Mineral resources: in what ways do you interact with minerals in your daily life?How can we secure supplies?
In what ways do you interact with minerals in your daily life?
Ever asked yourself how you interact with mineral resources in daily life? They are everywhere. As soon as you wake up. At breakfast. On the way to school. In the classroom. On your lunch break. In the computer room. In the street. When you're having fun. At dinner time. In the bathroom. And when you go to bed. Mineral resources are precious and essential to daily life. Mineral resources are used in all sectors of activity, valuable for their incredibly diverse physical and chemical properties, such as, for example, solidity, conductivity, colour. This is why the objects we use daily are packed with a range of different mineral resources. Do you know, for example, how many different minerals are contained in an alarm clock, a bicycle or a digital tablet? A can, a car, a tube of toothpaste? Mineral resources are necessary to create objects we use every day. Among the main mineral resources used we can mention minerals containing copper, as this metal has excellent conductive properties, minerals containing cobalt as this improves power storage in electric vehicle batteries, minerals containing tungsten, as it is highly resistant, rare earth elements, as they contribute to energy transition, and sand, which is the third most consumed substance by mankind. Now let's turn to the questions and answers!
Where do mineral resources come from?
Mineral resources come from underground, extracted from mines and quarries by humans. The geologist is specialized in the study of underground matter. Mineral resources are extracted from quarries, particularly for sand, gravel, rocks, or from mines to extract gold, copper or iron, for example. The two types of mining operations are open-pit surface mining, carving out exposed large-scale pits, and underground mining, by drilling tunnels to access deposits. Both open-pit and underground mining can reach, on average, a few hundred metres below ground, while quarries, on average, only reach tens of metres in depth. The location of mines and quarries is not random as it is by studying the nature of the underground and its deposits that we determine the best approach. In other words, geology!
How are mineral resources created?
Mountains, basins and oceans are created by the movement of tectonic plates. For example, when two tectonic plates collide, this can form a mountain range. And when certain specific conditions are met in terms of pressure and temperature, this can form mineral deposits. The dynamic nature of Earth's geological movements creates deposits.
And what are mineral resources used for?
Mineral resources are in just about everything, even where you least expect them. For example, they can be found in medication, constructions, particularly in walls, glassware, tiles, garden furniture, vehicles, pastel crayons, even paper.
But are mineral resources really indispensable?
Yes. These are indispensable at the moment. We have not yet found any alternatives to these resources as they provide a diversity of functions that is hard to match. For this reason, they must be used responsibly and within reason. Mineral resources available today took tens to hundreds of millions of years to form. To put things in perspective, consider that the quantity of minerals extracted by man in the past century is equivalent to the quantity extracted since man first appeared on Earth a few tens of thousands of years ago. A staggering amount! The central issue, beside that of available resources, is access to deposits in the future, which are increasingly deep underground and complicated to extract, always requiring more advanced and expensive technology. We need to design our products to be more sustainable and recycle already extracted materials to preserve our mineral resources.
"Subsurface challenges in the 21st century" conference – Securing the supply of strategic mineral resources
Thanks everyone for returning to your seats in this magnificent hall at the Collège de France. We're about to start the second round table, and I invite the speakers to take to the stage. This round table will be led by Myrtille Delamarche, Editor-in-Chief of the Raw Materials Factory, I think I'm correct in saying that. Sit wherever you like. We'll put your names in front of you, wherever you sit. I'm going to... I'll let them have a glass of water first, as it's good to lubricate your throat before speaking. I'm going to leave... We'll put the names of the speakers in front of them. Maybe we'll display the title of the round table. This second round table will open with a theme that is so important for the BRGM, which is that of resources and securing the provision of strategic mineral resources. In this discussion, chaired by Myrtille Delamarche, we'll hear different points of view, subjects and opinions. And now without further ado, I'll hand over to Myrtille Delamarche.
For this second round table, my role is to keep you awake. We'll talk about securing the provision of strategic mineral resources. I must confess that, as a specialised journalist, I'm seeing various sources, all of which are very reliable, that carry varying projections regarding our need for resources in the future and our ability to obtain those resources. I read in the renowned French Mining Industry Review that by 2025, we need to increase the worldwide production of dysprosium by 664%, of cobalt by 34,900%... I'm serious. That the UK alone, to electrify 100% of its cars, would need twice the current worldwide production of cobalt, all of the neodymium, 3/4 of the lithium worldwide... In short, lots of alarming projections. I'd like to know from the panel how they feel about these materials and their solutions for overcoming those risks. I'd like to welcome Victoire de Margerie, co-founder and Vice-President of the World Materials Forum. Hello. Philippe Chalmin, Professor of Economic History at the University of Paris-Dauphine, founder of the Cercle Cyclope. Hello. Paolo De Sa, extractive-industries consultant, and former head of mines and energies at the World Bank. And Christian Polak, an expert in rare earths and strategic minerals, senior advisor to the department of strategy and business development for Orano Mining. He is also chairman of the School of Geology in Nancy.
And for the BRGM, Pierre Toulhoat, Deputy Managing Director.
As I said, there are many evaluations of the criticality of metals and minerals. For whom are the metals critical and strategic? And based on what criteria? Paolo De Sa, I think you have some excerpts from a study by the World Bank.
That's right. Thank you. Hello, everyone. Congratulations to the BRGM on its anniversary and thanks for inviting me. I headed the mines and hydrocarbons group of the World Bank for many years. Recently, in 2017, the group published predictions on the growth in demand for certain minerals that will be increasingly used in certain growth industries. This study mainly covers renewable energies, wind and solar especially, the automobile industry and energy storage. The figures, the results of the projections from the World Bank study, as you can see, are astonishing, with lithium as the prime ingredient for batteries... and justifying the craze for the development of lithium deposits, whether by evaporation in Latin America, the famous triangle of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile, or a hard rock in Australia... Cobalt, for which the world depends, unfortunately, on countries whose political stability is not that strong, especially the DR Congo, and to a lesser degree Zambia, and certain materials known as rare earths. I should also point out that even for more conventional products such as copper, World Bank projections see a growth of around 7% by 2050. For these industries overall, this poses major problems in terms of the development of new deposits that could meet that growth. Many of the copper deposits now being mined are old. Many closures are planned in the years ahead, in Chile and other countries. So mining companies are rushing to exploit known copper deposits especially in Latin America, but there is also Australia, which is desperately seeking another mega-deposit of copper to boost its mining industry in that way. So there's a lot of uncertainty, as you'll have seen from these projections. At the first round table we spoke about the climatic upheaval, the digital upheaval. As an economist, I prefer to concentrate on the industrial upheaval, the industrial revolution 4.0 that has started, which will greatly change the production methods and the metals required by the new industries, if I may say that, but also the commercial upheaval. We are living in a period of commercial wars breaking out all over, which are in danger of calling into question the model of economic development of the last 20 years based on exchange and globalisation. Until recently, we thought that China would produce everything, that it would be the world's factory and that all other countries would stop producing. The United States are calling this idea drastically into question. They are asking companies to repatriate a large part of their industrial production using subsidies, domestic investment and export tariffs, thereby disrupting international trade and the international trade order based on the World Trade Organisation. So the question is, who will be the new world factory? Which country will occupy that position? It certainly won't be China alone, but we don't know who is coming over the horizon, and what kind of supply policy these new industrial powers will have. The second slide is already there. The US, faced with this uncertainty, has already undertaken an initiative for securing the provision of raw materials, which they call the Initiative on the Governance of Energy Resources, whose apparent objective is to reduce the dominance of China over manufacturing in growth industries and the supply and therefore the consumption of those so-called strategic materials. So the US has labelled 35 substances as strategic, which is a relic of the past. They have had such a list since the 1960s. There were lists of strategic materials. They haven't removed any, but have added new products. But what is interesting, and we'll talk about this later, is that the strategy of the US unlike that of the EU, for example, is based on the development of gold, essentially on a policy of facilitating foreign investments in mining, in production, the discovery and development of new mining deposits. The countries who have rallied to this US initiative are mainly those with a strong mining potential who hope to benefit from it and see a major growth in their investments in the mining industry.
Thank you. Pierre Toulhoat, as part of the World Materials Forum, the BRGM and a host of other partners undertook another kind of evaluation of the criticality of materials for industry. Can you talk about that?
First of all, I'd like to say that criticality is a concept that combines the strength of demand, the ability to supply that demand and the strategic issues associated with the various minerals concerned. The BRGM regularly works for the ministries in charge to evaluate and produce criticality figures. More recently, we have, as part of the World Materials Forum, at the behest of Victoire, tried to provide criticality evaluations that are not specific to one country, government or continent, but which can be used by industrial players together, while targeting major markets and users. We've produced a simple methodology. Many teams work on criticality and produce algorithms and extremely complex formulae. We wanted to be simple and pragmatic. Based on the six criteria that you see here... Sorry, the previous slide. The number of years of reserves, based on the incontrovertible data from our colleagues at the USGS, the US equivalent of the BRGM. The uncertainty of supply. The degree of political exposure in the zone where the mineral in question is produced. A qualitative assessment of recyclability. Certain metals can be easily recycled. Others, such as rare earths, are recyclable at no more than 1%. Questions linked to the uncertainty of demand, with many variations and technologies that are still unstable. The very fast technological evolution is extremely important in these criticality studies. And lastly, the vulnerability in a certain number of key sectors. What happens if supply is suddenly interrupted? With our colleagues at CRU and McKinsey, and of course those at the BRGM, who are highly motivated in their work, we have mapped this criticality based on the periodic table of elements. In red, obviously, are the metals deemed the most critical in terms of the criteria that I just outlined. Clearly, it covers what Paolo De Sa just told us. It has the same ingredients, with metals linked to the energy transition. And you can see an example. Cobalt appears with a very high criticality because it is more exposed politically than lithium. Lithium is relatively common in the earth's crust. You have to find it, but there is a lot of it in hard rock, on old shields. We can see the three rare earths most used in the energy transition, for electronics in general. Then we've seen the appearance of tungsten which is in bright red, and which has many uses that are changing, especially in high technologies. Also more unexpected metals such as tin. Last year we saw zinc. The situation has improved, but tin, for example, is a very sought-after metal and will continue to be so. Since we started this work, we've been studying how things evolve each year. I think Victoire can comment on our progress, how this system of criticality is seen in a dynamic way, and what value is put on the efforts of manufacturers to adapt and countries to adjust their policies.
