix writes how to prevent a return to the zero-sum logic of Cold War resource politics, critical mineral supply chains must be widened at every step. Will the 21st century be the century of the green great game? In the early 20th century, then-First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill oversaw the conversion of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy from coal- to oil-powered ships. Oil was comparatively more energy-dense, easier to transport, and allowed ships to travel farther faster. But the transition to oil-fueled navies in the 20th century meant that, for the first time, projecting military might would require most major powers to rely on energy sources over which they were not sovereign. November 22, 2022.

Mines graduate student named one of 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining 11/22/2022

Mines graduate student named one of 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining

Payne Institute student researcher Julie Akamboe has been recognized as one of the 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining in 2022 by Women in Mining UK.  Akamboe currently lives in Colorado, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in mineral and energy economics at Mines. While in school, she has been involved in research around sustainable finance, building ESG frameworks, securing critical minerals and shaping policy for a more sustainable future. November 22, 2022.

Retiring Coal? The Prospects Are Brighter Than They Appear 11/17/2022

Retiring Coal? The Prospects Are Brighter Than They Appear

Payne Institute Program Manager Brad Handler and Director Morgan Bazilian write about how as COP27 draws to a close, the conference is proving to be a disappointment for environmental advocates focused on eliminating the planet’s number one emitter: coal-fired power. In the tumult of international uncertainty, governments have looked to coal as a security blanket of sorts. Coal’s ability to deliver power 24/7 compares favorably to some renewable energy, like solar and wind, that is variable and, at least to some degree, unpredictable.  November 11, 2022.

A New Paradigm for Managing Mineral Trade Routes in Africa 11/16/2022

A New Paradigm for Managing Mineral Trade Routes in Africa

Payne Institute ESG Research Associate Baba Freeman writes about how the African Copper belt is a major supplier of key minerals such as Copper, Nickel, and Cobalt to the world economy. Extracting and transporting these minerals to market will be essential to the success of the energy transition as demand for solar and wind energy, and battery metals soar exponentially over the next three decades. In contrast, the dismal state of road infrastructure for transporting the minerals from mine to port creates a major impediment to the commercial competitiveness of miners in the region and threatens economic rents accruable to host countries and communities. This commentary describes a new paradigm that could radically transform the design of solutions to ease logistics problems in the region.  November 16, 2022.

The Mining Gap: Critical Minerals and Geopolitical Competition 11/7/2022

The Mining Gap: Critical Minerals and Geopolitical Competition

Gregory Brew and Payne Institute Director Morgan Bazilian write about how this year’s COP-27 conference carries with it the weight of the climate challenge, an enormous threat facing humanity, but also comes at a time of growing volatility in global energy markets, rising energy prices, a food security crisis, and war. As a result, countries both rich and poor will be focused on immediate security and economic threats.  November 7, 2022. 

As EV sales accelerate, battery makers face a new shortage of a crucial mineral: graphite 11/3/2022

As EV sales accelerate, battery makers face a new shortage of a crucial mineral: graphite

Payne Institute Morgan Bazilian contributes to this podcast about how Ford Motor Co. reports that it sold twice as many electric vehicles in the month that just ended as it did in October of last year. But as demand for electrics is surging, manufacturers are facing yet another shortage of yet another crucial material — not lithium this time, but graphite.  November 3, 2022.

Africa’s Energy Transition & Critical Minerals 11/3/2022

Africa’s Energy Transition & Critical Minerals

Payne Institute Critical Minerals Research Associate Caitlin McKennie and student researchers Al Hassan Hassan, and Mama Nissi Abanga Abugnaba write about how as the energy crisis perseveres and governments around the world attempt to meet net zero emission timelines, there are many eyes on Africa’s natural resource supply. Africa is resource rich. The continent is endowed with significant hydrocarbon reserves and critical minerals required for low-carbon technologies. As political and environmental developments around the world seek to decarbonize supply chains, pivoting investments over time towards critical minerals in Africa can help and bridge the gap between emerging/developing economies and energy security.  November 3, 2022.  

How Critical Minerals Became So Critical 10/31/2022

How Critical Minerals Became So Critical

Payne Institute Program Manager Jordy Lee writes about how critical minerals are minerals and metals that are designated by governments as being “essential to economic or national security” – but also have supply chains vulnerable to interruption and play important roles in manufacturing everything from jet engines to fiber-optic cables. In short, they are the raw ingredients for dozens of engineering miracles that, while often unfamiliar to non-specialists, are vital to modern technologies.  October 31, 2022.

On Equal Footing: The Impact of FERC Order 841 on Grid Battery Installations 10/26/2022

On Equal Footing: The Impact of FERC Order 841 on Grid Battery Installations

Payne Institute Faculty Fellow Ian Lange, student researcher Anuja Oke, and Critical Mineral Research Associate Caitlin McKennie write about how new technologies don’t often “fit” within market designs as well as the incumbent technologies. As a result, subtle changes in market rules can have large impacts on new technology adoption, and their associated supply chains. This research measures the impact on grid battery installations, and the resulting lithium demand – both generated by the June 2020 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order 841.  October 26, 2022.  

Power generation at risk due to Utah coal fire, BLM says 10/25/2022

Power generation at risk due to Utah coal fire, BLM says

Payne Institute Faculty Fellow Jürgen Brune contributed to this article about an underground fire that could smolder indefinitely, permanently shuttering Lila Canyon mine.  The underground fire burning for weeks in a Utah coal mine could disrupt power generation at two of the state’s biggest power plants, according to the Bureau of Land Management. And putting it out will require an extensive program of drilling and flooding the mine with water and foams, lasting weeks if not months. October 25, 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.