Critical Minerals: Navigating the Global Scarcity and Supply Landscape (2023)

Abhishek Chandra

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February 4th

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Critical Minerals: Navigating the Global Scarcity and Supply Landscape (2)

Critical minerals are minerals and metals that are essential to the functioning of modern economies and technological progress. These minerals have a variety of uses in the manufacture of high-tech products such as smartphones, laptops, renewable energy technology and defense equipment. However, the global reliance on these minerals highlights the importance of their supply chains, as many countries rely heavily on a few major producers, often resulting in fragile supply chains. The current global critical minerals scenario is characterized by supply chain disruptions, geopolitical tensions and growing demand for technology. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation by disrupting global supply chains and causing delays in exploration, production and transportation. A major challenge in the critical minerals sector is the concentration of production in a few countries, notably China, which produces more than half of the world's rare earth minerals. This has raised concerns about security of supply and demand for a wider variety of production sources. In response, several countries, including the United States, Australia and the European Union, have begun ramping up production and exploring new sources of the key mineral.

Critical Minerals: Navigating the Global Scarcity and Supply Landscape (3)
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Critical minerals play a key role in modern technology and industry, including electronics, renewable energy and defence. Key minerals are an essential part of modern technological manufacturing and play an important role in our daily lives. Handling them in a responsible and sustainable manner is critical to the continued growth and technological advancement of our modern economy. Below are 10 industries that depend on the supply of critical minerals.

1.high-tech products:Critical minerals are used in the manufacture of high-tech products such as smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices.

2.Renewable Energy Technologies:They are also used in the manufacture of renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels.

3.Defensive equipment:Critical minerals play an important role in the manufacture of defense equipment, including jet engines, missiles and night-vision goggles.

4.Automobile industry:The automotive industry also relies heavily on critical minerals in the production of electric and hybrid vehicles.

5.Medical equipment:Key minerals are used in the manufacture of medical equipment such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners and X-ray machines.

6.Energy storage:They are an important part of making energy storage systems such as lithium-ion batteries.

7.light:Key minerals are used in the manufacture of energy-efficient lighting, such as LED lamps.

8.telecommunications:They are used in the manufacture of telecommunications equipment, including fiber optic cables.

9.aerospace:The aerospace industry uses important minerals in the production of commercial and military aircraft.

10.infrastructure:Key minerals are also used in the construction of infrastructure such as highways, bridges and buildings.

Critical Minerals: Navigating the Global Scarcity and Supply Landscape (4)

Critical minerals are critical to supporting a variety of industries and technology applications in the United States. However, the country's current heavy reliance on imports for many of these minerals highlights the need for greater investment in domestic production and the development of more resilient supply chains. The United States relies on many critical minerals to support its economic and technological sectors, including:

1.Rare Earth Elements (REE):REEs are used in a variety of high-tech products, including smartphones, wind turbines and electric vehicles.

2.lithium:Lithium is used in batteries for electric vehicles and in the manufacture of high-tech products.

3.cobalt:Cobalt is used to make electric car batteries and high-tech products.

4.manganese:Manganese is used in steel production, batteries and high-tech products.

5.nickel:Nickel is used to make stainless steel and electric car batteries.

6.Titan:Titanium is used in the aerospace, defense and medical industries, as well as in high-tech products.

7.Tungsten:Tungsten is used in steel production, as well as high-tech products and defense equipment.

8.aluminum:Aluminum is used to make aerospace, defense, construction and high-tech products.

9.molybdenum:Molybdenum is used in the manufacture of steel and high-tech products, as well as in energy and defense applications.

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10.indium:Indium is used in high-tech products, including LCD screens, solar panels and other electronic devices.

Critical Minerals: Navigating the Global Scarcity and Supply Landscape (5)

The sources of key minerals or metals are obviously rocks and sediments. They have been observed to be associated with various rock formations. Many of these are mined as by-products of the primary raw materials mined. The most common sources include:

1.Igneous rock:Igneous rocks like granite are common sources of rare earth elements and key minerals like lithium.

2.Sediment:Sedimentary rocks such as limestone/dolomite are sources of important minerals such as manganese and cobalt.

