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Climate Smart Mining: Minerals for Climate Action

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The following content is sponsored by The World Bank

Climate Smart Mining: Minerals for Climate Action

Climate Smart Mining: Minerals for Climate Action

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 Production2050 Demand from Energy TechnologyPercentage Change (%)
Lithium43 KT415 KT965%
Cobalt110 KT644 KT585%
Graphite1200 KT4590 KT383%
Indium0.72 KT1.73 KT241%
Vanadium80 KT138 KT173%

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.

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Ethical Supply: The Search for Cobalt Beyond the Congo

With the current supply chain of cobalt under scrutiny, companies and governments are striving to find new sources of cobalt beyond the Congo.

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Ethical Supply: The Search for Cobalt Beyond the Congo

Each new generation finds new uses for materials, and cobalt is no exception.

Historically, potters and painters used cobalt as dye to color their work. Today, a new cobalt supply chain is emerging to build the next generation of clean energy.

However, there is lack of transparency surrounding the current supply chain for cobalt, as the metal is subject to a number of ethical issues from its main country of production—the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Today’s infographic comes to us from Fuse Cobalt and uncovers the potential for new sources of cobalt beyond the Congo.

Cobalt’s Growing Demand

Cobalt’s specialized properties make it crucial for rechargeable batteries, metal alloys, and EVs:

  • Thermal stability
  • High energy storage
  • Corrosion resistance
  • Aesthetic appeal

As the markets for EVs and rechargeable batteries grow, the demand for cobalt is expected to surge to 220,000 metric tons by 2025, a 63% increase since 2017.

But can industry meet its demand with a supply of ethically mined cobalt?

A Precarious Supply Chain

In 2019, the DRC produced 70% of global mined cobalt—a majority of which went to China, the leading importer of mined cobalt and an exporter of refined cobalt.

Moreover, 8 of the 14 largest cobalt mines in the DRC are owned by Chinese companies, resulting in a highly controlled supply chain.

Why the Democratic Republic of Congo?

When it comes to cobalt reserves and concentrations, DRC looms over the rest of the world as a clear leader.

CountryCobalt reserves as of 2019 (tons)
Congo (Kinshasa)3,600,000
Australia 1,200,000
Cuba500,000
Philippines260,000
Russia250,000
Canada230,000
Madagascar120,000
China80,000
Papua New Guinea56,000
United States55,000
South Africa50,000
Morocco18,000
Rest of the World500,000
World total (rounded)7,000,000

The African Copper Belt hosts the majority of the DRC’s cobalt deposits, where it is primarily mined as a by-product of copper and nickel mining.

Low labor costs, loose regulations, and poor governance in the DRC allow for the flourishing of artisanal mining and cheap sources of cobalt.

However, cobalt from the DRC is tainted by ethical and humanitarian issues, including:

  • Child labor
  • Corruption
  • Crime
  • Poverty
  • Hazardous artisanal mining

With the current supply chain of cobalt facing scrutiny and criticism, a transformation in the cobalt universe is well underway.

Cobalt’s Changing Landscape

As consumers become aware of the dirty costs of cobalt mining in the DRC, battery and EV manufacturing companies are looking for ethical sources.

Tesla, BMW, Ford, and Volkswagen are part of more than 380 companies that have committed to responsible sourcing through the Responsible Minerals Initiative. Responsible sourcing entails increasing supply chain transparency and searching for sources of cobalt outside the DRC.

Here’s how some companies are leading the way:

  • Ford, Huayou Cobalt, IBM, LG Chem, and RCS Global are using blockchain technology to improve transparency and trace the sources of cobalt.
  • BMW signed a $110 million deal for cobalt from Morocco’s Bou Azzar Mine, in an effort to avoid cobalt sourced from the DRC.
  • Tesla agreed to buy 6,000 tonnes of cobalt annually from Glencore, a multinational company financing North America’s first cobalt refinery.

The U.S. recently added cobalt to its list of critical minerals—minerals for which it seeks independence from imports. The effort aims to reduce its net import reliance of 78% for cobalt, encouraging more localized and reliable production.

As a result of these shifts, the entire supply chain is beginning to reconsider cobalt sources in better-managed jurisdictions.

Cobalt Beyond the Congo: Why Not North America?

