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Countries are taking steps to decarbonize their economies by using wind, solar, and battery technologies, with an end goal of reducing carbon-emitting fossil fuels from the energy mix.

But this global energy transition also has a trade-off: to cut emissions, more minerals are needed.

Therefore, in order for the transition to renewables to be meaningful and to achieve significant reductions in the Earth’s carbon footprint, mining will have to better mitigate its own environmental and social impacts.

Advocates for renewable technology are not walking blindly into a new energy paradigm without understanding these impacts. A policy and regulatory framework can help governments meet their targets, mitigate, and manage the impacts of the next wave of mineral demand to help the communities most affected by mining.

Today’s infographic comes from the World Bank and it highlights this energy transition, how it will create demand for minerals, and also the Climate Smart Mining building blocks.

Renewable Power and Mineral Demand

In 2017, the World Bank published “The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future”, which concluded that to build a lower carbon future there will be a substantial increase in demand for several key minerals and metals to manufacture clean energy technologies.

Wind
Wind power technology has drastically improved its energy output. By 2025, a 300-meter tall wind turbine could produce about 13 to 15 MW, enough to power a small town. With increased size and energy output comes increased material demand.

A single 3 MW turbine requires:

  • 4.7 tons of copper
  • 335 tons of steel
  • 1,200 tons of concrete
  • 2 tons of rare earth elements
  • 3 tons of aluminum

Solar
In 2017, global renewable capacity was 178 GW of which 54.5% was solar photovoltaic technology (PV). By 2023, it’s expected that this capacity will increase to one terawatt with PV accounting for 57.5% of the mix. PV cells require polymers, aluminum, silicon, glass, silver, and tin.

Batteries
Everything from your home, your vehicle, and your everyday devices will require battery technology to keep them powered and your life on the move.

Lithium, cobalt, and nickel are at the center of battery technology that will see the greatest explosion in demand in the coming energy transition.

Top Five Minerals for Energy Technologies
Add it all up, and these new sources of demand will translate into a need for more minerals:

2017 Production 2050 Demand from Energy Technology Percentage Change (%)
Lithium 43 KT 415 KT 965%
Cobalt 110 KT 644 KT 585%
Graphite 1200 KT 4590 KT 383%
Indium 0.72 KT 1.73 KT 241%
Vanadium 80 KT 138 KT 173%

Minimizing Mining’s Impact with Climate Smart Mining

The World Bank’s Climate Smart Mining (CSM) supports the sustainable extraction and processing of minerals and metals to secure supply for clean energy technologies, while also minimizing the environmental and climate footprints throughout the value chain.

The World Bank has established four building blocks to Climate Smart Mining:

  1. Climate Change Mitigation
  2. Climate Change Adaptation
  3. Reducing Material Impacts
  4. Creating Market Opportunities

Given the foresight into the pending energy revolution, a coordinated global effort early on could give nations a greater chance to mitigate the impacts of mining, avoid haphazard mineral development, and contribute to the improvement of living standards in mineral-rich countries.

The World Bank works closely with the United Nations to ensure that Climate Smart Mining policies will support the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

A Sustainable Future

The potential is there for a low carbon economy, but it’s going to require a concerted global effort and sound policies to help guide responsible mineral development.

The mining industry can deliver the minerals for climate action.