Before we get to the solutions, I'd like to mention another risk because other than the criticality which is variable, there is another factor which is price volatility. Philippe Chalmin, can you tell us about how the different metal prices are determined?
Right. As we celebrate 60 years of the BRGM, it occurs to me that life was much simpler 60 years ago. Back then, a BRGM geologist could go to bed knowing that the next morning, he would find the same price level for copper, perhaps less so copper, but aluminium, nickel, iron ore, but also vanadium, cobalt, because we had a system of cartels. The world price for aluminium was the Alcan world price. The price of nickel was the Inco price. The price of cobalt... It was debatable, but it was mainly the Gécamines price. The price of vanadium was the Heiveld price. The price of oil, remember, was the price of the cartel of companies, then that of OPEC. Plus, we were in a world that was monetarily stable. The dollar and the franc didn't vary, except when the French government devalued it when everyone was at the beach one weekend in August. So we were in a world marked by stability. Yes, there were futures markets. The first futures metals market quoted on the LME was a contract for tin. But these futures markets were still relatively limited. We were in a world of cartels, let's be blunt about it. The price of steel was established between well-mannered people from the big steel companies. All that has totally disappeared. Today, my only certainty is that tomorrow's price will be different from today's, which introduces major uncertainties once you become interested in the development of a product. I hear Pierre Toulhoat saying: "Cobalt is dangerous." And spontaneously I think: "Yes." 60% of cobalt reserves in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which isn't democratic, as you know, is in fact dangerous. But since the start of the year, the price of cobalt has lost 45% of its value. To the point that Glencore, the world's top producer, has closed its mine in Mutanda. It's the same story with lithium. However, just for a moment, look at palladium: because palladium is used in catalytic converters on our petrol, not diesel, cars, palladium broke records only yesterday. Volatility is with us. So you have to introduce a second difference between metals that are formed and priced in ways that are relatively transparent. That's what I mean by futures markets. Say whatever you want about the London Metal Exchange, etc. I know that, especially in France, we tend to see it as vain speculation. But I draw your attention to the fact that as soon as I know that the price will change tomorrow, I have to anticipate that, and therefore speculate. "Speculari" in Latin means to project oneself forward, to look far off. So it's clear that, at the heart of mining activity, there is increasingly a speculative function, which is played out on the big forward markets known as futures trading: the London Metal Exchange, Shanghai increasingly, New York to an extent, where you find the principal metals, the six great non-ferrous metals. There is now in London a contract on cobalt that is approaching a representative price. But the problem is that on many smaller markets, known as the minor metals, which occupy a great deal of this chart, there isn't sufficient speculative depth, and you have what's known as OTC or over-the-counter markets, operated by mutual agreement and on which the market prices lists are of questionable reliability, which may pose even more problems. Recently, on many minor metals, there was a proper scandal when a kind of stock exchange sprang up in China, the Fanya Metal Exchange, which had accumulated stocks that the Chinese government, following its collapse, tried to dispose of without disturbing the markets. So from an economic point of view, you have highly imperfect markets that don't provide sufficient transparency. There are press agencies like Metal Bulletin, whose role is to publish values and prices. Their representativeness is sometimes doubtful, which explains how you can have extremes, because even if the prices are reference prices, the volumes passing through the markets are relatively low. So we're in an imperfect situation, but we must have no illusions: the time of stability is gone. So in all mining projects, it's vital to include that speculative risk, which consists in not knowing what a metal's price will be tomorrow. I think that the bursting of the bubble over the last 24 months in what I call electric metals, i.e. those which had benefited from the theoretical boom in batteries... I understand that the demand for cobalt will soar. The problem is that there is now such a surplus that everyone is lost. So it's obvious that, right now, that instability is present. We must have no illusions: the international community, in terms of materials, has hardly... has made little effort, and there is scant hope that we will go back to having more stable markets.
Thank you. Christian Polak, the uranium market is less volatile. Can you just tell us quickly... Not that quickly. Briefly, can you give us your take on the critical metals markets.
First I'll comment on the slide about critical metals. In addition to what Mr Chalmin said, there are a few things to underline about critical metals. First, they are small markets. In terms of commodities, you're talking about hundreds of thousands or millions of tonnes of copper or aluminium. Here, it's a few tonnes, a few tens or hundreds of tonnes. The entire worldwide production would fit in this room in the case of many of these metals. So physically, it's an important subject: little is produced, relatively expensively, and it's produced at will, in an attempt to follow the opportunistic market conditions. As far as supply is concerned, these metals can be categorised in the following way. First you have the monopolistic suppliers, a Far-Eastern country that I won't name, which is the dominant producer of tungsten, antimony and rare earths. This country guides the prices. When we talk about price variation, the volatility of metal prices are under China's control. Whenever another producer comes on the scene, as if by chance, the prices fall and the producer disappears. We saw this in France in the '80s, with the disappearance of tungsten production. When the Chinese arrived on the market, they squeezed production by flooding the market with cheap products. They closed the mines and raised the prices again, but with semi-finished products so that they could try to squeeze the market again for manufacturers using tungsten. They did the same thing with antimony, and with rare earths. We spoke about La Rochelle. La Rochelle's ambition in the '80s is not at all the same today. Another subject is the long delay between the purchase of these metals and their final use. Take the example of a jet engine that uses rhenium alloys. When you buy rhenium, it has to be purified and made into an alloy. It has to be made into blades and then installed in the engine, which takes several years. So between purchase and use, the metal's price can vary considerably. Curiously, those in the rhenium industry are very good at varying the price. When an aircraft manufacturer says he's going to make 300 planes, the rhenium producer thinks: "We need to wait 3-4 years. "They have to buy rhenium from us. "We'll raise the price "just as they come to the market." There is a certain legitimacy on the part of the producers in following the market, and effectively controlling the price. These small producers are also... The producers of these metals are unfortunately... We mentioned Congo under Mr Tshisekedi, the new President, in the hopes he will bring about democracy, as the country's name implies. So the production of cobalt, but also coltan, a portmanteau word for columbite-tantalite, which contains mostly tantalum. Tantalum is a metal that is extremely useful in all electronic appliances. If we didn't have tantalum condensers, the most powerful ones on the market, our telephones would look like walkie-talkies from the '70s. So they are indispensable to our electronics industry. And unfortunately, a lot of the tantalum comes from Congo, giving rise to many conflicts, hence the term "conflict minerals", known collectively as the 3TG: tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold. Curiously, cobalt doesn't feature, even though Congo produces a lot of it, and a lot of cobalt is mined illegally, also in Congo. So there is a problem with the materials' origin and traceability in order that they be sold on the world market. Then you have by-products, the third supply element. They are by-products which are completely inflexible. You close a lot of zinc mines, you have less indium. Even if you want more indium, you have to get it from zinc ore because it's a by-product of zinc ore. The same is true of germanium. So there are a number of products for which, whatever you do, you're dependent on another metal, another commodity. If you produce more copper and molybdenum, you'll have more rhenium too. So unfortunately, there is a link which, industrially speaking, is hard to manage. So much for the supply side. Regarding consumption, there is very little stock nowadays, even though this room could accommodate the 40 tonnes of rhenium produced per year. It's heavy but is low in volume. There's no storage, no warehouse as there is for commodities. There's no price index, it's highly variable. Traders have their own ideas. In Metal Bulletin, you sometimes see prices that represent a certain reality, but are often far behind the market of the day. There is high demand from both industrialised and developing countries: China, India and the US. These purchases are mostly short-term and opportunistic. These are low-volume markets. When I got into uranium 15 years ago, I was very surprised. It's possible to sell uranium 10, 20, 30, 40 years ahead of time. 40-year contracts are signed. When I got into minor metals, I thought: why can't we look at building a price model so that manufacturers of aircraft, electronics and batteries can even out their prices and predict them, and so that the miners can have an income over many decades, tens of decades? The market would be stabilised, along with the production, the quantities and the prices that go with it. It's worth thinking about, as it works with uranium. I have another slide. This gives you a few prices and product characteristics. Back to quantities again. You have the price in dollars on the Y axis, and on the X axis, production volumes. In blue, the monopolies, so the Chinese for gallium, germanium, indium, tungsten and neodymium, conflict metals, tantalum, to which I've added cobalt, and a number of smaller products. We mentioned scandium and the critical year 2019. Rhenium, beryllium, largely dominated by the Americans, for once, and niobium by Brazil. So you can see how the curve goes: the bigger the market, the smaller the prices, which has a certain logic to it. In the pyramid on the right, do we build mines for these specific products? There are many by-products, and building a mine to extract 10 tonnes or 5 tonnes of a product is very difficult, and is not worthwhile for manufacturers. This brings us to the development of artisanal mines. So the risk is what's happening in central Africa, which is artisanal production by villagers, by warlords, because it's quickly and easily produced. I mention in passing, as we're here for BRGM's 60th anniversary, that it has done a lot of good work in Guiana to establish large tantalite placer mines. I don't know if any manufacturers are interested, but the tantalite is of excellent quality, as it is throughout the whole Guiana Shield. It is also found in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. There is an opportunity in countries where there is no conflict for now and I hope there will never be. So a heads up to manufacturers in search of tantalum. New mines imply co-production. Mono-production is falling, and the prices are rising sharply. So that's my take on critical metals. Think about those small mines on our territories which don't require major investment. Also think about this: between the end user, e.g. aircraft manufacturers, and the rhenium producer, try to find a price that will satisfy everyone over a very long period.
