France wants to revive copper mining and speed up green projects

The grid operator, Reseau de Transport d’Electricite. Stock Image.

France plans measures to revive copper mining and speed up lithium and geothermal energy projects to help reduce dependency on imports and hit climate targets.

European countries are trying to boost renewables capacity to curb emissions, while critical metals are coming under the spotlight more as more nations increasingly view supplies as a matter of national security. Geopolitical tensions around the world and competition for resources are fueling a push toward greater self-sufficiency.

The potential measures include halving the time needed to obtain research permits for geothermal energy, mining and carbon dioxide storage, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Friday. The draft legislation will allow for using depleted oil and gas wells for carbon storage.

“Let’s use France’s strengths,” Le Maire said in a speech in front of a geothermal drilling rig in a Paris suburb, which will use underground resources to provide heat for the equivalent of 10,000 households. “We’ve got wind, hydro, biomass, solar energy, as well as resources in our soil that we must quickly use.”

Copper mining, which has been halted in France for more than two decades, should be considered again because of a growing need for cables to connect solar and wind farms, and to build new power interconnections with neighboring countries, the minister said.

Lithium projects being studied by companies such as Imerys SA, Eramet SA and Arverne Group SA — which is also working on geothermal projects — may cover two-thirds of France’s needs for electric-vehicle batteries by 2035, according to the government.

France’s national geothermal action plan, published in 2023, aims to triple the production of renewable heat from deep geothermal energy to 6 terawatt hours between 2022 and 2028. It also seeks to triple renewable heat from geothermal heat pumps by 2030 to 10 terawatt hours.

(By Francois de Beaupuy and Nayla Razzouk)


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