3.Metaphor Rock:Metamorphic rocks such as shale and gneiss are sources of important minerals such as graphite and vanadium.

4.venous deposits:Vein deposits, including veins of gold, silver and copper, are sources of important minerals such as molybdenum, tantalum, niobium and indium.

5.Porphyry occurrence:Porphyry deposits, including copper, lead and zinc, are sources of important minerals such as molybdenum.

6.Skarn deposits:Skarn deposits, including iron skarn and magnesium skarn, are sources of important minerals such as tungsten, molybdenum and cobalt.

7.Carbonate occurs:Carbonatite deposits, including rare earth elements and niobium carbonate, are sources of important minerals such as rare earth elements and lithium.

8.Laterite Ore Occurrence:Laterite deposits are a source of important minerals such as nickel and cobalt.

9.Pegmatite occurrence:Pegmatite deposits, LCT-type pegmatites, are a source of important minerals such as lithium and rare earth elements.

10.placer deposit: Placer deposits, including gold and tin placer, are sources of key minerals such as indium and other rare earth elements.

These geological sources are distributed all over the world, including onshore and offshore deposits, in both developed and developing countries. Developing critical mineral deposits requires investing in exploration, mining and processing, and implementing responsible mining practices to minimize the environmental and social impact of production.

Critical Minerals: Navigating the Global Scarcity and Supply Landscape (6)

Critical mineral mining is the process of extracting minerals and metals essential to modern economies and technologies. However, the extraction and processing of these minerals can have significant environmental impacts, including water pollution, soil pollution, and habitat destruction. The hazards associated with mining critical minerals are numerous and can have serious environmental and social impacts. Major dangers include:

1.water pollution:Mining operations release toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the environment, polluting water supplies.

2.Soil pollution:Soil can also be contaminated with heavy metals and other toxic substances during the mining process.

3.Habitat destruction:Mining can cause severe habitat destruction, resulting in biodiversity loss and wildlife displacement.

4.air pollution:Dust and emissions from mining operations contribute to air pollution and health problems for locals.

5.climate change:Mining and processing of critical minerals leads to greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change.

6.social influence:Mining operations can also have negative social impacts, such as the displacement of local communities, human rights violations and labor rights violations.

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7. Resource depletion: Overexploitation can lead to the depletion of critical mineral resources and create long-term supply chain vulnerabilities.

8.Waste generation:Mining generates large amounts of waste, including tailings, slag and other waste, which can pose environmental and health risks if not managed properly.

The hazards associated with mining critical minerals are significant and must be carefully managed to minimize their impact on the environment and local communities. To ensure sustainable and responsible mining practices, it is important to conduct effective environmental and social impact assessments and encourage the development of recycling technologies.

Growing demand for critical minerals has led to increased exploration and production activities globally. However, production is concentrated in a few countries, raising concerns about security of supply and demand for more diverse sources of production. To meet these challenges, governments, industry and civil society must work together to ensure that critical minerals are used responsibly and sustainably.

1.Production Concentration:Production of critical minerals is concentrated in a handful of countries, raising geopolitical concerns about the security of supply and the potential for disruption.

2.Trade dependency:Many countries rely heavily on imports of critical minerals, resulting in fragile supply chains.

3.Resource Nationalism:Some countries have sought to tighten their grip on critical mineral resources, creating tensions and possible trade disputes with other countries.

4.Geopolitical Risk:Exploration and production of critical minerals can be affected by geopolitical risks such as conflict, political instability and resource nationalism.

5.Get rare earth elements:With China now dominating global supply, control of rare earth elements, a key ingredient in many high-tech products, has become a geopolitical issue.

The key geopolitical issues related to minerals are complex and interconnected, and concerted international efforts are required to address them. To ensure responsible and sustainable use of critical minerals, it is important to encourage diversification of production sources and minimize dependence on a few critical countries. This requires greater investment in exploration, research and development and collaboration between government, industry and civil society.