Thank you. We know that new models need to be found in order to open new mines, and we'll talk about that later. I'd like to know to what extent and within what limits we can rely on recycling to contribute to the supplies, Paolo De Sa. Thank you. I'll start by saying that recycling is vital in guaranteeing supplies of raw and secondary materials for consumer industries. In my view, it's a slightly controversial position, we don't do enough in terms of recycling. Metals are doing better than plastics, when you look at the figures in terms of world pollution, but we're not doing enough. So I'll start by pointing out three misconceptions about recycling metals that pollute the discussion about the circular economy when talking about the supply of raw materials. The first myth is that metals can be recycled infinitely. That's not true because unfortunately, in the recycling process, two factors intervene that greatly reduce the value of metals and their yield: sorting and contamination. We're bad at sorting different elements. For example, in cellular telephones, there are many metals and many elements. Other than gold, we're unable to remove the different metals and process them in the necessary way for them to maintain a certain purity and their intrinsic value. The other related aspect is contamination. For example, cars. A lot of steel is recycled from cars, but cars are computers on four wheels. There are increasing amounts of electronics and copper. The copper pollutes the steel and metalwork that... They are not properly sorted and the copper is not removed. So they are poor-quality products that can't only be used to produce very poor-quality products. The second myth is that in a future world, in 20 years, we can live solely from the production of secondary metals derived from recycling. These are projections concerning the consumption of metals, in particular linked to renewable energy, that come about as a result of exponential growth. As we've said, there are many products whose primary production is very limited, so we can't envisage an imminent amount of recycling capable of replacing primary production. In order to improve the quality, we need to reduce pollution in the recycling, and because of the low quality, we'll always need to add new ore, primary ores to the recycled production. The third idea is that we're going to run out of primary metals. Often, in discussions about the circular economy, we hear that there won't be enough ore to feed future demand, and that we'll need something else. I agree we'll need other things, but if there are problems producing primary metals, it's not because of geology. It's not a geological problem that will prevent the world from meeting its need for raw materials. The problems mentioned during the first round table were related to the surface, not underground. It's also linked to a growing refusal by populations to accept the environmental and social impacts of mining. At the environmental level, mining companies have worked hard, and considerable progress has been made. But on the social level, and here we're talking about developing countries rich in raw materials, there are growing social conflicts about the development of mines that must be addressed by the mining companies, otherwise we will be facing shortages of ore. The other slide was just to give you a few ideas about how metal recycling is still lacking, and what we can do to improve techniques and recycling standards to increase participation. The best known and most successful example is steel. Steel works very well for offcuts from steel making and for offcuts of manufactured steel, e.g. in the automotive industry. But once in consumer products, the complexity of the product is such that the metals become more and more polluted, and their use is therefore more problematic. So even if we're talking about a recycling rate of 70-80% for steel, the fact is that currently, world steel consumption is composed of only 30% secondary materials. So there is room for improvement. And steel is one of the success stories: Aluminium, less so at around 25%. That is largely due to the burden of responsibility on aluminium producers to collect their drinks cans. Another example is the automobile industry, with aluminium recycling in car engines, where the metal gets very polluted. After the second or third recycling, it has to be abandoned or used for other things. Not to mention electronic products, where, unfortunately, for critical substances, the strategic materials we mentioned, the recycling rates vary between 1 and 5%. So forgive me repeating myself, but in order to live from recycling alone, we will have to make a lot of improvements in our methods. Thank you.
Thank you. We need to move quickly to the end of this question. Pierre Toulhoat, just a word about the uses and the immobilisation period of the recycled metals. Paolo De Sa described the limits on recycling well. As for the period of use, I'll describe a paradox. We're trying to promote the fight against in-built obsolescence and make products last longer, to keep them as long as possible. Obviously that delays their availability for recycling. There's a tension that isn't simple to manage. As long as consumption increases, we'll be chasing the availability of products. It's really intrinsic to this notion of recycling and its efficiency, the variable lifespan of products and the growth in consumption. The other point, as has been mentioned, is dispersive use, i.e. dispersing products with specific properties. Patrick Dugue, my colleague who deals with this at the BRGM, reported on conversations with colleagues at the Leti, who are designing increasingly sophisticated electronic circuits with nanolayers. Many of the metals we're talking about will end up in nanometric layers. How do we recover them? Using what recycling processes? How can we break up that material to recover those metals? It's difficult. Another problem to be addressed is this: do we need to recycle to return a product to a pure state or to an oxide? We need to try and think one step ahead and imagine what we'll be able to do with families of metals that we can recombine, either to make products with fewer stages, or to make new products. These are real scientific challenges. Recycling isn't just a procedure. We know that hydrometallurgy has been around for many years, but it's new concepts, revolutions in thinking that will enable us to see recycling differently and the use of the product. There are many discussions still to be had.
Christian Polak, if urban mines can be considered as such, what is their cut-off grade?
The definition of a cut-off grade, for geologists and miners, is a fundamental element: at what level, at what yield... at what level, in what quantities the ore that you're mining is economically viable. When applied to recycling, we find some astonishing facts. With constant recycling, a dispersion takes place, a dilution of steel and aluminium alloys. Take the example of tantalum. This is just an anecdotal account, but it shows the difficulty we would have in extracting tantalum from every telephone, and all the electronics I mentioned earlier. You have quantities in appliances, such as an ore in a telephone, of the order of a few tens, a few grammes per tonne, perhaps 10g per tonne, as you can see on the x-axis in ppm. It's a logarithmic scale. Then on the y-axis, you have the percentage of the content. In yellow you can see the recycling curve. So to recycle a telephone, you can see the quantities are extremely low. As a miner, I have access to ore. You have the blue curve in the middle, with a cut-off grade of around 150 ppm, 150g per tonne, which is huge, relatively abundant, I have a lot of it, and I have a process that is extremely simple that allows me to jump from 150 ppm to several tens of percent via a mechanical concentration of classic mineral processing: gravity, magnetism, extremely simple techniques. To go back to the placer mines in Guiana, from concentrations of a few hundreds of grammes, you quickly get to quantities of several tens of percent. These are very simple, robust technologies, but which are currently inapplicable to telephones. We mentioned new technologies. There is currently no technology that can raise the quantities in telephones to levels acceptable to metallurgists, because the minimum they will accept is 5% tantalum. Below that, they won't take it. You have to get hold of the little condensers with pliers to remove them. So it remains a technological challenge. We mentioned hydrometallurgy, but that is not the solution: Hydrometallurgy comes at the end, when the concentration of tantalum is extremely rich. We have to find mechanical, physical processes that are as cheap as possible to try and extract these small metals.
Thank you. Philippe Chalmin, beyond the technological difficulties of recycling, you also mentioned earlier the investment in time for recyclers on materials which they are unsure of being able to sell at the end.
Here we find the same problem as in mining. I'm aware of being a philistine among this audience. I'm always struck by the fact that mining takes longer than you think. The last great copper mine took a good 20 years in development. In any case, what we have, in mines and elsewhere, is a gap between the market's short-term needs and long-term investment. It's the same for recycling. I was asked years ago by one of the two great French businesses, and you can guess which one, about recycling and recovery, who said: "We feel we should look into "all your little strategic metals, etc. "But can you tell us, given that the time needed "to implement all the processes, etc, "to open a plant "and have all the neighbours "protest against the resulting pollution, etc, "it will take between 5 and 10 years "from having the idea "and it coming into being, "what will be strategic in 10 years?" If, for example... I mentioned palladium earlier. Palladium is interesting. Nowadays, not only do we recover palladium, but cars are stolen for their catalytic converters. That is completely... In 10 years' time, will technologies have evolved so much that palladium will take the place that platinum occupies today? We're all excited about it. I looked at the World Bank's projections: +965% of lithium by 2050. Frankly, who knows... Will there still be cars in 2050? We imagine they'll be electric. Who knows what the batteries that power those cars will be like? Will they still contain cobalt and lithium? I believe that in this room, and I hope you all practise scientific doubt, no-one can be sure. So I ask myself the same question about production as for potential recycling. Paolo De Sa said that recycling had its problems. One metal that recycles very well in batteries is lead. Practically 60% of the lead consumed worldwide is second-fusion lead. Maybe it degrades over time, but I believe it works relatively well. Also, collecting spent electric batteries seems relatively easy. I don't know if it's easy to recycle or not, but these are major industrial processes. And if in 10 years I end up with recycled lithium or cobalt that no-one wants, and with a depressed market price, I undoubtedly have a problem.
Victoire de Margerie, we've seen all the brakes on recycling. Can you give us hope, based on your discussions with manufacturers about their strategy?
