Decarbonization isn’t just about removing certain kinds of fuels, engines, and vehicles. It’s also an additive process, as many industries will switch to electric and other green alternatives. The bottom line is that the world is going to need exponentially more eclectic infrastructure, batteries, and other devices. The primary source of raw materials will be the mining industry, as manufacturers will need copper, lithium, and others to actually make the devices that will, literally, power the Green Energy Revolution.
What does the Green Energy Revolution need?
Electrification does sound fairly simple on paper, power generated from fossil fuels is simply replaced with green power. But the need for electric vehicles will also necessitate more charging stations, exponentially more batteries, and other, new bits and pieces. The demand for metals and minerals is predicted to not only keep growing but potentially double or even triple in the near future. This means that most mining companies have a golden opportunity to ensure a steady and lucrative stream of income for the near future and beyond.
At a glance, the World Bank predicts a nearly 500% increase in demand for lithium, graphite, and cobalt, all vital materials in electrification. This is a conservative estimate, as some research indicates even higher demand. As green energy sources like wind turbines and solar panels become more common, demand for copper, indium, and vanadium will also increase. The upscaling of electric vehicles in the UK alone requires approximately 200’000 tones of cobalt and 260’000 tonnes of lithium carbonate. Additionally, this process could require a staggering 2’200’000 additional tonnes of copper. With multiple countries upscaling electric vehicles, supply chain issues are likely.
It’s important to point out that mining isn’t just set to benefit from the Green Energy Revolution, it is absolutely necessary for it. Electric vehicles and hydrogen power plants will not be the only things competing for these metals and minerals, most major electronics producers will still be maintaining production. So it is vital for the industry to scale up its extraction of these resources so the world can switch to green energy in a timely manner.
How can mining companies prepare?
The industry is in a curious position where it needs to itself decarbonize, but also meet the production demands of the entire world by embracing green energy. First and foremost, mines must look into expanding and refining their digital technology. From digital blast twins to automation, the industry does have a number of highly useful innovations that can and do help improve productivity across the board. Companies should explore what are the current developments in digitized mining to work out a roadmap to transition.
Automation in particular has a number of potential benefits in the long run. Equipment and vehicles can work longer than the labor force, allowing for more consistent extraction of materials, all while lowering costs. Modern, automated mining vehicles have the ability to pick routes that are most efficient and find a multitude of ways to complete every task as efficiently as possible. They tend to also be safer, which has spill-over benefits for the overall operation of a mine.
Some final thoughts
First and foremost, the metals and mineral extraction industry is likely to reap the benefits of electrification. Surges in both long-term and short-term demand will keep prices high. More and more manufacturers are likely to seek long-term supply contracts, which should bring a stable, regular income. As mining itself undergoes electrification, the industry will benefit from advancements in technology. Equipment and energy costs will decrease as the supply grows. The transition to clean energy should also be seen as an opportunity that should not be missed. Mining operations working with the metals vital for electrification need to have roadmaps for how to increase yields. Companies must prepare their logistics chains for increased global demand.
Industry leaders can benefit from meeting and interacting with peers from around the world to share the best insights and experiences. Join key decision-makers at the Efficient Mining Operations Summit in Barcelona, Spain from May 4th to 5th to learn more. Visit future-bridge.eu or mining-events.com and follow us on our social media to keep track of other events about sustainability in the mining and metals industry.