'A future of environment-friendly energy, where dirty engines and power plants rust in history’s scrapyard, is an idyllic vision. In the cynical real world, the rush for green batteries is fueling a harmful mining boom.
By 2030, there will be 140 million electric cars on Earth, and by 2040 every third vehicle will be powered by green electricity instead of the fossil fuels that have been slowly choking the environment for the past couple centuries. That’s according to assessments by Glencore Plc and BloombergNEF.
Sounds like we’re on the right track and Greta Thunberg’s zero-emission dream could be achieved within her lifetime. Humanity is finally coming to its senses.
Not quite. All those cars will need batteries, and all those batteries will need to be built with a small periodic table of minerals. And all those minerals need to be mined – in some cases strip-mining the rest of the planet’s explored deposits.
The rush is already on. The world’s top mining corporations are starting to carve up the growing market for lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, platinum and palladium – all key materials in making electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
And they will have to start digging if they want to keep up. It’s estimated that 3 million more tons of copper will have to be mined per year to feed the production of 140 million EVs by 2030 – and that’s copper, the most recycled metal on Earth. Nickel mining will have to increase by 1.3 million tons per year, and cobalt by 263,000 tons.
Those are just batteries. Electric cars also need engines, and solar and wind generators – without which a green future is unimaginable – will also gobble up those materials, including more obscure ones like tellurium and neodymium.
Demand is set to exceed supply – which is why those mining giants are rushing to increase theirs (and make a good buck along the way). In some cases, demand will exceed the supply offered by the planet – at least the feasibly-minable reserves we have discovered so far.'
Read more: Clean energy dream fuels a dirty mineral rush
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