Lots of ink has been spilled on the green energy transition on these pages.
In 2019 MINING.COM called Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mining’s unlikely heroines as they were saying that the “exponential expansion of global mining is the dirty little secret – and glaring blind spot – of Green New Deal evangelists and zero-carbon climate warriors.”
Fast forward three years, and there’s still little or no acknowledgement from climate crisis actors for the need for rapidly growing metal and mineral extraction. The nescience of climateers when it comes to mining remains striking and helps explain the applause for Secretary General António Guterres at the opening of the COP26 summit for these words:
“It is time to say enough! […] enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves.”
A recent report by Fitch Ratings assessing the risks of climate change to various sectors featured two graphs that vividly illustrates just how central metals and mining is to decarbonization.
The latest UN Forecast Policy Scenario anticipates a substantial increase in electricity generation from renewables – comprising hydro, wind and solar – across all regions.
Renewables are set to be the largest source of power globally by 2050, at 73% of the total compared to 25% in 2020. Wind and solar will increase their share of global renewables generation to 85% by 2050 from 34% in 2020.
Couple this with the metal intensity of renewable energy resources and it is clear that even if the installation of renewable energy capacity falls far short of expectations, the impact on metals and mining would be immense.
A big mining expansion to put up renewables, but then we have it done. The idea with renewables is “Pay for it ONCE, and then it is Free” – applies to the product or producing the product.
Except Wind and solar have hardware lifespans of what, 15-20 years before replacement is required (with no recycling opportunities)? That’s not “One and done”
Pay for it once? Solar panels and wind turbines have a life of 10 to 15 years. They then can’t be easily recycled using current technologies, so they will need to be replaced by new panels and turbines, so mining will continue at a massive rate forever!
solar now has a life of 25-30- yrs by then if we are still around they will have a way to re-use it all over again
These charts only cover one aspect of the surge in metal mining necessary for the green energy future. We will also have to beef-up the electrical distribution system, upgrade most of peoples’ home electrical service to be able to charge the electric cars, and the extra metal required to build the electric cars.
With the pressure to curb carbon emissions and many traditional industries (such as farming, steel and aluminium) There is going to be shortages. My question is always – who will decide where those shortages will be. Woe be to the government that does NOT meet the needs of it’s population because there will be no global assistance for anyone.
It seems that overall we are just transitioning from digging out some “liquid and gas” to digging out some “solids” (that also need a good amount of energy to become useful) so, it looks like a new “Industrial Revolution” that might get us into another king of crisis about 250 years or so down the road. A crisis of minerals . (But hopefully by then we know how to recycle almost everything. Hopefully. Because other ways….)