Where should metals for the green transition come from?

Comparing Environmental, Social, and Economic Impacts of Supplying Base Metals from Land Ores and Seafloor Polymetallic Nodules

Paulikas, D., Katona, S. Ilves, E., Stone, G. and O’Sullivan, A. (2020) Where should metals for the green transition come from? White Paper

The world must transition away from fossil fuels, instead building solar and wind farms, developing energy storage capacity, and producing billions of electric car batteries. This will requires hundreds of millions of tonnes of key battery metals, such as manganese, nickel, cobalt and copper. However, we must consider the impacts that sourcing these could have on the planet. Metal production is an energy-intensive process that accounts for 11% of global energy use and a material portion of the annual carbon footprint—a significant contributor to the climate crisis in its own right. Conventional mining is energy intensive, polluting, dangerous to workers, and increasingly destructive of some of the most biodiverse environments on the planet.

This life-cycle assessment study shows how the transition to green energy presents an opportunity to change our mining processes for the better. It compares the impacts of two sources of metals – land ores and deep-sea polymetallic metals – and combines insights and data to consider the cost of the clean-energy transition to people and the planet.

The full paper can be found here.