Critical Minerals: Navigating the Global Scarcity and Supply Landscape (7)

The global key mineral supply chain is highly concentrated, and China dominates the production and processing of many key minerals. This poses important geopolitical and economic challenges and presents opportunities for other countries to develop their own vital mineral industries. One of the main reasons for China's dominance in critical mineral supply chains is its vast reserves of rare earth elements, which are key components in many high-tech products, including smartphones, wind turbines and electric vehicles. China now controls more than 80% of global rare earth production, leaving many countries heavily reliant on Chinese supplies. This concentration of production has led to concerns about supply security and the potential for disruptions, as well as more scrutiny of China's trade practices.

In addition to rare earth reserves, China also has significant production capacity for other important minerals, including lithium, cobalt and nickel. China's dominance in key mineral supply chains is due in part to low labor costs and a favorable regulatory environment, which has attracted foreign investment in the industry. However, this dominance also poses risks for other countries as they become increasingly dependent on Chinese supplies and are vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.

In response to these challenges, many countries are working to develop their vital mineral industries and reduce their reliance on Chinese supplies. This will require greater investment in exploration, research and development, and regulatory reforms to encourage investment in the industry. In addition, international cooperation is needed to encourage diversification of production sources and minimize dependence on a few key countries. In recent years, the U.S. government has implemented a number of policies aimed at increasing the self-reliance of critical mineral supply chains. These strategies include developing domestic production, encouraging recycling and secondary resources, encouraging innovation and technology development, and establishing public-private partnerships to encourage investment in critical minerals. The U.S. government is also seeking to create more diverse and resilient supply chains through international cooperation and trade agreements to reduce reliance on imports. Additionally, the government has taken steps to reduce the environmental and social impact of critical mineral production through regulations and promotion of responsible mining practices. These efforts are designed to ensure safe and sustainable supplies of critical minerals to support the U.S. economy and technology sectors.

China's dominance in the global supply chain of critical minerals presents both a challenge and an opportunity for other countries. While China's ample reserves and low-cost manufacturing capabilities create significant advantages in the industry, this dominance also poses significant geopolitical and economic risks. To ensure responsible and sustainable use of critical minerals, it is important to encourage diversification of production sources and minimize dependence on a few critical countries. This requires greater investment in exploration, research and development and collaboration between government, industry and civil society.

Here are 7 logical steps to building a reliable and more resilient supply chain:

1. Diversification of production sources:Diversification of production sources is essential to ensure security of supply and minimize dependence on a few key countries. This requires investment in the exploration and development of new production sources, as well as international cooperation to promote diversity in supply chains.

2. Investing in technology and innovation:To develop sustainable supply chains, it is important to invest in technology and innovation, including the development of new extraction and processing techniques and the recycling of critical minerals.

3. Adopt responsible mining practices:Responsible mining practices are critical to minimizing the environmental and social impact of critical mineral production. This entails introducing environmental impact assessments and promoting labor rights and community participation.

4. Promote sustainable production methods:Sustainable production methods, such as the use of renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies, are critical to reducing the carbon footprint of the critical minerals sector and minimizing the risk of resource depletion.

5. Increased transparency and accountability:Transparency and accountability are key to ensuring critical minerals are produced in a responsible and sustainable manner. This requires developing reporting frameworks and promoting industry standards and best practices.

6. Promote international cooperation:International cooperation is essential to develop sustainable and risk-free supply chains for critical minerals. This requires collaboration between government, industry and civil society to promote responsible mining practices and reduce dependence on a few key countries.

7. Build a resilient supply chain:Building resilient supply chains is critical to securing supplies of critical minerals in the face of geopolitical risks and supply disruptions. This requires investing in contingency planning and developing alternative sources of supply in the event of a disruption.

All in all, the sustainable development of risk-free supply chains for critical minerals requires an integrated approach that works across government, industry and civil society. This requires investment in technology and innovation, responsible mining practices, sustainable production methods and greater transparency and accountability. Only together can we ensure that critical minerals are used responsibly and sustainably for years to come.

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3. Building Resilient Supply Chains: India, Vietnam, and other Emerging Markets
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4. GSQ/UQ Webinar: Future risks in mining and exploration
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5. Building a More Resilient Supply Chain in the Indo-Pacific: Proposals and Opportunities
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6. CGSR | In a Critical Time: Policy Options to Mitigate Disruption Risks in Material Supply Chains
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