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.
Strategic metals for the energy transition
Thank you for your invitation and your request to work with you. This topic has been back in the news for a few months. I will present you a broad outline and by no means an exhaustive overview as this would be too fastidious and would require much more time. Before we begin this conference, I would like to say a few brief words, about who we are at BRGM. We are an EPIC, a public institution of a commercial nature, like CEA, under the supervision of the Ministry of Research, with around 1,000 employees, and which is today France's leading authority in the field of soil and subsoil and geoscience applications in a variety of sectors, and which acts as the national geological service. As such, we are involved in both research and public policy support activities. Together they represent about 35% of our operations. And two more specific activities: the management of former mining sites in France and a number of contracts with corporations, including abroad. We are mainly located in Orleans with regional offices in every region. Isabelle, who is here, represents BRGM in the region and will gladly discuss BRGM's expertise with you. We have six main areas of activity, as shown in the upper right-hand corner: water, contingencies, subsoil science, subsoil uses for energy transition and mineral resources. This is the topic of my presentation, as it is a key aspect of our work. This presentation will be organized into four main sections. First, I will demonstrate how the energy transition being undertaken will shift us from the dependence on fossil fuels with which we are familiar, to an extremely heavy dependence on metals. Sourcing these metals is not a simple matter. Supply chains are complex and hard to master. Bearing in mind that we are essentially dependent on imports, we must ask how we can build our resilience by reclaiming these value chains. So, item number one... How will the energy transition impact our mineral resource needs in the broadest sense? Energy transition, I think everyone here is familiar with this issue. This figure illustrates the key challenge, greenhouse gas emissions since the 1980s, and the surge until today. The dotted line is the current trend. It shows us that our economic model, our current societal model, is not sustainable: it results in extremely high GHG emissions and if we do nothing it will disrupt the climate in a lasting and significant way. To limit this impact, as you all know, we must considerably reduce our GHG emissions and part of these emissions are related to the energy sector. When we look at our global energy mix, our different sources of energy consumption, the figure on the top right, bubble size represents each source's contribution. Coal is the black circle, at 29%, oil is at 31%, gas at 21%... They are arranged according to 2 important factors: how much CO2 they emit on the vertical axis, the higher they are, the more they emit, and the capacity factor, the ability to produce energy when it is needed. The further right it is, the more capable it is of meeting demand, and on the left is intermittent energy. Of course, if we want to reduce GHG emissions, we have to reduce those at the top, which emit the most, i.e. carbon-based energies, which today represent about 80% of global consumption. And low-carbon energies will have to be considerably expanded, and this is the path we have begun to take. These energies come in two forms: nuclear, with which most of you are already quite familiar, and renewable energies, which are distinct on this chart: they diverge significantly to the left. So their production capacity is intermittent which will obviously make the energy transition considerably more complex. This energy transition, and we will see what it entails in terms of materials, aims mainly to improve our energy efficiency and thus better use of available energy, develop low-carbon energies, nuclear and renewable, and since this new energy mix includes intermittent energies, these will require a sufficiently advanced and intelligent network, so to speak, to cope with spikes in production, in demand, etc., and storage capacity to deal with the intermittence. And all this has a substantial material cost. If we now zoom in a little on these energies of tomorrow, as part of the energy transition, nuclear and renewable, here is a chart presenting how we project their growth by 2040. This chart, like many of those I will show today, comes from a report by the IEA published last year forecasting the evolution of global energy mixes and mineral resource requirements: in green, photovoltaic, in blue, wind, and dark blue, the power grid, which must evolve in order to accommodate these new energy sources. Then this energy has to be used. We will see this with electric vehicles, here in red. The first data point, the first bar, is for 2019. The second is a model that corresponds to policies that have been adopted in different countries. And the third bar is a sustainable development model that meets the target set by the Paris Agreement of a maximum temperature increase of 1.5 degrees. The chart speaks for itself. The means of production, whether photovoltaic or wind power, will have to expand considerably. Annual growth rates will multiply at least by a factor of 3. The electrical grid will also have to adapt and all this depends on material resources. And it's even worse with energy use, for transportation, there