Decent Work and Economic Growth

Thought of the Week – Metals

Planetary CEO, Bob Edwards, shares his insight on the global movement from fossil fuels to a metals-based economy.

What is the biggest development of the 21 st century? It is the movement from a fossil fuel-based
global economy to a metals-based economy. When we talk of green transformation, we mean a
global mining and refining rush to produce batteries and other technology which requires vast
amounts of lithium, cobalt and rare earth metals. We need this for green energy, heating, and

In addition to solar panels and wind turbines, both offshore and onshore, these greatly needed
metals can be found in many countries in the world. China is far ahead in the production of
renewables, but the metals we need can be found in places as far apart as Chile, the DR of the
Congo, and Cornwall. The future of the African continent is likely to be greatly influenced by the
continuing development of mining, although the forces fighting to control parts of Africa, particularly
in the Sahel region, will challenge orderly progress. Australia currently mines more than 40 percent
of the world’s lithium, and its geopolitical importance is not lost on either China or the USA.

The next step brings us to the critical issue of metals recycling and viewing end-of-life batteries as a
resource, not as waste. Companies are now being established to recycle the various components of
batteries and recover critical materials from lithium-ion batteries to reintroduce them back into the
supply chain. One such company has operations in both the USA and Europe,
and if we are not to deplete the earth’s natural metal resources during this century, recycling these
key components will be vital. As will well thought-out industrial development policies by
governments, which is another challenge.

Posted by Claire Edwards 3 October 2023

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