North America has comparable sources of cobalt to what is found in the Congo. As of 2019, Canada had 230,000 tons in cobalt reserves, whereas the U.S. had 55,000 tons.

Canadian Opportunity

Ontario hosts some high-grade cobalt deposits such as the Cobalt Silver Queen, Nova Scotia, Drummond, Nipissing, and Cobalt Lode mines.

In fact, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and other billionaires from the Breakthrough Energy Fund are already fueling the exploration and development of cobalt deposits in North America.

Unsung North American Potential

The United States is home to 60 identified deposits of cobalt. These sources along with Canada’s deposits, should provide explorers and miners with a massive opportunity to develop cobalt mining in North America.

As the EV industry booms with gigafactories in construction, will North American carmakers and other battery makers be able to pivot to ethical, local raw materials?

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On the Edge of Discovery: Canada’s Next Gold District

Canada is home to prolific mining regions, but there is still more to find. The Trans-Hudson Corridor could be Canada’s next major gold district.

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Trans-Hudson Corridor

On the Edge of Discovery: Canada’s Next Gold District

Canada is home to some of the greatest gold districts in mining history. These regions occur mostly across Ontario, Québec, and British Columbia, where past mineral exploration has uncovered their geological potential.

But Canada is vast, and there are still more regions to explore—in particular, the Trans-Hudson Corridor. It’s here that SKRR Exploration and Taiga Gold are leading the way into a new mineral frontier, with the hope of uncovering Canada’s next gold district.

Canada’s Major Gold Districts

The Abitibi Greenstone Gold Belt, the Red Lake Gold District, and the Golden Triangle are key sources of gold in Canada.

  1. Ontario and Québec’s Abitibi Greenstone Gold Belt:

    With over 100 mines, this gold belt stretches across the provinces of Ontario and Québec from Wawa to Val-d’Or. The belt has produced a massive 180M ounces of gold over its history and remains today a source of gold and employment in Northern Ontario.

  2. Ontario’s Red Lake Gold District:

    The Red Lake Gold District experienced its first gold rush following initial discoveries in 1897 and 1925. With over 30M ounces of gold produced since then, the Red Lake mining district is one of the largest and highest-grade gold camps in North America.

  3. British Columbia’s Golden Triangle:

    Having hosted the Stikine Gold Rush and the Atlin Gold Rush, the Golden Triangle is a popular destination for exploration companies. Investment in the region has produced 5.26M ounces of gold and impressive discoveries such as the Bruce Jack mine and the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (“KSM”) project.

Although these regions have garnered attention from large mining companies, the Trans-Hudson Corridor is open for a new era of discovery, and very few companies have taken advantage of it.

The Trans-Hudson Corridor: Canada’s Next Gold District?

The Trans-Hudson Corridor lacks an extensive exploration history, but it shows potential as a prime area for discovery.

Geological Potential

The Trans-Hudson Corridor stretches from the Dakotas of the United States to James Bay in Canada. One of the few remaining exposed portions of the Trans-Hudson, the Black Hills region of South Dakota, hosts the famous Homestake Mine, which produced 43.7 million ounces of gold and 9.9M ounces of silver before closing in 2001.

Despite the geological potential of this corridor, there have only been a few operating gold mines in the northern portion of the Trans-Hudson. One study indicates there may be more gold mineralization near the Snow Lake mine.

Saskatchewan: Major Gold Mines and a Lack of Exploration

Saskatchewan has geological potential—but compared to other regions, explorers are barely scratching the surface.

For all of Canada in 2018, mining and exploration investment amounted to C$2.2 billion. Saskatchewan received some of the lowest amounts with only C$165 million expended. Only 2% of the $165 million went towards exploration for gold, while the rest for uranium and potash.

Canada: Safe and Stable Mining Jurisdiction

The Trans-Hudson Corridor offers a safe, stable, and accessible mining region in today’s volatile world. In particular, Saskatchewan provides a competitive edge for mineral exploration:

  • Affordable access to North American capital markets
  • Mineral exploration incentive programs
  • Low-cost, high-quality road and power infrastructure
  • A well educated and professional workforce

Canada has the geological potential for big gold discoveries and the next era of discovery could be waiting in the Trans-Hudson Corridor.

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