(MENAFN- IANS) New Delhi, Sep 27 ( IANS/ 101Reporters) As the world races to combat climate change and transition towards cleaner energy sources, the role of critical minerals in this endeavour becomes increasingly significant.
To shed light on the availability of these essential resources and their implications, we spoke with Dr Seaver Wang, Co-Director of the Climate and Energy team at the US-based Breakthrough Institute.
Wang is an expert in critical minerals and recently authored a paper titled“Future demand for electricity generation materials under different climate mitigation scenarios,” which delves into the feasibility of scaling up critical mineral use to achieve climate goals.
Understanding Critical Minerals
The heart of the conversation revolves around critical minerals, a term often defined differently from one country to another, primarily based on their strategic importance for specific industries. These minerals are distinguished by their economic significance and, in some cases, limited global supply. Among them are lithium, cobalt, rare earth metals, and copper-vital components of clean energy solutions that power electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies.
The discussion then delves into the geopolitical implications of critical minerals. Wang points out that China holds a dominant role in the supply chain of several critical minerals due to early and substantial investments in their extraction and processing. However, he emphasises that the concentration of supply chains should not be equated with a potential cause of war, as critical minerals do not carry the same level of vital importance as fossil fuels. Instead, they are instrumental to a country's economic interests and the speed of its transition to clean energy.
Expanding Supply Chains
Wang highlights that the dominance of certain countries in critical mineral supply chains is more a result of early investments in the industry than actual scarcity of these minerals. He suggests that other nations can expand their supply chains by investing in extraction, refining, and processing, thereby mitigating the geopolitical risks associated with a single dominant supplier.
In addition to traditional land-based mining, Wang explores alternative sources of critical minerals. He mentions the potential of deep-sea mining, which, if managed responsibly, could reduce the environmental impact compared to land-based mining. While acknowledging the controversies surrounding deep-sea mining within the scientific community, he stresses the need for thorough testing and oversight to ensure environmental sustainability.
Wang also sheds light on unconventional sources of minerals, such as geothermal brines and coal ashes, which could provide cleaner and more sustainable alternatives to traditional mining methods.
The conversation with Seaver Wang offers valuable insights into the intricate world of critical minerals and their indispensable role in the clean energy transition. It underscores the importance of diversifying supply chains, investing in responsible mining practices, and exploring alternative sources of these essential resources. While challenges remain on the path to a sustainable future, innovative solutions and international cooperation hold the key to securing the critical minerals needed to power this transition. In an era of climate urgency, the global community must be prepared to navigate the evolving landscape of critical minerals and ensure their responsible and equitable utilisation.
(This is an excerpt from an episode of the India Energy Hour. Tune into the podcast for more conversations on climate and India's green energy sector, where we uncover trends, challenges, and solutions. Available on all major podcast platforms and our website)
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