LONDON, Dec 22 (Reuters) – A little bit of metals history was recorded on March 29 this year. The small Central American country of El Salvador became the first nation to ban all exploration, mining and processing of metals.
Don’t worry if you didn’t notice. El Salvador doesn’t have any operating mines. It was going to have a gold mine, but in a public debate pitting economic growth against clean water supply, water won. Such environmental push-back against mining has become an ever more common feature of the metals industry.
But this year has marked a tipping point with China, a dominant producer of so many industrial metals, launching its own clamp-down on pollution. Multiple supply chains from aluminium to zinc have been disrupted with largely bullish, albeit at times chaotic, price impact.
Supply-side revolution has fused with demand-side revolution as metal markets wake up to the accelerating electric car (EV)story, the “Tesla” effect spilling over from previously obscure parts of the periodic table into the base metals mainstream.
The arrival of shiny new Silicon Valley players such as Tesla and Apple to the grey old world of metals has served to reinforce the new focus on environmentally clean and ethically sound supply chains.