According to the International Energy Agency, a concerted effort to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement would mean a quadrupling of mineral requirements for clean energy technologies by 2040. An even faster transition, to hit net-zero globally by 2050, would require six times more mineral inputs in 2040.
Energy transition therefore implies intensively mining critical metals like Cobalt, Nickel or even Lithium.
It comes with significant externalities. It cannot be ignored anymore.
From the children-labour-intensive copper belt to the major pollution from HPAL (High pressure acid leaching) lateritic nickel ore processing, critical metals are mined in a non sustainable and non responsible way from all around the world.
The quest for commodities control is also triggering major conflicts and predatory behaviours. Strong imbalances between countries are emerging. Some (USA, EU etc.) are massively dependent on others for the supply of critical metals while having committed to aggressive objectives of metal-intensive carbon neutrality mix.
This is casting doubt on the ability of conventional mining to match demand and while M&A on battery metals is fierce, capital deployment on exploration is lacking. Despite major downstream processing investments, mining sites opening, technology advancements and recycling, the market is unlikely to be able to absorb the demand surge.
We have entered into a commodities super-cycle that could last a decade and current options face technological, environmental and societal challenges.
Some companies are exploring the depth of the oceans for the recovery of critical metals with major environmental risks and tight possibilities of mitigation. Others are trying to reach asteroids and mine them. It still remains a long shot with major technological barriers.
At GenoMines, we have decided to leverage nature to extract metals in soils below traditional cut-off grades. We genetically enhance the natural ability of hyperaccumulator plants to absorb metals from soils and recover the metals from the biomass not only to sustainably mine metals but also to depollute soils and increase the pool of available agricultural sites.
Everyday, we fight to make green energy sustainable and in silence, we mine.