FEATURE STORY

Changing mining practices and greening value chains for a low carbon-world

Video summarizing why climate-smart mining is needed for a low-carbon future.

World Bank Group


By Kirsten Lori Hund and Daniele La Porta, Senior Mining Specialists, Energy and Extractive Industries Global Practice, World Bank and Marthe van Laarhoven, Senior Policy Officer at the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Drivers of change – from the affordability of renewable energy to government policies to the world’s commitment to reduce CO2 emissions – have created the perfect environment for the rise of low-carbon technology. Although it is not widely recognized, clean energy technologies such as wind, solar and batteries are actually more material intensive than current traditional fossil-fuel-based energy systems. Meanwhile, demand for minerals and metals such as copper, lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel– all of which are used in used in low-carbon technologies—will gather pace in the future and sustainable and reliable extraction and production will need to keep up. According to the World Bank’s own analysis, global production of critical minerals used in low-carbon technologies is projected to rise by 965% for lithium, 585% for cobalt, 383% for graphite, 241% for indium, 173% for vanadium by 2050.

At a time when the world is shifting to a low-carbon future and combating climate change, development institutions are accelerating commitments to change the way we source minerals and metals. At the Annual General Meeting of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development, the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced their support of the World Bank’s Climate-Smart Mining Facility, a first of its kind fund, designed to make mining for low-carbon minerals and metals climate-smart and sustainable. The Ministry has committed $1m to the Facility, and plans to commit $4m more. The trust fund brings together governments, industry, financial institutions and private investors to support the responsible extraction and processing of minerals and metals, while minimizing social, environmental, and climate footprints. It aims to help developing countries and emerging economies benefit from the skyrocketing demand for low-carbon minerals, taking a circular economy approach and reusing minerals in a way that respects the environment.


"At the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we know that minerals and metals are essential for building renewable, low-carbon technologies such as wind, solar and batteries, to realize the energy transition. But without Climate-Smart Mining practices, the energy transition risks making a significant contribution to global emissions. Negative impacts will affect vulnerable communities and environments, potentially endangering progress on tackling climate change. That is why the Netherlands supports the Climate-smart Mining Facility; it seeks to mitigate this risk, by working with public and private partners to manage natural resources responsibly, maximize the life cycle of the metals and minerals we use, and extract them in an environmentally-sensitive manner. "
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Kitty van der Hijden
Director General, International Cooperation, Netherlands' Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Without Climate-Smart Mining practices, the energy transition will not be truly clean. Challenges will emerge and negative impacts from mining activities will increase, affecting vulnerable communities and environments and potentially endangering progress on tackling climate change. If unchecked, the volume of mining over such a short time frame (between 2020 and 2050) would increase global emissions, water use, global waste and potentially result in conflict amongst communities. The Netherlands supports the Climate-Smart Mining Facility because it mitigates against these risks and works with public and private partners to manage natural resources responsibly, maximize the life cycle of the metals and minerals we use, and extract strategic metals and minerals in an environmentally-sensitive manner.

While this presents a global challenge, it is also an opportunity for mineral-rich developing countries and emerging economies like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), India, Colombia and Peru. For example, DRC will see a huge surge in demand for cobalt due to the production of batteries for electric vehicles: DRC currently supplies over 65% of cobalt in the global market and is expected to supply more than 73% by 2023.

The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the World Bank want to build a world where governments and companies use renewable energy to power mines, recycle minerals, and leverage innovation to reduce the industry’s footprint. We are excited to embark upon this journey and look forward to working with a range of actors to conduct responsible and sustainable mining that protects both people and the planet and fosters growth and development.

Originally published as a blog on the IGF Mining website. 


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