could be a 25-fold increase in electric vehicles. All this of course leads to significant materials requirements. Here is an example. A wind turbine diagram. You can see that a 3 GW wind turbine today will require substantial quantities of concrete and steel, when it comes to conventional materials, but also less conventional materials, such as rare earth metals, potentially several tons, or copper. Certain metals that didn't use to have much use, like rare earths, are somewhat new to the market and may not be readily available and accessible. It's important to understand that each energy source has quite different material needs. For simple things like steel, with the different energy production technologies from hydro on the left to solar on the right, the amount of steel required to reach a given installed power capacity is radically different and the lower the energy density, so wind or solar, renewable energy, the more materials, steel, concrete, and a number of other exotic materials will be needed to build the infrastructure. And this doesn't even cover power generation, since intermittency has to be factored in as well. What does this mean in practice, if we do a quick overview? Here, for example, the lower chart presents methods of power generation, wind, solar, nuclear, coal, gas, and the quantity in kilos of materials required for 1 megawatt of installed capacity. You can see that between a coal-fired plant and the same installed capacity for offshore wind, the most efficient will require six times more material for the same installed power, keeping in mind that intermittency means power generation will vary. And the colors are different because different metals are required. There are similarities, steel is everywhere, but you can see rare earths appearing, as well as zinc, etc. Elements that were not as important before. That's power generation. The chart above compares a conventional vehicle, on the bottom, and an electric vehicle on the top. It multiplies by 6. This means that an electric car does indeed emit less CO2, but with the battery and everything else, you need 6 times more mineral resources in order to build the vehicle and therefore to be able to actually use it. All of this put together adds up to quite a lot. The figure on the left here shows the overall increase, everything combined, in mineral resource requirements for the two models I showed for 2040: the model with existing policies and the ambitious 1.5 degrees model. It will take 4 to 6 times more mineral resources than we use today. And if we zoom in a little more, element by element, on the right, certain elements get a little scary. We will need 42 times more lithium! The growth rates are extremely high and beg the question: are these materials actually present underground and will we be able to access them? You can see that rare earths have a factor of 7 and more conventional elements like nickel or graphite, which we already use, have factors of around 20, so very high. There are the main metals, the historical, traditional ones, and newcomers which will obviously have a major part to play. That's it for the global data and figures. Now the question is: what about France? Our energy is already less carbon-intensive, so do we also face this challenge? Looking at our GHG emissions, here on the left, you can see that they are already decreasing. This doesn't include any comparisons but they are low compared to many countries, keep that in mind, in particular thanks to our nuclear power. Secondly, you can see that the major contributors are transportation, residential and agriculture. Taken together, they account for nearly 2/3 of our CO2 emissions. So our power generation, our energy industry, emits very little CO2, which sets us apart from the rest of the world. It accounts for barely 10% of our emissions. But the government has now adopted a national low-carbon strategy, which aims to be carbon neutral by 2050: we will emit as much CO2 as we remove by then. Looking more closely at this strategy, in this chart, certain colors will completely disappear. Those will have their CO2 emissions eliminated. I'll return to this. Others we will try to reduce, but cannot eliminate altogether. Among those that will disappear, in order of appearance, at the top, in blue, you have transportation. By the end, there is almost none left. Indeed, in France, we have the ambition, this is the current policy, to completely cut GHG emissions from transportation. Hence the issue of electric vehicles, batteries, etc. We will spend a lot of time on this because it will shape the future of our industry. You also see, in green, the residential sector, where we also hope to eliminate our emissions. And the third, which is... The energy industry, in dark blue at the bottom. I don't have a pointer, but it's above the black. It was already low but we want to take it to 0. What remains are residual emissions from industry and agriculture, offset by carbon sinks, including CO2 capture. This raises the question of material needs, not only for power generation, electricity, but also the use of this electricity, and in particular the key issue of transportation, which is the main source of GHG emissions today. When you put it all together, this is what you get. In case chemistry class was a little too long ago, this is Mendeleev's periodic table of the elements. The colored ones are elements we will need for the energy transition. If I had done this talk a century ago, I might have colored in 4 boxes. 