Strategic metals for the energy transition
Summary of the lecture
Since the 2015 Paris Agreement, the fight against climate change has become a priority for our societies, which have implemented policies aimed at dramatically and rapidly reducing the use of fossil fuels that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases by replacing them with decarbonised and renewable energies and nuclear power, while also seeking to rapidly shift to electrification, particularly for mobility.
However, these new technologies consume large quantities of mineral resources, and this is exacerbated by the fact they are not yet very energy efficient. The mining industry's capacity to respond to the sharp increase in demand for metals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper and rare earth metals has therefore become a major challenge for our societies in recent years, especially for countries such as France, whose supplies are entirely based on imports.
The importance of this issue was further underlined by the fact that various countries were caught out by supply disruptions during the COVID pandemic. As such, securing long-term supplies has now become a major political and industrial objective, notably highlighted by the recent report submitted to the French government by Philippe Varin on 11 January 2022. To meet this challenge, the French government must implement various solutions, including developing a forward-looking mineral-supply strategy, building a foreign-procurements policy regarding resources, and relocating part of the industrial value chains to France, in order to preserve its industrial and strategic sovereignty.
This lecture aims to explain the nature and extent of the need for strategic metals in relation to resources and forecast production capacities, and to provide an insight into the geopolitical, economic and environmental issues involved.