The New Energy Era: The Lithium-Ion Supply Chain - Visual Capitalist
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The New Energy Era: The Lithium-Ion Supply Chain

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The world is rapidly shifting to renewable energy technologies.

Battery minerals are set to become the new oil, with lithium-ion battery supply chains becoming the new pipelines.

China is currently leading this lithium-ion battery revolution—leaving the U.S. dependent on its economic rival. However, the harsh lessons of the 1970-80s oil crises have increased pressure on the U.S. to develop its own domestic energy supply chain and gain access to key battery metals.

Introducing the New Energy Era

Today’s infographic from Standard Lithium explores the current energy landscape and America’s position in the new energy era.

lithium ion supply chain us china

An Energy Dependence Problem

Energy dependence is the degree of a nation’s reliance on imported energy, resulting from an insufficient domestic supply. Oil crises in the 1970-80s revealed America’s reliance on foreign produced oil, especially from the Middle East.

The U.S. economy ground to a halt when gas prices soared during the 1973 oil crisis—altering consumer behavior and energy policy for generations. In the aftermath of the crisis, the government imposed national speed limits to conserve oil, and also demanded cheaper, smaller, and more fuel-efficient cars.

U.S. administrations set an objective to wean America off foreign oil through “energy independence”—the ability to meet the country’s fuel needs using domestic resources.

Lessons Learned?

Spurred by technological breakthroughs such as hydraulic fracking, the U.S. now has the capacity to respond to high oil prices by ramping up domestic production.

By the end of 2019, total U.S. oil production could rise to 17.4 million barrels a day. At that level, American net imports of petroleum could fall in December 2019 to 320,000 barrels a day, the lowest since 1949.

In fact, the successful development of America’s shale fields is a key reason why the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has lost the majority of its influence over the supply and price of oil.

A Renewable Future: Turning the Ship

The increasing scarcity of economic oil and gas fields, combined with the negative environmental impacts of oil and the declining costs of renewable power, are creating a new energy supply and demand dynamic.

Oil demand could drop by 16.5 million barrels per day. Oil producers could face significant losses, with $380 billion of above-ground investments becoming worthless if the oil industry and oil-rich nations are not prepared for a surge in green energy by 2030.

Energy companies are hedging their risk with increased investment in renewables. The world’s top 24 publicly-listed oil companies spent on average 1.3% of their total budgets on low carbon technology in 2018, amounting to $260 billion. That is double the 0.68% the same group had invested on average through the period of 2010 and 2017.

The New Geopolitics of Energy: Battery Minerals

Low carbon technologies for the new energy era are also creating a demand for specific materials and new supply chains that can procure them.

Renewable and low carbon technology will be mineral intensive, requiring many metals such as lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel. These are key raw materials, and demand will only grow.

Material201820282018-2028 % Growth
Graphite anode in Batteries170,000 tonnes2.05M tonnes1,106%
Lithium in batteries150,000 tonnes1.89M tonnes1,160%
Nickel in batteries82,000 tonnes1.09M tonnes1,229%
Cobalt in batteries58,000 tonnes320,000 tonnes452%
(Source: Benchmark Minerals)

The cost of these materials is the largest factor in battery technology, and will determine whether battery supply chains succeed or fail.

China currently dominates the lithium-ion battery supply chain, and could continue to do so. This leaves the U.S. dependent on China as we venture into this new era.

Could history repeat itself?

The Battery Metals Race

There are five stages in a lithium-ion battery supply chain—and the U.S. holds a smaller percentage of the global supply chain than China at nearly every stage.

Lithium-Ion Supply Chain

China’s dominance of the global battery supply chain creates a competitive advantage that the U.S. has no choice but to rely on.

However, this can still be prevented if the United States moves fast. From natural resources, human capital and the technology, the U.S. can build its own domestic supply.

Building the U.S. Battery Supply Chain

The U.S. relies heavily on imports of several keys materials necessary for a lithium-ion battery supply chain.

U.S. Net Import Dependence
Lithum50%
Cobalt72%
Graphite100%
(Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management)

But the U.S. is making strides to secure its place in the new energy era. The American Minerals Security Act seeks to identify the resources necessary to secure America’s mineral independence.

The government has also released a list of 35 minerals it deems critical to the national interest.

Declaring U.S. Battery Independence

A supply chain starts with raw materials, and the U.S. has the resources necessary to build its own battery supply chain. This would help the country avoid supply disruptions like those seen during the oil crises in the 1970s.

Battery metals are becoming the new oil and supply chains the new pipelines. It is still early in this new energy era, and the victors are yet to be determined in the battery arms race.

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Mining

Visualizing the New Era of Gold Mining

This infographic highlights the need for new gold mining projects and shows the next generation of America’s gold deposits.

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gold mining
The following content is sponsored by NOVAGOLD
gold mining

Visualizing the New Era of Gold Mining

Between 2011 and 2020, the number of major gold discoveries fell by 70% relative to 2001-2010. 

The lack of discoveries, alongside stagnating gold production, has cast a shadow of doubt on the future of gold supply. 

This infographic sponsored by Novagold highlights the need for new gold mining projects with a focus on the company’s Donlin Gold project in Alaska.

The Current State of Gold Production

Between 2010 and 2021, gold production increased steadily until 2018, before leveling and falling.

YearGold Production, tonnesYoY % Change
20102,560-
20112,6603.9%
20122,6901.1%
20132,8004.1%
20142,9906.8%
20153,1003.7%
20163,1100.3%
20173,2303.9%
20183,3002.2%
20193,3000.0%
20203,030-8.2%
20213,000-1.0%

Along with a small decrease in gold production from 2020 levels, there were no new major gold discoveries in 2021. Meanwhile, annual demand for the yellow metal increased by 10%, up from 3,651 tonnes to 4,020 tonnes

The fall in production and long-term lack of gold discoveries point towards a possible imbalance in gold supply and demand. This calls for the introduction of new gold development projects that can fill the supply-demand gap in the future. 

Sustaining Supply: Gold For the Future

Jurisdictions play an important role when looking for projects that could sustain gold production well into the future.

From political stability to trustworthy legal systems, the characteristics of a jurisdiction can make or break mining projects. Amid ongoing market uncertainty, political turmoil, and resource nationalism, projects in safe jurisdictions offer a better investment opportunity for investors and mining companies. 

As of 2021, seven of the top 10 mining jurisdictions for investment were located in North America, according to the Fraser Institute. Here’s a look at the top five gold-focused development projects in the region, based on measured and indicated (M&I) gold resources: 

ProjectM&I Gold Resource, million ounces*Grade (grams/tonne)Location
KSM88.4Moz0.51g/tBritish Columbia 🇨🇦
Donlin Gold**39.0Moz2.24g/tAlaska 🇺🇸
Livengood13.6Moz0.60g/tAlaska 🇺🇸
Côté Gold13.6Moz0.96g/tOntario 🇨🇦
Blackwater11.7Moz0.61g/tBritish Columbia 🇨🇦

*Inclusive of mineral reserves. **See cautionary statement regarding Donlin Gold’s mineral reserves and resources.

Located in Alaska, one of the world’s safest mining jurisdictions, Novagold’s Donlin Gold project has the highest average grade of gold among these major projects. For every tonne of ore, Donlin Gold offers 2.24 grams of gold, which is more than twice the global average grade of 1.03g/t. 

Additionally, Donlin Gold is the second-largest gold-focused development project in the Americas, with over 39 million ounces of gold in M&I resources inclusive of reserves. 

Novagold is focused on the Donlin Gold project in equal partnership with Barrick Gold. Click here to learn more now

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