Full metal jackpot: The transition to clean energy will mint new commodity superpowers (The Economist – March 26, 2022)


We look at who wins and loses

In mid-february Russia seemed on the verge of a revolution with a distinctly reddish tint. Alisher Usmanov, an oligarch, was developing Udokan, a copper mine in Siberia that required removing an entire mountain top. In the Arctic tundra Kaz Minerals, a mining firm, had raised enough cash to build Baimskaya, a rival mine so remote that it needed its own port, icebreaker and floating nuclear plant.

For years the projects had been put on hold because of their immense costs. But expectations of soaring demand for copper, used in everything from grids to turbines, had boosted prices of the auburn metal, making the mines viable.

Now the copper price is even higher. But the projects are in trouble. Insiders say they are short of vital foreign equipment that has been blocked by the West after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and that they are starved of the funds they had expected from blacklisted Russian banks.

Mr Usmanov, too, faces sanctions. A spokesman for Udokan says, “We are doing everything we can to ensure business continuity.” Yet even if the mine starts producing this year as planned, it is unclear who will buy its output. Foreigners, even the Chinese, are shunning Russian production.

For the rest of this article: https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2022/03/26/the-transition-to-clean-energy-will-mint-new-commodity-superpowers