5 or 6, tops. Today, we need more like 30 or 40. So you can see that we will need many different minerals and materials, this is very new. The different colors you see correspond to the different sectors. Blue, for example, is energy storage, dark yellow is nuclear, you can see boron, zirconium, hafnium, etc. I won't go into detail. You will get to see the slide for more details, but you can see that we need a wide range of mineral resources. And we need a lot more of it, as I said. Essentially, we will need to extract and use more mineral resources between now and 2050, so the next 30 years, than mankind has extracted and used since it started doing this 2,500 years ago. This is an extremely abrupt shift which could generate disputes over resources, since, of course, these are limited. In terms of disputes over resources, the energy transition is not the only area in need of minerals. There is another important driver that simultaneously requires a lot of mineral elements: the digital revolution, which moves extremely quickly. Here is a map of Internet usage rates. You might think we've reached the end of its growth but there remains one continent, Africa. The Internet is still growing. This chart shows the amount of data transferred each month. This also speaks for itself. The trends are pretty much exponential. We live in a world where technology is everywhere and we need technology for the energy transition. And technology consumes power too, as the figure on the right shows. This is the energy consumption of digital technologies alone. Today, that is about 4 to 5% of global energy. Current models say, again, these are just models, that within the next ten years, it could account for up to 20% of the world's energy. Energy means infrastructure, material needs, etc., which compound on top of prior needs. These compounding effects move in the same direction and drive this acceleration in mineral resource needs. As for technology, we always think of our digital devices that live in our pockets and that we can't do without, but they require a lot of material and infrastructure. We tend to forget that. First, there is the web's network infrastructure. Here is a map of the major submarine cable networks which form the backbone of the internet. Today, this amounts to more than 1.3 million km. That's in 2021. They are fiber optic cables made with conventional resources, like steel, copper, etc., but also more exotic materials like germanium. The quantities of material are not insignificant. And we also have more and more data. The graph on the right shows the data explosion that we are accumulating from all over: our photos, documents, etc. You need data centers to handle all this which also rely on microelectronics, and this requires large amounts of energy and materials. All this adds up... Here, for example, is an object that we use every single day. Here you have a smartphone. You can see that each color around the device corresponds to a different chemical element. There are rare earths, tungsten, gallium, etc. A whole range of elements that need to be sourced and are present in significant quantities. If we look at the amounts contained in each one of these objects, some of them exceed what you would find in ore underground. The amount of gold in this object, for example, is about, on average... several hundred times more concentrated than in gold ore extracted from the ground. Together, these quantities of materials are substantial. And we need these same elements for the energy transition. So when we look at the chemical elements needed for IT on the periodic table, we can see that a number of elements overlap with the previous table on energy. To simplify things, I crossed the two tables. All those in blue are only used for energy, those in green are only for digital and the two-tone boxes are for both. All this to show that we can't think about the energy transition without addressing the digital transition, or consider IT without the energy transition, they depend on one another and require the same material resources. The most important thing to remember about this first part is this chart on the right. We have gone from a relatively simple world where we sought out a few chemical elements in the subsoil that were relatively concentrated and easily accessed, to an extremely varied array of elements today. And I have no doubt that in 10 or 20 years we will be using the entire periodic table. And in far greater quantities. Now that we have presented this challenge, since it is indeed a challenge that we are facing, this global context... The second point I wanted to address and try to shed some light on, is making it clear how difficult it will be to meet all of these needs and how complex the supply chains are. I won't go into what happens specifically for copper, lithium, cobalt or nickel. I will highlight certain aspects that I think are fundamental and apply to many different chemical elements. We've already mentioned the first point: elements rarely only have one application. There could be competing demands. We will have to decide whether it is better to boost the energy transition or the digital transition. Should we prioritize aeronautics? In a world under tension, in a finite world, which we will be facing, we will likely not be able to meet all demands at affordable rates. Copper is a very good example of this. You can see that copper is used in about 40% of everything related to power transmission and generation