Without the important metals there will be no energy transition – and China currently dominates the global supply practically alone.
Without lithium, cobalt and other rare metals there would be no electric cars and no wind turbines. And therefore no energy transition. The demand for these raw materials is currently increasing rapidly worldwide. But the supply is largely in the hands of China.
A few countries dominate the market
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Legend: The mining of lithium is usually associated with major environmental impacts – like here in the Chilean Atacama Desert. Keystone/Rodrigo Abd
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the market for critical minerals or rare earths has doubled to a volume of $320 billion within five years. It will continue to grow rapidly, according to the IEA. However, the extraction and processing of important raw materials continues to be concentrated in a small number of countries, including Australia, China, the Congo, Indonesia and South Africa. (dpa)
Western countries want to break away from this dependency. That’s why around 50 of them – including Switzerland – met in Paris at the International Energy Agency IEA for the first summit on the subject of critical minerals.
China looks primarily for itself
At the opening of the meeting, IEA Director Fatih Birol emphasized that the world quickly needs much more lithium, cobalt and other rare minerals so that it can achieve the energy transition away from fossil fuels and achieve its climate goals. He is therefore pleased that representatives from all regions of the world, producers and consumers, have come to Paris.
He didn’t mention the big absentee, China. One thing is clear: China controls the production and processing of the most important raw materials for the energy transition.
Beijing therefore has no interest in such a meeting, Guy Thiran, the director of Eurometaux, the association of the European mining and metals industry, stated soberly: “China is following its own path and taking the measures necessary for its development .»
There is an urgent need for mining projects in the West
Around 20 years ago, the Chinese government began to promote the mining of critical metals in its own country, but also in Africa and Latin America.
The USA and Europe neglected this development for a long time. Many summit participants emphasized that they now urgently need to launch their own projects in order to free themselves from dependence on China.
The funding should be as sustainable as possible
Suneeta Kaimal from the Natural Resource Governance Institute, which advocates fair conditions when dealing with raw materials, also sees it that way. But she fears that the population in the producer countries will go away empty-handed. “The people there must also benefit from the boom.”
And so measures to promote sustainable and responsible practices for the development of important raw materials were also the topic of the meeting in Paris.
Accelerating the mining of critical metals, distributing them better worldwide and at the same time making them fair: the IEA summit in Paris showed that this will be difficult. Nothing more – but at least.