First of all, my thanks to Michel and Pierre for inviting me. It's a great honour for the World Materials Forum to be represented today. I'd also like to thank all the BRGM teams who've helped us over four years to give the presentation that Pierre did just now. I've seen Dominique and Patrice. I don't know if Gaëtan is here. Anyway, thanks to all three for their work which is excellent, and which has earned the praise and respect of the whole industrial community here. At the World Materials Forum, among our partners are the bosses of Anglo American and of Rio Tinto. We also have Ivanhoe Mines, Umicore, JX Nippon Mining and Metals, whose boss or his deputy came to Nancy and approved the result presented by Pierre. Clearly they're happy with it and find it useful. That's a welcome recognition for us, as is that of the users, because every year in Nancy we welcome the bosses or deputies of Peugeot, BMW, Renault, Airbus, etc, all of whom are here, and who have also validated this analysis. Their comments enable us to improve year on year. Pierre presented version four. We're already working on version five. The big advantage, as Pierre said earlier, is that we can see improvements. Our aim is to create a decoupling between economic growth and the profitability of manufacturers on one side, and the use of natural resources. As President Macron said, we have only one planet, and we have to live with it. That said, Pierre showed you the left-hand column, and I'm going to show you the action plans. As my colleagues have been saying, the problem with these action plans is that they are subject - at least 3 out of 5 of them - to several uncertainties. The first concerns the opening of new mines. You need greater capacity, at least for those shown in red, and that capacity is subject to two uncertainties: the fly-up that Philippe Chalmin spoke about so well, and the second is the environmental legislation that differ between countries, and are changing in a less than coherent way. It's also one of the World Materials Forum's aims to bring to the table all those in charge to discuss with them the way in which to regulate collection, recycling and the opening of new mines. To that end, every year in Nancy, we welcome senior representatives from various zones. Next year we hope to have the person who is going to lead the American initiative that you outlined. Right now there is an Under Secretary of State for Critical Materials in the US, and we hope he'll join us in Nancy next June. Suffice to say that new mines, with an environmental design, is a real subject, and I'll give you an example. We went to find the person who has just invested $400 million to buy the Mountain Pass mine and start it up again. We're all going there in January. All the ecologists in Nevada and Las Vegas believe it's being done in environmentally friendly conditions. So we may find rare earths in North America, despite the mine being closed for over 10 years. Just a little positive note to say that things are moving forward. Secondly, we'll talk about substitution. Here too, I agree with what Philippe Chalmin said. Substitution depends heavily on the technological choices that are made. At the moment, there's a lot of talk about how long it will take to perfect solid-state technology in order to move from liquid batteries to solid ones, with much less cobalt in the cathodes, which would be to everyone's delight. I'll get to the details in a few minutes, and talk about the various technologies that are being studied. The extraordinarily positive thing is that everyone is working together. I was frankly stunned to find out that the US Department of Energy has signed an agreement with the German group BASF to share R&D costs to develop cobalt-free cathodes. 10 years ago, that wouldn't have happened. That proves that uncertainty can sometimes lead people to make intelligent decisions, which is nice. A third solution which is much less uncertain than the first two - the first, as I said, is the fly-up on the prices, and the second is technological uncertainties. But reducing scrap in industrial processes is working very well. Thanks to artificial intelligence, and the digital systems that now enable us, at all stages in the production of various products, to improve the scrap rate. As an example, 20 years ago... We have a criteria that we're fond of called "buy-to-fly". Now it's been adapted elsewhere and is called "buy-to-use", and it's the number of kilos of material you need to buy in order to end up with the right quantity in the aircraft when it flies. Today, for 1kg of aluminium in a plane that flies, or of titanium or composites, you need to buy 10kg. So you go from 10 to 1 during the process from manufacturing the part to its installation in the plane. You might say: "10kg of aluminium is a lot to buy "just for 1kg to fly." As a comparison, I prefer... I won't ask you, as there's a lot of you, but to give you an answer, in your opinion, to have a kilo of copper in a smartphone, how much is needed? You can... No? 700. Right? So it's 10 for 1kg of aluminium in a plane, but it's 700 for 1kg of copper in a smartphone. You might say: "That's terrible." It's better than it was. Planes were 25 for 1 and now it's 10 for 1. Smartphones are 700 for 1. It was twice that 10 years ago. So it's progressing, but there's huge room for improvement. If we use these new AI systems in all industrial processes, it's quite predictable. There's no fly-up. Manufacturers are pleased to be reducing scrap on their production lines. So that's working well. Fourth, all the designs of the new components to make them lighter. Again, I'm defending the aeronautics industry because they're often attacked over CO2 in the media, whereas for us in our field of reducing the use of materials, it is they who have set an example. They've been doing it for decades, reducing kerosene, and they're doing a superb job. They re-use a lot of materials. They have one of the best rates of use of products. To give you another KPI, we use our cars around 5% of the time. If we don't use Uber or Lyft, it's 40%. You might say: "That's not bad." But planes are much better: they're already at 75%, thanks to incredible maintenance processes, thanks to artificial intelligence for using and re-using spare parts. They're doing a lot, so it's a little unfair to rap them on the knuckles because it's thanks to the aeronautical industry that all the other industries, starting with automobiles and smartphones, are using or re-using solutions that work. I mentioned reducing weight. The last part, and we've talked a lot about it, is recycling. Here I'd like to say something, because we mentioned steel and aluminium. I'm not a geologist, I'm a metallurgist, it's a notch below, but metallurgy's not bad. In metallurgy, steel is doing really well. Aluminium could do better. Not that it's harder to recycle - aluminium is much easier to recycle than steel, but it's not magnetic. Steel can be collected with magnets, but aluminium can't, so when it's mixed with other things, you can't remove the drinks cans. So right now, the problem is not technological, but one of collection. Here I'll give you an example that I thought was marvellous. In June, two people came to explain how they were trying to collect and recycle waste. We had the president of the French waste collection and recycling firm Citeo, which has a budget of 1 billion euros a year, which is supplied by all the main users of packaging in France: Coca-Cola, Danone, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, everyone who uses packaging. They pay a small levy and that provides a budget of 1 billion euros which is distributed by Eco-Emballages, now Citeo, to all the local French towns to organise the collection and recycling of waste. We also had the mayor of a place called Surabaya, Indonesia's second city, with 7 million inhabitants. They started talking and she said: "Quite simply, when I became mayor of Surabaya"... She's very small, only 1.50m tall, and she wore a scarf because she is a Muslim, while Jean Hornain, the boss of Citeo, is 1.95m. They were next to each other, talking. And she said: "Quite simply, "when I was elected mayor, "the place was a mess, "there was garbage everywhere and I had no money." And Jean said: "I've got a billion, but even with that, it'll be hard." Everyone laughed. But she explained how she did it, and it was amazing. Today they have a system that works because they have motivated the entire population to collect the waste themselves, whereas we think it's not our job. That's the big difference with recycling. It's a cultural problem, not one of money: people feel responsible for picking up the waste themselves. So the five main categories for action are applied everywhere, to all so-called critical materials, and they come with various uncertainties according to the metals. I've chosen two... I don't know who has the slides. Myrtille, is it you? No? There. Can I have the next slide? Thank you. There.
Really? Sorry. I'll stop.
OK. To catch up on time, I'll skip point five and go straight to the question where you can show your slides. The businesses that you mentioned who are working on questions of supply, cutting down on waste, reducing the weight of materials in their items, we've recently seen several reports saying that they had scant knowledge of their supply chain, their needs. There was a report by the CGE and several evaluations that weren't very encouraging. First of all, Pierre Toulhoat, can you talk about that? And Victoire, I know that you wanted to reply.
Over the last 10 years, and especially in the last five, there have been many reports. Myrtille mentioned the recent one by the General Economic Council in the first half of the year that was based on a survey of manufacturers about how aware they were of any supply problems. In fact, fewer than 20% of manufacturers had asked themselves the question, especially among SMEs who put their faith in the markets to find the metals they need. Obviously, large groups are organised, but in France, compared to other countries, - it's not the case in Germany or Japan - the industrial base has little knowledge of such problems. The survey showed that clearly. There are efforts to change that, and I think we can count on the COMES to spread the word, beyond the large industrial groups, to a much wider range of businesses.
Victoire, you were saying they discuss it a lot internally in the boardroom, but not much information is passed on. I wanted to tell you my experience with boards of directors in companies that use a lot of critical materials. Clearly, it's one of the subjects they discuss. There are risk committees who look into it, but the information isn't disseminated because it's one of the secrets of how we work. Such information would be of interest to our competitors, and we don't want that. What's difficult is both keeping the ecosystem safe, as Pierre said, to explain the ecosystem that we're protecting by taking certain actions, and at the same time not giving away too much information that could lead to price fixing. There it is. OK. So Myrtille said it was OK for me to tell you about specific actions. As Pierre said, we've identified certain critical materials. Their criticality is diminishing, fortunately. Every year, some disappear from the red list. Even cobalt, the reddest of all, is becoming less so, not because of the price variations mentioned by Philippe Chalmin, but simply due to actions that were taken to reduce that criticality. I've shown it here in red. Cobalt is the only material that is red across all the dimensions that Pierre gave earlier, so that's quite worrying. But what is quite incredible is the reaction that occurred, as I said earlier, with the alliance between the US Department of Energy and the German BASF group, which is quite interesting. There were also a great deal of micro-mines that were opened mostly in democratic countries, Australia and Canada, for example. There are some... I'm not a geologist, but I realise you could have nickel and cobalt in the same mine. Clearly, that made those mines much more profitable because they could extract both metals. If they had had only one, cobalt, they would have been less eager when it came to investing. Here, you had mines of a reasonable size with two metals rather than one, plus an eco-design that provided an environment that was extremely favourable to investment. I mentioned... Oh, yes. Another interesting point is about smartphones: cobalt and nickel have developed a lot because of batteries. But in the last 10 years, 80% of those batteries were for smartphones. In the future, this will not be the case. We've reached a nearly asymptotic level. From now on, it will be electric batteries. Any progression will come from car batteries. We've had smartphone batteries up till now. You'll see that recycling isn't one of the priorities for Apple, Samsung and Huawei. But as soon as car batteries are involved, as every 80% of every vehicle must now be recycled, in parallel with the development of electric cars, there have been developments in recycling technology. What's quite impressive... In Japan, JX NMM and Sumitomo are at the forefront of research in developing processes for recycling cobalt. There was the recent announcement by BMW, Umicore and Northvolt, the leading manufacturer of batteries for electric vehicles in Sweden, of an agreement with BMW and Umicore to implement the recycling system associated with it. So you can see it's very different, even though the batteries are the same. With smartphones, no-one did much, whereas for cars, huge efforts have been made. I don't know if the technologies will work, but since the start of 2019, all the announcements that have been made are quite amazing. We hope that next June, we'll have a lot more feedback on the technical part and how it's working.