but that isn't its only use and it can of course also be used in construction, transportation, and many other industries. If we were to significantly ramp up our copper requirements for the energy transition, that would represent an additional 9 million tons per year by 2040. Will we be able to meet our other needs, or will they run out? This is an important question. Will we even be able to meet this demand? That is what you see here. First of all, what you have here is the evolution of copper production in the chart on the left, - the lower part of the chart, in dark gray - from currently operating mines and facilities. We can see that it will go down in the next few years as new operations are needed to compensate for the depletion of a number of older mines. Activities being developed are in light blue. This extends the supply a bit, but there's still a gap at the end. So our current mines won't be enough. We need to explore and open new mines, or we will never be able to meet demand. For demand, I put the 2 models we mentioned: STEPS, that is, current policies, and SDS, the ambitious model for a 1.5 degree rise in temperature. But could we open these mines? Moving to the chart on the right. You can see the annual production for the last ten years compared to reserves, reserves are read on the left axis and production on the right axis. There is a factor of 10 between the two, a significant gap between production and reserves. So reserves are there, or at least for copper. There is still plenty in the ground. But how will we access it? Because resources are less and less concentrated and take more and more energy to reach. Societal acceptance of this type of industrial activity isn't always easy and the environmental impact may be significant. There are a lot of things to consider. And that means that the price of copper goes up, as you can see here. Here are the changes in the price of copper over the last twenty years and of course there are ups and downs, cycles, economists describe this very well, but beyond these cycles, there is an upward trend and those taking this subject seriously say that it won't go down. So we have to realize that we will be in a world where the price of copper will rise, even if it continues to yo-yo at times. That's the first point. We have significant reserves, not for every need, but for copper we do. But it will be extremely complicated, expensive and slow to access. Secondly, still on the subject of mines. We often only see the mine and then the finished product. But between the mine and the finished product... For example, the power line that runs near your home. There are many industries and processes, all potential bottlenecks or hurdles, necessary to ultimately build your electric vehicle or power line. So here is one example. I switched elements to present a few other minerals. So here we have lithium, which is a key element for batteries. Lithium can come from two types of resources: either it comes from what we call brine, salt water that is concentrated and contains lithium among other salts. This is what is done in the lithium triangle: Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. Or it can come from solid rock as is done in Australia and maybe one day in France. And you see on the diagram on the left with the different processing steps that between the column on the left for brine and solid rock on the right, it isn't the same. The steps are not exactly the same. And this is very simplified. And what isn't fully apparent is that each step isn't necessarily in the same country. In the case of solid rocks on the right, for example in Australia, rock is extracted from the ground and processed, crushed, dissolved, etc., locally, of course. But step to separate out the lithium is mainly done in China. And the resulting product, lithium carbonate for example, isn't useful for batteries. It will need to be transformed again to make batteries. So there are many steps in the process, and managing supplies means being in control of these steps. If you overlook any part of the diagram, of this value chain, you can be completely off the mark. This can lead to some pretty complex situations. Staying with lithium the complicated diagram on the top left shows the processing steps. I start on the left by extracting lithium from the ground or from brine. This is the green section. Then there are processing plants in different countries, in orange. Some material goes away because there are losses, the extraction isn't perfect, and it has other uses besides batteries. But as a result, the volume, represented by the arrow size, gets smaller and smaller. And volume of batteries, the last arrow on the top right, is small compared to what I extracted. There were lots of losses along the way and a lot of different potential uses, and each of these nodes, these forks in the road, is a step in the material processing chain that needs to be mastered in order to have lithium to make batteries. This brings me to an important point about the environmental footprint... This isn't true for 100% of batteries, but for some today in France, the lithium in some electric vehicle batteries was extracted from mines in Chile, turned into hydroxide in the USA, electrode components are made in Japan, battery cells in South Korea, the battery is manufactured in the USA, and finally the vehicle arrives in France. The lithium in your battery has been around the world 3 times over 50,000 km already. When we talk about CO2 footprint