Posted on 28 November 2022
Oslo, Norway (28 November 2022) – Demand for minerals required to support the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and battery storage can be cut by as much as 58% through innovation in renewable technology and circular economy measures, according to new analysis commissioned by WWF. This would avert potential bottlenecks in mineral supply without initiating a harmful new extractive industry in the deep ocean.
In a new report, The Future Is Circular: Circular Economy and Critical Minerals for the Green Transition, SINTEF offers models that show the demand for critical minerals can be reduced substantially – between 20% and 58% – from now to 2050 with new technology, circular economy models and recycling.
“The mining industry and its investors are trying to leverage concern about the climate crisis into a rationale to profit from deep sea minerals. WWF commissioned this analysis to offer a data-based counterargument. We need to urgently transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, but not at the expense of vast, untouched, biodiverse deep ocean ecosystems, which are also significant carbon sinks,” says Jessica Battle, leader of WWF’s No Deep Seabed Mining Initiative.
A 30% reduction in all critical minerals studied – nickel, manganese, cobalt, copper, platinum, lithium and rare earth elements – can be achieved by implementing new renewable technologies. Reductions are particularly notable for cobalt, nickel and manganese, where 40-50% percent of mineral demand can be reduced by switching to technologies such as solid state or iron-phosphate batteries.
Rare earth minerals, which are often put forward as the most crucial due to their limited supply, can be reduced by 20%.
Circular economy models can further reduce demand by 18%. This can be achieved in the near term through lifetime extension of technologies between now and 2030, and as stocks of critical minerals grow, more of the demand can be met by recycling. In 2050, all new mineral demand can likely be met through a circular economy.
The report also shows that short- and medium-term demand can be met by confirmed and technically viable terrestrial mineral reserves. It stresses that this must be managed with social and environmental responsibility guidelines and standards, such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA).
The new analysis comes as more countries call for a “precautionary pause,” moratorium or an outright ban on deep seabed mining. The list has grown to include Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Germany, New Zealand, Palau, Panama, Samoa and Spain, with several others indicating they would not be rushed into approving mining operations without sufficient environmental protections and scientific knowledge.
The report shows that strategies based on circularity and innovation provide viable alternatives to projects that have high nature impacts.
“The existing pressures upon the ocean, and the fact that the deep sea contains a vast number of unexplored and unstudied ecosystems, mean that extreme precaution is necessary at all times. Instead of adding additional stressors further degrading ocean health, we must prioritize ocean protection and restoration, to ensure a healthy ocean that can provide social, economic and cultural benefits for humanity into the future,” says Battle.
For further information, and to arrange interviews with WWF experts, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Representatives from SINTEF and WWF will present the report findings in an online webinar on 28 November 2022 at 10.00-11.00 CET. Register here
WWF is an independent conservation organisation, with over 30 million followers and a global network active in nearly 100 countries. Our mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit panda.org/news for the latest news and media resources; follow us on Twitter @WWF_media.
SINTEF is one of Europe's largest research institutes, with multidisciplinary expertise within
technology, natural sciences and social sciences. SINTEF is an independent foundation which, since 1950, has created innovation through research and development for business and the public sector at home and abroad. The UN's sustainability goals guide the work at SINTEF, and together with our customers we promote innovations and sustainable solutions. SINTEF has 2,200 employees from 75 nations. SINTEF's profits are invested in research and innovation. We create technology for a better society. www.sintef.no