Battery minerals are used as the fuel for batteries that power the electric revolution in automotive and clean energy applications. Without battery minerals, the transport and energy industry’s sustainable transition will not occur.
In an electric car, batteries are the fuel that powers vehicles. It is a sustainable substitute for fossil fuels such as diesel or gas. Similarly, clean energy applications, such as solar panels and wind turbines, uses batteries for storing excess power and thus be able to constantly provide a base load of energy with a stable power supply to the customers on the power grid. Furthermore, large-scale battery storage is increasingly replacing fossil-free emergency power.
Let’s take the example of a typical battery for an electric vehicle (EV). This is a lithium-ion battery. Lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, and manganese are vital minerals in these batteries. Furthermore, specific components of rare earth metals are included in EV batteries. Rare earths metals consist of 17 metals: scandium, yttrium, and the fifteen versions of lanthanides (lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutecium).
Again, let’s use the example of an EV battery. There are different EV batteries, and the development of making batteries as effective as possible and minimising the need for minerals is high on the agenda for battery manufacturers. That said, a typical car battery today weighs roughly 400 kilos; of this total, minerals and metals stand for approximately 185 kilograms. Graphite stands for the biggest weight, followed by nickel, copper, cobalt, and lithium. The metal aluminium is also included in the 185-kilogram estimate along with steel and, in some cases, iron.
In 2030 the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that the global battery demand will grow to over 3500 GWh. Looking at the battery minerals Eurobattery Minerals are focusing on, nickel, copper and cobalt, the projected increase in demand to cater for the extensive growth in battery manufacturing are as follows.
Nickel – projected demand for nickel is expected to double by 2030 compared to 2020, according to Statista.
Copper – projected demand for copper in 2030 is 28.5 million metric tons, an annual increase of over 2 percent, according to CRU Group.
Cobalt – projected demand for cobalt is expected to double by 2030, according to S & P Global.
Let’s clarify that today less than 2 percent of the battery minerals needed to cater for the European market are mined within the region. Moreover, many countries that produce battery minerals and metals focus little on ethics and sustainability. Unfortunately, child labour is a big and common problem.
According to the Statista, today’s most significant copper-producing countries are Chile and Peru. The two countries in South America cater for about 42 percent of global production.
The cobalt market is dominated by mining in Kongo, where over 65 percent of global cobalt is mined.
Indonesia stands for over 30 percent of nickel production, followed by the Philippines with above 15 percent.
The production of rare earth elements is centred to China and, illegal, in Myanmar, with over 70 percent of world production today.
Europe used to be a strong mining region, but the number of mines has steadily declined as sourcing from other parts of the world has increased. However, there are mines in Europe. For example, Sweden is a significant iron ore producer. Looking specifically at the focus minerals of Eurobattery Minerals that are needed for the electric and clean energy transition, copper, nickel and cobalt, Europe does have some very limited production. Poland is the country in Europe where most copper is mined, but they are not in the top 10 countries in the world regarding tones. Regarding nickel, Finland and Greece are the only countries in Europe that mine nickel, but none of them is in the top ten producing co
Today we are building our sustainable future on unsustainable mined battery minerals. That is not acceptable. Carmakers, clean energy providers, politicians and policymakers, and in the end, us as consumers, are therefore driving the need for responsibly sourcing these minerals. Our solid laws and regulations tied to mining, sustainability and work ethics, and the fact that the availability of battery minerals in our European soil is good, makes Europe a suitable place for mining. Further to this, from a geopolitical perspective, it’s also crucial for Europe to mine its minerals from a geopolitical standpoint. Finally, as in several other areas, Europe must increase its ability to be self-sufficient in battery minerals.