and supply chain management when an epidemic disrupts this supply chain, the resilience and the long-term success of our industries becomes difficult to ensure. The third important point... some of these metals are not extracted alone. They do not occur on their own underground, but are extracted as a by-product of another metal we were after. That's what this image shows, the redder the color, the more that metal is obtained as a by-product of a processing activity, and the bluer it is, the more it was mined on its own. For example, iron is in blue in the middle, we have iron mines where it is extracted. But we have no cobalt mines. We extract it from iron or copper ore or from other resources. This is important, because it means it is actually even more complex than I explained. We can identify iron mines and its processing industries, etc. But if an element has no mines, it will depend on other elements and those elements' logistics. Geologists and mineralogists know this all too well. There are carrier elements, which you can see in the center of the circle in blue, which produce their own minerals in rock, so they can be identified and found directly. And all the others are accompanying elements, either as secondary minerals or as impurities, or substitutional within the primary mineral. So all those which don't appear in the first circle need to be extracted as by-products of the processing of a more important metal. So dealing with a market for a product that isn't extracted from the ground for its own sake isn't easy. The market's logic isn't tied to the element you want but to the primary element. You can have production fluctuation effects and the alignment between supply and demand is extremely complex. But a picture is worth a thousand words... And this is also a situation where France plays an important role. This is hafnium. It's used a lot in electronics, nuclear power, and other areas. I won't go into detail, but there are no hafnium mines so that's not how you get it. It is often found mixed in zirconium ore, which provides the zircon for nuclear fuel cladding. There is only one way to produce hafnium: when zirconium is purified to make fuel cladding, the hafnium is removed, which is advisable, as reactors don't much like it. So it has to be done, and we get hafnium as a result. Hafnium, an element we need for a number of modern life devices and power generation, actually ties back to nuclear power. If we stop producing nuclear fuel, we won't have any more hafnium. But we need it in our iPhones and many other things outside of nuclear power. These supply issues are extremely complex because they are so closely intertwined. I can't discuss all of this without mentioning electric batteries. We saw that batteries create a 25-fold increase in material needs. So it's one of the main challenges, because transportation is the biggest GHG emission source, so it must be dealt with, and secondly, it is the greatest source of increased material needs. That's what you can see here once more, you can see the considerable increase that is expected by 2040. So... These batteries in electric vehicles, what are they made of? Without going into too much detail, on one side we have a cathode, which is essentially made of nickel, manganese, cobalt and sometimes lithium. Many trace elements can be added to improve material properties, but we'll stick to the main ones. There is an anode, the negative pole, which is mainly graphite which is functionalized by adding trace elements and lithium between the two, the electrolyte, which carries charge exchanges. And... It's quite simple in principle, except that when you look at its components, a certain number of elements, in red here, are "critical", because their supply is not secure. I'm thinking in particular of copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite... Now you're thinking, "But you just listed them all!" Yes, we're nearly at the point where all of the materials we need to make batteries come from outside Europe, and there is a real challenge in securing our supplies. I'll skip this chart. However, Europe is strongly engaged on this issue. You've all heard about the battery plan and the Gigafactories being built all over Europe. We are privileged to host 3 large projects in France. There are currently 22 in Europe. These are multi-billion dollar factories that will produce batteries for our future electric vehicles to shift towards electric transportation in Europe. Except that when you look... The chart here on the right shows the three stages of battery manufacturing. I collect materials, I process them, I build components and I make my battery. And what you have... It's not very clear, you can't see it very well... How does each stage supply itself? So first of all, where is Europe? If you can't see it, that's normal, it's the first line. So for the first stage, we have 1% autonomy for raw materials. We have 9% or 8% autonomy for processing, 9% on the manufacture of electrode components so you can see that we are over 90% dependent on imports when it comes to carrying out this transformation. Here is the list of countries. The very visible one, the big red bar, it won't come as a surprise, it's China. We are very dependent on China to supply to supply the entire industry, which is the key to Europe's energy transition. So... That was batteries. I could tell the same story about other subjects. Another is permanent magnets. We need them to produce electricity with wind turbines and in engines to convert electricity into horsepower. And today, we do this with rare earths. This creates extremely high demand for rare earths. And when you look at the rare earth supply chain, the bottom section, it is, again, completely dominated by China. 