For actions and reactions, you have a second material...
I don't know if...
I already mentioned Mountain Pass. I think it's credible. We're still waiting for people to come to La Rochelle, but it's a little... I'll plead the case for mining in France. Unlike Pierre, I'm no specialist, but the fact there's no tungsten in the Pyrenees and no... I find it hard to understand, but maybe one day, I'll understand why we're not allowed to start up again. What's also interesting is technological uncertainty. We talked about induction motors. It's quite surprising because Tesla, for example, has twice had a change of heart. We don't know if, in the future, they will use motors that need rare earths or not. Elon Musk had fun creating media hype on both sides. I wanted to talk about small start-ups. Some of them are quite amusing. When I started on this, people said: "It's impossible to recycle rare earths." But there is one that has a process that clearly works, which is in Texas and is a small... It's a spin-off of a US university. Before the US or Europe even knew they existed, they had sold five years' worth of production in Japan. As you can tell, in terms of spotting new technologies, the Japanese are better than us. The Americans didn't even know they had it, which is great. We nominated them for our start-up contest in Nancy in June, and were pleased to welcome them. Just a quick point about permanent magnets and Fraunhofer's research projects, which are extraordinary, with results, shown here, which are, if it works, quite astonishing. I'll let you read the figures: 80 and 96% are pretty good numbers.
It seems there were large groups who had a vision of those risks, and many of the SMEs still had a long way to go. Christian Polak, the dialogue along the value chain and the strategic cooperation between the various actors.
As I said earlier, there is a culture shock between an end user... To go back to aeronautics, which is way ahead in reducing the consumption of kerosene by using composites, lighter alloys, through design - and the basic miner, regarding minor metals. I'm not talking about major metals, and I include cobalt and nickel, especially cobalt in major metals, where there is significant industrial investment. The potential dialogue between the two parties is difficult because they don't speak the same language. On the one hand, you have the small miner who needs 1, 2, 3 million dollars to start his mine. These are very small capacities, and on the other, you have budgets of billions. Between the two, it's hard to maintain a dialogue, or even start one. I think that through organisations like the World Materials Forum, we have the opportunity to bring together people who wouldn't, or couldn't, normally meet. It's difficult for a small miner from deepest Brazil or Africa or Southeast Asia, to knock on the door in Toulouse or Seattle and ask for the head of purchasing. I think there are organisations that could make that possible, and intermediaries such as mining companies or geological surveys like the BRGM, who would be able to translate into practical terms on both sides the need and the necessity to work together.
We spoke about what businesses could do to overcome that risk, how to work better together, communicate and evaluate better. One actor whom we haven't mentioned is governments and public institutions. What is their role, their strategy? Is there an urgent need for a supply policy? Philippe Chalmin, any thoughts?
There is a kind of cycle of preoccupations. When the BRGM was born 60 years ago, it was around the time when the US had completed its stockpiling of the strategic metals of the time. There was tin back then. They had stockpiled a year's worth of tin production worldwide, which was strategic at that time, and then it wasn't, but apparently will be again. It was at the time... It was the height of the Cold War, we believed in a Third World War. Then, remember, we had the 1970s, the "Limits to Growth" report, the end of the world was nigh, practically all the metal deposits would be exhausted by the end of the 20th century. And at that time there was, just after the Falklands War, the setting up of strategic stocks in the UK. In France, as you may recall, there was a vault in which we stockpiled, in secret, many strategic metals of the time. It's important to remember that all this had a geopolitical dimension. What was on the other side of the Iron Curtain, in southern Africa, apartheid in South Africa, all seemed extremely fragile. The "Limits to Growth" report was re-published in 2010 or 2011, and we saw exactly the same problems around the last great rise in the prices of raw materials, between 2007 and 2014. Of course, the geopolitical conditions have changed. Our dependence on Russia is less preoccupying than that on China. That has been underlined. Obviously, we have concerns about the DR of Congo and its region in its widest sense. When you look at mining geography, the mining companies have taken account of that risk. Since the mining eldorados that were Brazil and Australia... Ultimately these are reactions to the price tensions and geopolitical tensions of the 1970s. Clearly today, it's necessary that the authorities reflect on these kinds of subjects, even if in France, we have always been a little distant. I remember that in 2010, France was the G20 president, and one of the subjects discussed was the regulation of the raw materials markets. The French presidency was more interested in a perfectly legitimate subject: the regulation of the agricultural markets. Our German friends were chiefly concerned with supplying their industries with strategic metals. There was almost a double standard. The Medef discussed agriculture, but its German counterpart was preoccupied with the supply of strategic metals. Can we now go that much further? I confess that I don't know. We can have any number of commissions, but the fact remains that there are risks associated with mining. It is also true... - I want to draw your attention to this without offending our mining friends - that a mine is rarely well received. I'm sorry to say. We talk a lot about the curse of oil. Frankly, I think we can also talk about the curse of the mine. But unfortunately it's not on mining that we build strategies for economic development. Zaire, now the DR Congo, is a geological scandal. It's Africa's most unfortunate country. And unfortunately I shudder when I see all the shenanigans involving mining projects in Guinea, which could enable Alpha Condé to obtain a third mandate aged 80 plus. Unfortunately, the curse of raw materials is a reality, both for energy and for mining. This means that the countries where most resources depend on mining operations are geopolitically very unstable and potentially dangerous. History demonstrates that there are few examples to the contrary.
Thank you. Victoire de Margerie, you're dying to respond.
I'd like to mention a few counterexamples: Norway in oil and gas, Australia and Canada in mining seem like good examples.
Not everyone is a Norwegian Protestant! I could name... No. In the field of mining, there are... Chile has managed the revenue from copper well. Codelco was remarkably well run and managed the revenue from copper well. I don't have the figures to hand, but I'm always quoted the case of Botswana in the management of diamond revenue. You could cite Malaysia, which threw off the Malay curse and no longer depends on raw materials. Australia, Canada, etc, we're talking about countries where the importance of mining is much less. They are countries which are sufficiently developed to enable them to rise above it. I remind you...
They all started that way, and have since developed into other industrial sectors. It is to be hoped that certain African countries you mention are simply 50 or 100 years behind...
Unfortunately, there is a direct correlation between the lack of development in Africa and their dependence on raw materials.
I'd just like to come back... I interrupted because... I didn't expect you to talk about the curse of mining, but I wanted to react to something else that was interesting, which is the reaction of the authorities in securing access to critical metals. I think upstream technologies are also an interesting subject. We talk a lot about electric vehicles. In the last 18 months, hydrogen has started to interest everyone again, whereas it was previously a German-Japanese subject. It was a little... It came after the electric car. Last week I was given a figure that I found interesting. The cost price of a fuel cell is 15% material. For a car battery, it's 70% material. Securing materials for hydrogen is less important than for electric vehicles. It's a subject that concerns our regulators, especially European ones. That's all I wanted to say, other than the bit about the curse of mining.
I'd like to mention the recent report on the gold mines in West Africa that have contributed to getting people out of poverty, given access to schooling, etc. But that's the end of that discussion. Paolo De Sa, the American strategy which is much spoken about.
I won't talk endlessly about the US. I just want to simplify things. Consuming countries have adopted three kinds of approach to secure their supplies. Some countries rely on trade. These countries have significant trader companies. Germany and Japan. With the ongoing trade wars, that strategy is a little fragile. Other countries have adopted a policy of investment, and that doesn't mean their mining companies will invest, but will rather guarantee... - we mentioned the US policy of governance - a climate favourable to mining investment, and that's chiefly the US, but is now increasingly China. Other countries have adopted technological innovation as an essential path towards securing supplies long term. I believe that is the approach of the European Union. I think we need to focus more on technology. We've spoken at length about it here, so I won't elaborate. In terms of reducing the intrinsic consumption of minerals and metals in products, substitution technologies, replacing cobalt with other products in case of political instability in the DRC. But going back to recycling, there is much still to do in terms of metallurgy. But two things I'd like to underline, two major constraints on recycling are collection, as has been highlighted, and costs. Unfortunately, the recycling industry has increased costs linked to contamination, and the difficulty of achieving economies of scale in collecting metals, so costs which are not so good compared to the big mines in Australia and Canada. So I think to help the development of recycling, the authorities must adopt regulatory policies. We need stricter regulations, even at European-Union level. The recycling policies of certain European countries until two years ago was to export waste to China, saying: "There you go, it's recycled." Now China says: "We're not taking it."
So people are left with huge amounts of waste which they can't collect and recycle economically.
Pierre Toulhoat, the strategy... Go ahead. A quick word in response. There's an interesting example, that of EcoTitanium. I don't know if you're familiar with titanium. In aeronautics, in Europe, they have established an economic procedure which has a good cost price and which is organised by a French mining group called Eramet, and its subsidiary called...
The only example of recycled titanium of aeronautic grade.
They've guaranteed the quality of the ore they recover. It's superb and it's economic. It can be done when it's organised by an industry. Philippe Chalmin?
