Companies scrambling to increase supplies of critical materials are finding some luck in reopening sites
Billions of dollars are being poured into new mining projects across the globe as the energy transition drives a wave of exploration, but getting those new sites open is proving to be a challenge. In the U.S. and beyond, some are jumping ahead by targeting a new but also old source—closed mines, also known as brownfield sites.
In recent years, governments and companies have been bolstering critical-mineral projects to meet rising demand for batteries, electric vehicles, renewables and electrification infrastructure. But opening new mines takes years—particularly when faced with strong local opposition—and delays might hamper policy makers’ efforts to diversify these supply chains. Even with recent investment announcements, analysts are forecasting supply shortfalls.
For the 127 new mines opened globally between 2002 and 2023, it took an average of 15.7 years after discovery to get to commercial production, although actual figures ranged from six to 32 years, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
While reopening closed mines can still be a challenge, in some cases the process can be quicker and easier because locals recall the economic benefits that doing so can bring and already have a pit just a few miles from their home.
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