70% of rare earth mining activities are in China. For processing, i.e. producing separate metals, it is 90% in China and 100% for heavy rare earths. Alloy manufacturing is at 90%. Permanent magnet manufacturing is at 90%. There are no offshore wind turbines without permanent magnets or electric cars without permanent magnets. So 90% of wind turbines, 90% of electric cars, have a significant part of their added value, of what makes them tick, coming from China and over which we have little control today. So this story is worth taking a closer look at, because 30 years ago, 60% of the world's rare earth processing was done in La Rochelle. Unfortunately, we let this industry go for a lot of good reasons, all of which relate to this country's de-industrialization and the fact that environmental regulations in China are much more permissive in this area. China repatriated all this expertise with our help because we were happy to see it go to China. Then they went up the value chain, starting with mining, then processing, then rare earth separation, and today they are the only ones who know how, then magnet manufacturing. They integrated the entire value chain and 90% of the world's magnets come from China. This strategy was planned for the long term and is not at all accidental. So what about nuclear power in all of this? And I'll end this second part with this. I am using a chart from earlier, but I changed it from installed capacity to power generated. How much metal does a nuclear reactor need to generate a given amount of power compared to other technologies? The figure speaks for itself. Nuclear power is an extremely efficient power source which uses few resources compared to the amount of power generated. There is 16 times less mineral resources in one terawatt-hour of nuclear power than in one TWh generated by offshore wind turbines. So the mineral resource requirements for nuclear power such as it is projected... We could discuss the IEA's models, but it wouldn't change much. It's less than 0.2% of our total needs for the energy transition. So nuclear power has the advantage of having low mineral resource requirements. It has other drawbacks, but this is a strength that deserves to be studied and perhaps promoted more. So, lastly... All this brings me to our position in Europe and how we can try to rectify this. We are highly dependent on foreign sources for a large part of our mineral supplies. This chart shows a number of chemical elements. I won't go into detail, but 100% at the very top means that we are 100% dependent on imports. We have no production within Europe. I'm not even talking about France. Then on the right, we have more varied positions with a certain level of autonomy. But for many materials, we are totally dependent on other countries. Red being, once more, the position of our Chinese partners. And this dependency extends to many countries. This map shows European supplies for a number of mineral resources. We can see the major mining countries, like the USSR, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Latin American countries, the United States, Canada, Australia... and so on. South Africa for platinoids. And dependency can reach almost 100% for some resources. And for some of these countries, it accounts for most of their activity. So they themselves are extremely dependent on us here. One particularly prominent player is China. Here is China's global position for a number of metals. The red line at 20% is the Chinese population's percentage of global population. If things were equally distributed, they should be around 20%, but many elements are higher than that. And if we look at how mineral production is growing today on a global scale, on this figure on the right, Europe is the constant blue line that doesn't move much, while other countries are growing rapidly, especially Asia in yellow, which is driven by China, which invests heavily in its mineral resources. Is this dependency something we are condemned to or is there a way to reclaim these value chains and rectify the situation? This is my last point before I turn the floor over to you. The first point is recycling. This needs to be developed, because the resources are here. It is an opportunity for value creation and industrialization. The chart at the bottom shows that our waste volumes are increasing. Today in Europe, we produce around 7 kilos of electronic waste per inhabitant, which isn't insignificant, full of copper and other metals. So expanding recycling is an interesting possibility. We are far from being advanced in this field. Here are the recycling rates, on a periodic table, of the different elements. When they are in red... I can't see it well... ...the recycling rates are very low, nearly zero. And in the green spectrum, they are between 25% and 50%. The blue spectrum is above 50%. There are only 3 chemical elements that are recycled at over 50% and the rest are below 50%, so there is work to do. Will this solve our problems? This is an important point. Here's the answer: no. Why? This is a theoretical model, but it is interesting. Imagine we have produced a certain amount of material, objects containing a valuable resource, in blue. When we recycle them, we will recover