Skyrocketing demand for copper, lithium and rare earths sparks geopolitical race, worrying environmentalists
Minerals needed to power the green transition from fossil fuels could become “the 21st-century version of the ‘oil weapon,'” warns an internal study commissioned by Canada’s Department of National Defence.
There is widespread agreement among scientists that drastic cuts in fossil fuel consumption are needed to stave off catastrophic climate change — and a transition to electric cars, wind and solar power form key pillars of this shift.
But as countries race to adopt more electric technologies, investors and governments are battling to control access to commodities like copper, lithium and rare earths from remote regions. This has led many observers to fear that the green transition could have echoes of the tension and violence characterizing the global pursuit of oil.
“The explosive growth of electronic devices in the past decade, coupled with fast-moving advances in green technologies such as wind power and electric vehicles, are driving the increase in demand for REEs [rare earth elements],” said the study produced for DND in 2020, and accessed under freedom of information legislation.
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