Funding and knowledge organization World Bank Group published a new report on the production of minerals for renewable energy technology, such as graphite, lithium and cobalt, as demand for such technologies increases. The team of researchers finds that the production could increase by nearly 500% until 2050 and an estimated 3 billion tons of minerals and metals will be needed to deploy renewable power and energy storage to achieve the below 2 degrees Celsius goal.
Even though clean energy technologies will require more minerals, the carbon footprint of their production—from extraction to end use—will account for only 6% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by fossil fuel technologies. The report emphasizes the importance of recycling and reuse of minerals to meet increasing mineral demand. It also notes that even if we scale up recycling rates for minerals like copper and aluminum by 100%, recycling and reuse would still not be enough to meet the demand for renewable energy technologies and energy storage.
The pandemic outbreak causes major disruptions to the mining industry globally. However, developing countries that rely on minerals are missing out on essential fiscal revenues and, as their economies start to reopen, they will need to strengthen their commitment to climate-smart mining principles and mitigate any negative impacts.
“COVID-19 could represent an additional risk to sustainable mining, making the commitment of governments and companies to climate-smart practices more important than ever before,” said Riccardo Puliti, World Bank Global Director for Energy and Extractive Industries and Regional Director for Infrastructure in Africa. “This new report builds on the World Bank’s long-standing expertise in supporting the clean energy transition and provides a data-driven tool for understanding how this shift will impact future mineral demand.”
The report is part of the joint World Bank-IFC Climate-Smart Mining initiative and builds upon the World Bank’s 2017 report “The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low-Carbon Future.”