objects, in light blue, but we will lose some, because we can never recover 100%, in yellow. An arrow is lost. Then the physical and chemical treatment stages, etc., there too, we can never recover 100%, it's contrary to thermodynamics. The green arrow is recovered but the purple one is permanently lost. We will never reach 100%. There is always loss. This is an important point: we could only subsist on recycling if our needs decreased, and that reduction would have to match the losses at each stage of recycling. Except that our needs are growing. Our needs, as we saw earlier, for example, the red line shows our copper needs, are dramatically increasing. If I set myself in 2100 for example, to simplify, point 9 on the top right, at that date, my needs correspond to point 9, but the amount of material contained in end-of-life objects is at point 8. Objects have a limited life span, and I don't recycle them right away. This delay results in a gap in available quantities of which I recover only a fraction. So recycling will not solve these problems. And experts say that recycling, at best, could account for half of some resources, no more. So no matter what, new mining activities and quite substantial ones at that, are clearly a necessity in order to develop and implement the energy and digital transition. Are there still resources in the ground? We said there are. The subject seems somewhat novel in France, because we've forgotten it, but this is not the case in other countries. Looking at the map on the right, each dot is a mining project. This map is from 2020 or 2021. You can see how many there are. Colossal sums of money are spent. For China, more than 200 billion. The United States, over 200 billion, almost 300. For all of Europe, it's around 70 billion. It's not much. And if I zoom in on France, there are no red dots. This is of course a coincidence, but it raises a real question. To develop all this, we need mineral resources. We can't always rely on foreign resources. How easy is it to access these resources? From the moment we need lithium or copper to the moment we open a mine, if everything is done as quickly as possible, it will take on average at least 15 or 16 years. This is what this chart shows. And that's for countries without particularly cumbersome regulations, etc., which leads to longer timeframes. So there is a certain inertia, but the nuclear industry is used to this. There is a lot of inertia in the system. Between the time you need copper and the time you get it, 10 or 15 years will pass, at least. Earlier I said that we will have a copper deficit between 2020 and 2030 so that's a good question. Secondly... we will have to integrate, this is important in the French strategy, the environmental impact. We can't develop mines in the way some countries have in the past. Today, mines must be environmentally responsible in terms of CO2, water consumption, pollution, land use, etc. And it's complicated, because the impact varies from one element to another, one process to another, one country to another... We want to control our value chains and our supplies and we want to source low-carbon resources, which are respectful of populations, etc. It's very difficult to track, because it will be site-dependent. It will depend on the location, systematically. And the concerns of local populations must be taken into account. This is a fundamental aspect of sustainable development which France is fully committed to. We imagine that France has none of these resources left, that we have depleted our reserves. This is absolutely false. The existing French mining inventory, which lists resources of global importance, was established with data collected in the 1970's. We haven't done anything since, we have no data beyond a depth of 200 or 300 m. Today, when we consult our experts on the matter, and BRGM obviously has a few, we are able to produce predictive maps. Even if there is no guarantee, there is a high likelihood of finding valuable resources. I only used one, but there are dozens I could list. Here is our predictive map for lithium on the European continent. France certainly isn't short-changed. We have potentially valuable lithium resources, some of which would be quite easy to extract, whether as solid rock, underground mines, etc., or in deep brines which can be pumped and from which lithium can be collected. A demonstration project was recently launched. Eramet communicated extensively about it. So it isn't true that we have no resources. We ignored the issue. We would rather have it done far from home. But it's a real issue and our Minister of Ecological Transition has spoken clearly on the matter. We must take responsibility for our policy decisions, in particular the energy transition, and the mineral resource requirements that it entails. I'll skip this slide. And then of course, we won't find all the resources we need in France, so we must also secure resources abroad with long-term contracts and only from environmentally sound sources. This is the issue of mineral resources diplomacy. We are lucky to still have some mining companies, even if they aren't among the most important, and to be familiar with a number of the regions involved, including Africa, which BRGM has worked on for decades, our experts joke that half of Africa's geology is in BRGM's vaults in Orleans. We know a lot about the subject, so we must use it to develop and secure some of our supplies. A few words in conclusion. I can't end this presentation without