Just briefly. Paolo De Sa spoke about our recycling firms sending waste to China. The Chinese have done us a huge favour, because up until now, let's be honest, we unloaded our waste onto the Chinese, in particular old paper, old plastic, without making any effort to sort it or process it, etc. The Chinese have put a stop to it. That's a huge problem, but if we want to export not what I would call waste, but secondary materials, China will import it. But it will no longer... We need to make the distinction between waste and secondary materials. One is very different from the other.
I'd also add that China pays more for some materials than French buyers when it's clean and perfectly sorted. Pierre Toulhoat, what about France's strategy, or lack of strategy regarding supply?
France is thinking about it. France still has some mining groups working on a number of metals, but they don't cover the whole spectrum. I'd like to make a few comments. The BRGM is the only large European geological service which doesn't receive specific aid, from subsidies, to help developing countries to develop their geological infrastructures, and to discover their mining potential or guarantee all the chains. Our German counterparts have 10% of their budget allocated to just that, and they work together with industrial stakeholders to create this climate of confidence, mentioned by Christian Polak, which enables you to build long-term strategies with mining stakeholders. We should think about that rather than closing our eyes and saying: "We don't want to return to the Françafrique of before." To avoid the mining curse mentioned by Philippe Chalmin, some African countries ask us, the BRGM,... They know us and know we've discovered lots of metal deposits in Africa and worldwide. They say: "We want to escape from the greedy countries. "France has shown that it can find deposits, "and we know the BRGM can help us "put in place proper environmental regulations, "a workable mining code, and training." The BRGM, with financing from the World Bank, - It's competitive. The BRGM has to be good, and it is - wins certain projects. But we're not meeting the expectations of some countries. I often attend seminars in South Africa or go to African countries, and the leaders say: "We don't see the BRGM, we'd like to see you more." "How can you help us?" But when we raise this with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it's not policy. It's a political decision taken at the highest level of government, and you have to accept the consequences. There are other ways, but working through cooperation, creating a climate, was a prelude to the RGI initiative by the Americans with some other countries. It can be done at European level, by getting together. It isn't easy, but these decisions need to be taken at the highest level. They are political decisions.
Since we're talking about mine exploration, we get to my favourite question. Can we say to no to mining in France? Philippe Chalmin, since this is of interest to you. You can make peace.
Hold on. I'm going to be... The curse of raw materials is real. But it isn't inevitable. I think you can have... A country like France could have the potentiality to show that what you call an eco-mine, and I call sustainable and responsible mining, is imaginable. I've been involved in a project called Montagne d'Or which has shown me that in the French environment, and Guiana is part of France, as you know, it's absolutely impossible, especially since mining in France is likely to be taken hostage by people I would call irresponsible, but who see mining as an interesting means of communication to reach the public on subjects which can be turned into caricature. After Notre-Dame-des-Landes, after the Sivens dam... We've had Sivens, Notre-Dame-des-Landes, Montagne d'or, subjects about which a number of organisations, NGOs, and I have doubts as to their representativeness, have stirred up trouble. Unfortunately, after the Montagne d'Or experience, we see what is happening, as Victoire said, in our lovely Pyrenean valleys, where there was mining, even on the Spanish side, we had iron mines... Sadly, I'm worried that where France could, with Montagne d'or... OK, Montagne d'or was a caricature. Gold isn't much use, and it's an agent of capitalism, as you know. The mine developers were Canadians, Russians, it reeked of oligarchs. It wasn't primal forest - the gold panners had already been there - but it looked like the Amazon. The Amazon has become sacred territory. There were nice indigenous people. They forgot they weren't the only people and only represented 3% of the population, that in Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, mining could have been an opportunity, when you have 35% unemployment and 75% publicly employed... That was swept aside, and the project will most likely be abandoned for, I repeat, political reasons. Unfortunately, in France, the debate is biased. And it's not just mining where obscurantism in terms of science... I was a member of the Council for Biotechnology. That's another subject, GMOs, we could talk about. I'll stop there. It's a heartfelt reaction, even though I didn't expect the mine to provide the economic development Guiana needed. In the French environment, with regulation, and monitoring by the French authorities, with the collaboration of the BRGM which had worked on it, we could set an example and show you could have a cleaner gold mine than the one next door. Sadly, that probably won't be the case.
Indeed, Pierre Toulhoat,... The BRGM has drawn up a frame of reference on green mining and good practices. The mine we could envisage tomorrow is not like Germinal.
It's not Germinal. The BRGM, but not only the BRGM. There have been several projects to try to reduce the impacts. But the BRGM is responsible for managing the mining legacy. The problems are still far from being solved. We have to learn from what's been done, and what's left to do, and think about post-mining before we start. That's what has been lacking: how to exploit mines sustainably, and that's led to new projects on sustainable and responsible mining. Anticipating the consequences of mining, making it as economical as possible, not discharging mining residues outside, in particular sulphur mines, since sulphur, once it's on the surface, will oxidize and generate acid effluent. A new conception of mining will require investment, mining in certain places... We've discussed surgical mines where you extract only what you need and leave the rest. Christian Polak will say: "You have to be realistic. "It cannot be done everywhere or for all deposits." But it is possible for mining to happen in the right conditions. To convince all the stakeholders and the public, we need to show we're capable of managing the mining legacy we have. Sadly, there are certain events which mean it isn't always easy to discuss these matters. But we have faith.
A word, Victoire, then Christian Polak.
I think what Pierre just said is important. We must be ready to use everything the BRGM has developed for clean mining the day public opinion becomes favourable. I'm less pessimistic than my neighbour on my right, because I have some experience in developing deeptech start-ups in France, and it's the same. France doesn't want to be the first to try. Once Mountain Pass, for example, has restarted, they'll say: "The Americans are doing it, "so we can do it." And that's great because Pierre and his team will be ready and we can restart clean mining in France. I think they need... Our public authorities won't risk being the first to approve something which doesn't work. They'll wait for others to do it, and it goes well, and then we'll have the toolkit and we can do it. That's what I think, anyway. Victoire, we've got the Greens. The Greens don't have any influence in the United States.
They do in California.
Mountain Pass is on the border of California and Nevada.
Christian, fire our imagination with the mine of the future, the digital mine, electrification and even SRI.
I won't talk about mining being held hostage. Which is the case in France. There are about 135 countries in the UN. A number of them live off mining, and mining isn't necessarily a misfortune, it's also an economic vehicle for well-regulated countries. We're increasingly moving towards regulated, organised mining, with serious environmental controls. I'll pick up on what Pierre said: it's important to have, in every country operating mines, top-quality civil servants, well-trained civil servants. It's hard to find people who can answer questions and ask intelligent and constructive questions. That's required in a number of countries. The mine of the future relies on people, people who are trained, and administrations with well-paid civil servants, so that they can enforce the laws and permits for operating mines. So mining isn't held hostage, and it doesn't bring misfortune when it's well regulated. You have the example of Australia, Canada, but also Botswana, and it's the same for Namibia, which exploits its mining resources intelligently. So, the intelligent mine, I think we have something.
We have a short film.
I'll comment afterwards. That's useful for nuclear and uranium, obviously. Clean mining... What does that mean? It means no waste or residue. There is always waste and residue. We try to minimise it and produce as little as possible. When you think of mines, I won't come back to Germinal, you either have a large open-cast mine, or you have a shaft with a hole at the bottom. Either way, the material comes out and piles up. So that's open-cast or underground mines. There are other types of mines used in Kazakhstan, and also in Uzbekistan, the United States, Australia. Over 50% of worldwide uranium production uses a technology called in-situ recovery or in-situ leaching. It's a plumbing operation. We drill holes from the surface, we inject acid or alkaline solutions into areas where uranium is present. The uranium in solution is pumped up by another well, so that on the surface you only have tubes and pumps. The uranium is fixed on resin, and the water and acid re-injected. And the cycle continues. This means there is little impact on the surface: just paths for the drilling machines. You'll say: "What about the aquifer? You'll pollute the aquifer." If there's uranium in an aquifer, I wouldn't drink the water from it. It's usually salt water, which is unfit for consumption. We don't extract uranium from drinking-water aquifers. It's a technique which is specific to uranium. Copper has been produced in the past. It's being done in Arizona, in a fractured environment. The environment must be porous. It's a clean technology, but it's quite unusual. As for high technology, for making it clean, and acceptable, we spoke earlier about digital twins, we're going to make digital twins of our mines. It starts with exploration. The geologist with his coloured pencils, that's all finished. That was all rather bucolic. I think everyone here over a certain age did it, but less so nowadays. Now we use tablets, and you're immediately connected when you take a point, a measurement. Everything is measured: GPS, position, analysis and the tagging of all the samples. When you have thousands of samples, with all the stones collected from the outcrops and the drilling, you can easily get lost, you don't know where you are, what depth. You need the tagging to be very sophisticated. So thank you, 4.0 technology! It enables us to go very fast and insert the data as quickly as possible and create resources as quickly as possible, and model it. Exploration leads to modelling. Then there's the mine itself. You've seen the lorries driving around. We know exactly where they are, what they're carrying, where they've come from. You might think it's great because the lorries don't need drivers, which is already happening in large mines in Australia. Fleets of lorries are automated, there are no drivers. It's managed from air-conditioned centres. It's practical, and costs less. It's better and safer because you know the exact position of the lorries. There's one downside to 4.0, for drivers. When we go to countries, what are the expectations? Mining brings work, jobs. When we go to the tropical forest or the desert, we're not going to find engineers and technicians in these places, they have to be brought in, so the local communities who live in these areas will be frustrated: "What can we do?" If you ask what people can do in the mine, everyone will say: "I want to be a driver!" Anyone can be a driver. When you start using automated lorries, as regards the local communities, that causes problems. So it must be done sparingly. You can do it in Australia, but you can't use automated lorries everywhere. So that's a small point on making use of technology. You must think of the locals, and they want to work, and to have simple jobs to learn about working in mining. Then there's the process. You take the ore to the factory. In the factories you have pumps, grinders, crushers, flotation tanks, acid baths, levels... Many parameters affect this equipment, all these machines, and we collect these parameters. It's data mining, data which is collected. We apply artificial intelligence. We combine the two so that we can see the wear patterns on the parts, on the equipment, so that we will know... We try to extract from this mass of information, the wear patterns, so we know exactly when to intervene.
