Metals are the new oil — with all the geopolitical and environmental complications – by Daniel F. Runde (The Hill – February 11, 2023)

For good or for ill, metals are the new oil. We need more “rare earths” and “everyday earths” to build the technologies of the future and make real a carbon transition. The geopolitics around mines, minerals, and the processing of metals are heating up. For that reason, the U.S. needs a more sophisticated strategy to ensure that the U.S. and our allies have access to mines and minerals.

The amount of minerals needed for a carbon transition will require a vast expansion of mining and the processing of minerals. For example, given current technologies and techniques, we will need to increase the production of cobalt and lithium by 40 times for the electric batteries needed to move from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles.

Much of the challenge of metals and minerals is centered around copper mining and copper processing. Many of the “rare earths” are derived from copper mining, so getting copper mining and copper processing “right” means getting strategic minerals “right.”

Achieving the 4th Industrial Revolution will depend on metals. While many of these metals are “rare earth elements,” that are often found in remote or inhospitable parts of the world, more common metals like copper are essential to all electric technologies — with predicted supply insufficient to meet future demand.

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