I have for many years now proclaimed the need for locally and sustainably produced minerals in Europe. When we started Eurobattery Minerals, we were a few voices that tried to educate the market on why unsustainably produced cobalt from Congo with questionable environmental and labour conditions is simply not a good idea for the sustainable future we are trying to create. Since then, more and more industry organizations and NGOs have also contributed to the enlightenment in the market alongside initiatives from the EU on the matter of supporting the local European mining industry.
In the past month, the sad development in Afghanistan has put a new light on the issue, which I believe will speed up the action in Europe. This mineral-rich country in the middle east is in the starting blocks to scale up its mineral production with support from China. The profits from this will go directly into the pockets of the Taliban regime, and I believe this will be a harsh wake-up call for both consumers and governments on the European continent; we are all aware of the Taliban regime's track record of terror and oppression towards its people, and who would want to support that?
Needs and opportunities
Yesterday I participated at the Battery Day 2021 in Braunschweig, a very prominent event with some of the leading players in the car battery value chain; from car manufacturers to battery manufacturers, academia and the financial sector. I shared my thoughts on the needs and opportunities for Europe to scale up its production. The need is very much linked to the situation above; we cannot push the electrification of the car fleet based on environmental arguments and at the same time support child labour, pollution, and terror regimes.
But let's also look at the opportunities if we play this right. We have the opportunity to re-create an industry that will create jobs and export income for several European countries. And we can replace sustainably poor mined minerals with a greener option. It is no secret that mining is an energy-consuming operation, but in countries like Sweden and Finland, the energy produced is more or less 100 % fossil-free, which is not the case for the third world countries where battery minerals are mined today. In Europe, we have the prerequisites to aim for fossil-free energy usage for the mining industry as more and more and more countries are replacing gas, oil and coal with renewable sources.
Recycling is a top priority
But how about recycling? I often get that question. Recycling should always be a top priority when dealing with battery and battery minerals, and infrastructure needs to be set in place to optimize this over the continent. But at the speed we are currently seeing and aiming for, considering replacing fossil cars with electric vehicles, recycling will not be enough. According to research*, recycled critical metals will only cater for 20 % of market needs in ten years, if 80 % of all metals were recycled. An important note here is that 80 % recycled material is a very high number!
My conclusions from the first day at the event; the mining industry is ready; car and battery manufacturers seek for options to secure a greener battery value chain. Now it is really up to governments and local authorities to put these needs and opportunities into reality. The climate and the consumers cannot wait!