We have to be brief.
I'll be brief. That's the mine of the future. I'll finish on the environment, as it's important. On the environment, using drones, we'll check the embankments, and we know embankments are important. We've seen the incidents in Brazil and Canada recently. The environment is also subject to the 4.0 technological evolution. There are solutions for the mining of the future. It's training, well-trained people, and using the most advanced technology to make digital twins and stop dirty mining.
Thank you. Do we have time for any questions, or not?
We are running behind, but we could take one or two questions quickly, if there are any. I can see Mr Christmann. We'll get a microphone. I'll go over. If you could please make your questions short and concise, but I know you will.
Hello. Patrice Christmann. I'd like to debunk... Philippe unfortunately used an expression which always makes me cross, the curse of raw materials. Statistically, there's no curse of raw materials. A regression analysis using the World Bank governance indicators, and the United Nations human development index shows no statistical correlation between mining production and these indicators, which doesn't mean there are no negative cases, but there are also positives. That's one point. Second, when we look at global mining production, who are the main producers of raw materials? I've just checked my facts. 53% of global mining production for 2016 comes from 13 countries. Out of those 13 countries, there is only one which is in the group the World Bank calls low-income countries, and that's India. The other 12 countries are rich countries, according to the World Bank classification, or high-income countries. This problem of a curse, we must stop saying that, the same for Dutch disease. The real problem is governance, as Christian said. Many countries have governance problems linked to the corrupt political elite, to training problems, etc. Christian highlighted that. That's what we need to work on. To talk about a curse is to ignore the role raw materials played in the history of the industry, of our country, of Europe and most developed nations. We are all born from agriculture and mining, for better or worse. We have since diversified, but they are the pillars of our civilisation. Thank you.
I can't have that. No, because... The curse of raw materials is not just the Dutch disease, it's also the influence this revenue can have on governments, on the corruption of souls, bodies and hearts. Unfortunately... That's why I had to talk about the curse of raw materials, in order to say that producing countries were often vulnerable, and it wasn't the exploitation of raw materials, but the management of the revenue which weakened them. We can look at how the money was used. And, Patrice, I'm going further back in history, before the Dutch disease, the Dutch problems linked to the Groningue gas discovery. But the decline of Spain, in the 17th century, starting with the arrival of gold and silver from the New World, because it strengthened the land-owning elite. And Spain, which dominated Europe in the 16th century, would go backwards until the end of the Franco era. So when I talk about the curse of raw materials... You're right. Even if the economic development, the economic takeoff of European countries at the end of the 18th century wasn't based on raw materials, even if the industrial revolution in England in the 18th century had nothing to do with raw materials, but we used them. Australia and Canada were the beneficiaries and were able, as developed nations, to manage the revenue. Norway managed the income. You can't tell me a single country in the Persian Gulf is an example for managing oil-and-gas revenue, let's be serious. Look at Africa, which concerns us more directly. Which country has managed their raw-materials revenue? I'm talking about management. I know the World Bank doesn't like talk of a "commodity curse". I'm sorry, but it's a fact. A fact which has to be taken into account since it's a factor in price instability and volatility.
Philippe, I think you've discouraged further questions!
The questions and answers were supposed to be short and concise, but it's a fruitful debate, so it's interesting. We can take a question from the room and then we'll go to our main speakers. Is there another question? Nicolas Charles. I'll go as I'm over this side.
It's more of a comment, and this will calm things down. I want to mention something not covered during the round table, which is a shame. As regards the supply of mineral resources, there was no mention of the last mining industry in France, which is materials, industrial minerals, some of which will become strategic and we need to ensure supply. And it's important to say that in 30 years, we have lost three times the number of quarries in France.
Thank you. I don't know if anyone wants to comment...
I'd like to thank Nicolas because we tend to forget this in France, and in many developing countries, where it's absolutely crucial to development and a responsible approach. Thank you, Nicolas, for raising it. We'll finish the questions with François. Remember: short, concise. My question will be short. Since we're rebuilding Europe, in the European treaties, will subsurface problems be shared? Isn't it time to think about a global mining policy at European level rather than each country, since France with its farming and AOC can't have mines... Rather than arguing semantics every time over mining economics, but sharing the subsurface, in future European treaties for Europe, which doesn't even do mining research in a coherent way?
Thank you, François, for the challenge. I think each European country retains its authority in the regulatory, administrative sense, regarding the supply of metals. Even though Europe, and DG Grow especially, has tried to encourage common thinking at European level in terms of administrative and political decisions on minerals, I think we're still far off the situation you're suggesting. Even though Europe would be more responsible if it controlled all the decision making, the Europe that you described, we're not there yet.
Thank you to those involved in the second round table, for these fruitful exchanges, which were sometimes contradictory. It all added to the round table. So thank you again for your various contributions. For this second round table, we have our main speakers. I now invite Claude Mandil to take the floor and give us, as Bernard Cabaret did earlier, a historical perspective of the BRGM's evolution since the time when Claude Mandil was Managing Director. That was 1988 to 1990. Claude Mandil.
That's 30 years. OK. Since it's its anniversary, I'll first say that I love the BRGM. We don't have the time, but I'm filled with memories and anecdotes of the great times, brief but great times, I spent at the BRGM. I'll share just one, as you deserve to hear one. It was at the beginning, I'd just been appointed at the BRGM. I was told: "You must go to Orléans." That evening, I went to Orléans, I stayed, I don't know if it still exists... At the time, there was a flat for the Managing Director at the local hotel. I had my breakfast, at the time it was Mr Longevial, everyone called him Mangemal. And... I forgot to say that my previous job, which I'd left three days before, was a job that wasn't for me. That's why I left. I was the head of a public financial institution. Every morning, when I got to my office, I was met by the Secretary-General, who arrived before me, who was charming but very formal, and would say: "Sir, "the daily money rate in New York "rose by two tenths yesterday." "Thank you." And I would think: "That doesn't interest me." So, carrying on my story. I'm having my breakfast, and there was another person at the same table. I said: "Hello, I'm the new Managing Director." He said: "Hello, I'm the prospector for Madagascar." I said: "Really? What's the news?" He said: "I brought some samples "for analysis and I'm really pleased "because the content is 2 ppm "higher than we thought." I thought: "This is amazing, "this is exactly the same type of news, "but this does interest me!" I'll be serious, and I'll try not to be long. I'd like to make three suggestions to the BRGM, since it's its anniversary. The first is more related to the first round table than the second, but it's my pet subject. I beg the BRGM to be enthusiastic and active and... I don't have any other words, regarding the capture and storage of CO2. It's an indispensable technique, rejected in France, and it doesn't matter. Of course the BRGM will make sure the storage doesn't leak. But if ever there is a small leak, it doesn't matter. More of the CO2 will have been stored than not. My second suggestion, I think the BRGM should... - I'm lowering my voice to say this - secretly prepare for when there will be mining again in France. Because I think that time will come, one day or another, but it will come. I'm an optimist. I probably won't be here, but the day will come. When I hear that tantalum is a strategic metal and there's some in Guiana, when I hear that there's concern about the supply of tin and we know how much there is in the Armorican Massif, I think this is crazy. So let's prepare... You heard the diatribe, the debate that followed Philippe Chalmin's diatribe, when the two people didn't actually disagree as much as it seemed. But that's just it: if it's true that some developing countries are being harmed by excessive mining, then the onus is on developed countries to produce those metals in satisfactory conditions. My third suggestion, I'm not sure how to present this because it's not my area, it's communication. The BRGM must participate, together with others, in the rehabilitation of the subsurface in the eyes of public opinion. Public opinion doesn't like the subsurface. It scares people, maybe because the dead are buried underground, I don't know. As a result, when you don't like something, you ignore it. Why study the subsurface if you don't like the subsurface? This is serious. I think we need, I don't know how, that's for the comms experts, to make sure that French public opinion, and Europe in general... - We should limit ourselves to France because sensibilities are different - that our public opinion becomes reconciled with the subsurface. That's all. Happy anniversary!
Thank you very much. Working in communications, I appreciate your third suggestion. I've taken note of it. The second speaker is Yves Le Bars, whom I now invite to the stand. Yves Le Bars was, in Bernard Cabaret's time, Managing Director of the BRGM from 1997 to 1999. Yves Le Bars, over to you.
The programme says "7pm: cocktail reception". I'm not it. As you can see on the slide, I was Managing Director for the same length of time as Claude Mandil, but 20 years ago. I'm very honoured to be here with you 20 years later. I can't make any conclusion, I can only comment, give my reaction. In an institution with which I was working ten years ago, the IHEST, we talked about "a general impression". A lot of irrationality, and some reality. So, over the past 20 years, I've been involved in geology as President of Andra, and I also had the opportunity of working with someone formerly at the BRGM, Paul-Henri Bourrelier, for whom I have a lot of respect, at the French Association for the Prevention of Natural Disasters. And I've now encountered mining, often under this angle of a curse, in the work I'm currently doing with countries in the South. Since I'm following this second round table, I'd like to say well done for your conduct and for what was said. Having been to a number of conferences on such themes, it was worth listening to you. I've finally had an explanation of criticality, not in the sense of radioactive waste or uranium, but the criticality of the vulnerability of resources. I'll quickly look back over the last 20 years, or rather those two years 20 years ago. It was more than a transition, it was a time of change. You might have noticed from what the President said earlier, giving those dates. This period saw the end of mining property, mining assets, held by the BRGM, and it was a huge change. We talked about La Source, and Yanacocha. With Bernard Cabaret, some of our grey hairs came from there. It was also the time when Antea was set up, and it became necessary to focus the BRGM on its public-institution role. So at that moment, the BRGM went from its post-war mandate, ensuring the supply of mineral resources, in the way that in parallel, the CEA was asked to give France knowledge of the atom, with all the... the measures that were created from the CEA. Areva is one and Andra is another. Going from that to earth sciences for the environment, geosciences for sustainable development, so focusing on different collective challenges. It was the end of the duality between the mining side and the geological side, the geologic map. Two cultures which had to merge, and with a greater emphasis on research, as seen by being placed under the research supervisory body in 1998, maybe. There were tensions, obviously, the supervisory bodies not always being consistent at that difficult time. And then the idea that an open market was the way to ensure meeting our requirements for mineral resources, with companies from other countries, since, with a few... rare exceptions, French companies had called it a day. So, today, we see there's a new context which has been explained during the two round tables, especially the last one. We can see the geostrategic aspects. Even if I was told quite late on that I had to say something just before... the cocktail reception, I've found some recent images. Regarding the production of rare-earth metals, China is at 88%, I'm told, that's worldwide production, even though China has only 47% of rare-earth resources, based on 2015 figures. Russia: 17%, Greenland: 8%. That's a figure which the head of state, watching Fox News in his dressing gown, hasn't forgotten! I will do as Claude just did, and give some advice to the BRGM. And maybe an anecdote. When I joined the BRGM... I was told I had to go to Saudi Arabia. The main contracting party is Saudi Arabia. It contributed to the prosperity of the Orléans campus. Second anecdote: I slept a number of times, obviously, two, three, four days a week, four nights a week in Orléans. The room was at the end of the corridor: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6... 12, 12a, 14. I'm not sure if BRGM's involvement in research has turned 12a into 13, but... I don't know. Tell me later. First piece of advice. I think that, working a lot, well... being involved with... NGOs, associations, platforms for solidarity and the international aspect of solidarity, in Africa, the Maghreb in particular, but also West Africa, I see the lack of awareness on the part of our contemporaries of events in these countries, of their potential, of their conditions.. We've mentioned some. And I think it's extremely... I discovered the richness of BRGM's international involvement. I refer to the BRGM's culture. There was a remark that I like a lot. At one time, there was a fund to help African states understand their mining potential. It's subversive. It helps you to negotiate better with someone who says: "You've got great stuff, but you'll never manage it." So contributing to training and helping countries develop mining policies, I think that's really important. And you'll be able to give France an understanding of what's happening across the Mediterranean. And second, it has been said here: you must invest in all the solutions which have been outlined today. I think it's marvellous to give all these leads. It obviously can't be "business as usual", it's not possible. We must, as we often say in the management of resources, reduce use, re-use, repair and recycle. But recycling comes last. Speaking of recycling, I found it noteworthy that we recycle 70% of steel but that only represents 30% of the steel available today. When consumption is increasing, you recycle what was produced 10 years ago. So if you recycle part of it, that's not a lot. Right. Being 60, to me, means being young, so long live the BRGM, and its staff, who have shown their vitality, and continue to do so, and be open minded. I would say communication is about understanding the other person. Being open minded, knowing what's going on, having a global outlook, being open to science and what it can offer. Long live the BRGM.
Thank you, Yves Le Bars, for your words of encouragement and your speech.
Criticality of mineral raw materials
Welcome to the SusCritMat short videos. Now we'll talk about the criticality of raw materials. I'm today here with Dominique Guyonnet from BRGM. That's the French Geological Service. Dominique is the head of BRGM Campus, which provides higher education in the geoscience field. Amongst others, Dominique has worked on quantifying flows and stocks of rare earth in the EU-28. Dominique, what are raw materials and why are they important?
Hello. Raw materials are crude materials that can be converted into useful products either through processing or manufacturing. There are raw materials all around us every day. In SusCritMat, we are interested in mineral raw materials. Around us there are, of course, the metals that we use in cars, buildings, bridges, etc. But, for example, in the room where we are right now, we are surrounded by mineral raw materials. For example, the gypsum in the plaster in the walls, there's silica in windows, there's carbonates and silicates in the bricks and concrete that make up the buildings. During the 20th century, there's been literally an explosion in the consumption of so-called specialty metals. Those are associated with high technology applications. For example, indium in the touch screens of our smartphones, tellurium and gallium in the solar panels nuridium and dysprosium in permanent magnets that we use for wind turbines, lithium and cobalt that we use for renewable energy storage, etc. Consumption of these elements has seen very high annual growth rates, maybe 5 percent or more. But the consumption of more common metals, such as copper or aluminum, for example, is also strongly on the rise. At current consumption rates for copper, the annual increase of consumption is nearly 3% per year. We will consume more copper in the next 20 years than during the entire history of humanity. On this slide, we can see that this growth rate has been effective for over a century. So, it is essential to get into the circular economy so we can rely on secondary sources of raw materials, recycled sources, and less on primary sources extracted from the ground.
You were talking about specialty raw materials, and I know the SusCritMat program is also on critical raw materials.
What are critical raw materials?
So, criticality is a sort of risk assessment applied to mineral raw materials. A mineral raw material is considered to be critical if, on the one hand, it is essentially for an important sector of the economy, and on second hand, there are risks of shortage of that material's supply. And the big buzz around criticality really took off, at least in the media, in the year 2011 when there were geopolitical tensions between China and Japan over ownership of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. And this led to reduced Chinese exports of rare earth. It sparked fierce speculation on rare earth markets because China controlled over 90% of global world rare earth production. The price of neodymium, for example, that is essential in magnets, applications, permanent magnets, the price was multiplied by nearly a factor of ten within only a few months. This slide shows the evolution of rare earth prices since 2005, and especially the peak in 2011. Since then, prices have subsided, but this event was a warning sign for Western countries, which suddenly realized how vulnerable they were with respect to the Chinese monopoly regarding production of rare earth. But not only rare earth. China dominates the production of many other metals, such as tungsten, bismuth, germanium, antimony, to name just a few.
When you talk about criticality, how is this measured?
Actually, criticality is not measured, it is estimated using various methodologies. Criticality depends on scale. Are we looking at the scale of a company or a country or the world? It depends on time. Are we looking at short term or long term? It also depends on the user of the raw material. What is critical for one company, for example, a car manufacturer, is not necessarily important for another, for example, a solar panel producer. In order to estimate the vulnerability of the European Union as a whole to disruption in raw material supply, the European Commission developed a methodology that relies on various influencing factors, some for economic importance of mineral raw materials and others for material supply risks. For example, which applications use this raw material? Are these applications important for the European economy? Is there a monopoly in terms of production of this raw material?
Can this raw material be replaced by another one in the important applications, that's called substitution, etc. Estimators of economic importance and supply risk are then plotted on an X-Y plot and a threshold is defined to highlight which raw materials should be considered critical. This slide shows the results of the European Commission's criticality analysis published in 2017.
Then which raw materials are critical?
Again, the answer depends on who you are asking. Criticality is not an intrinsic property of a raw material but depends on the user. The list established by the European Commission in 2017 for the vulnerability of Europe as a whole highlights a certain number of raw materials as particularly critical for Europe. For example, light rare earth elements, especially neodymium and praseodymium that are used to make permanent magnets found in electric vehicles, wind turbines, etc. Heavy rare earth elements, especially dysprosium and terbium, also for magnet applications. Magnesium, for special light alloys, for example, in transportation to reduce weight and to enhance fuel consumption.
Antimony, which is a flame retardant in plastics, textiles, etc. Phosphorus, an essential element for all life.
Phosphate is a major component of fertilizers in agriculture. Tungsten, used for high-strength cemented carbide tools, but also for special alloys for aeronautics, etc. The European Commission updates its critical raw material list every three years or so. There have been proposals, for example, by Yale University in the US, to develop a common criticality assessment methodology, but this was not followed up for the time being.
Can't we solve this scarcity issue by recycling?
Well, recycling is definitely part of the solution, and it should be developed as much as technically and economically feasible, but when demand for a raw material is rapidly increasing, as in the case of critical raw materials, recycling can only satisfy part of the demand. This is because when you buy a product, you don't throw it away immediately for it to be recycled. You use it and discard it only after a certain time. But during that time, demand has increased.
So, when your product becomes a waste, the waste stream only covers part of the demand. So, when demand is high, primary resources, those that are extracted from the ground, cannot be avoided. This puts the emphasis on another pillar of the circular economy, sustainable supply. Mining activities must increase their environmental and social footprints at all stages of a mine's lifecycle. This slide shows a large gold mining site in the south of France before and following remediation. So, there, in terms of mining governance, a lot of work was done to remediate properly. This slide, on the other hand, shows child labor in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
So, there, illustrating very poor governance. Consumers and companies should be more aware of where the raw materials that make up products are coming from. A lot of raw materials in the products we use every day are imported from countries where the social and environmental standards are very low. And so, in a sense, we are shifting, we are exporting the emissions related to the raw materials we're using. And that situation needs to improve.
Thank you very much, Dominique, for this introduction on criticality and the surrounding issues.