mentioning the work the government commissioned from Philippe Varin and the report that was submitted on January 10, 2021 which proposes means of securing our supplies of strategic metals. This was a major undertaking that took 3 months to complete, in which BRGM was of course extensively involved. It led the government to adopt a number of decisions in line with the report's recommendations, which I won't explain in great detail, but just give you a general outline. First, we must reinvest in these value chains to secure our supplies. So an investment fund for strategic metals for the energy transition is being established. As I said, we must work much more closely with all private and public parties at the international level, to secure environmentally responsible and sustainable sources that protect the environment and local populations. There is also a diplomatic strategy being developed for mineral resources. As well as an interministerial delegate, in charge of coordinating it all, to be nominated. BRGM is working on a new observatory for critical metals to identify all these supply chains, to perform simulations, test resilience, anticipate crises, etc. And a responsible mining label, a certification, will be developed. We won't be reopening old, dirty mines. The challenge today is to make clean, low-impact mines that respect local populations, but it must be guaranteed. A label, a certification, is being considered, with France playing a major role in Europe to implement this standardization at the European level. In conclusion, I would like to say... As you know, we have relied for a century on oil and gas, well first on oil, then on gas, or even coal, then oil, then gas, to be precise. We decided that, to fight climate change, we must escape from this dependence while recognizing that there will be new dependencies on mineral resources, with new geopolitical dependencies. You can clearly see them reflected in my presentation. I think that the magnitude of demand and needs should cause us pause, and it will likely be - this is my view - a potential barrier a potential hurdle for the energy transition, given the scale of needs that will have to be met. Securing supplies will be a key challenge. It is a prerequisite to reclaiming our industrial sovereignty. And these new mining activities only make sense if they are sustainable and responsible. This essential principle needs further development and R&D, as well as certification and traceability for supplies, and border controls, otherwise dumping will take place. These are the main conclusions to be drawn, thanks to BRGM's work in developing a comprehensive overview of these issues, which is ongoing and an extremely important challenge. Thank you. I was a bit long, I apologize. I leave the floor to you. I'm sure that there will be questions. Thank you. Hello. I have a very simple question, On slide number 30, you compare nuclear power to windmills and mention a ratio of 16 to 1, measured in TWh. But a windmill... If there is no wind, there are no TWh, so the ratio becomes infinite... Slide 30. Indeed, the last graph was in TWh. It takes into account the fact that onshore wind turbines only run 21% of the time on average in France. So intermittency is definitely taken into account. Or 40% offshore. Life span may not be taken into account. Obviously, a reactor that might last 80 years and a wind turbine that might last 20 or 30, that's not equivalent. I'm not sure that was accounted for. Good point. * Yes, Montville. I was quite struck by the fact that wind power production requires the use of rare earths to make permanent magnets. We've known how to generate electricity without permanent magnets for quite some time. It's rather strange to revert to ancient technology when, for at least 60-70 years, currents have been controlled with electrical circuits. I don't see why we need rare earths and permanent magnets to make wind turbines. We could easily have conventionally driven devices, such as those used for small hydraulic machines. I am not an expert on the subject, so I don't have the answer to your question. I imagine there are good reasons. I can tell you that the dependence on rare earths is driving research to try to phase them out. For onshore wind turbines, we can do without rare earths. But we continue to need them for offshore wind turbines. There is an issue of power density, but I can't go into more detail. I think it's because the major global power companies weren't involved in wind turbines in the beginning. If it had been large, well-structured groups, they may have chosen differently, but that's one argument. Perhaps, but they're all involved now. Not one is missing. If there is a solution, I trust that they will implement it. If so, it won't be long before they do. Thank you for your presentation. As a pharmacist, I have some knowledge of chemistry and I know the periodic table, starting with hydrogen. What about hydrogen power? What is its standing, compared to everything else you presented? I didn't present hydrogen because I already went on too long, but hydrogen is only an intermediary. There is a lot of activity around hydrogen. But if you're saying, "I have a power surplus, "how can I store it as hydrogen?" and then reuse that hydrogen... There are different solutions, but it can be directly reused in fuel cells to produce electricity. So it doesn't change the overall picture much, apart from specific needs for hydrogen production and for fuel cells, in particular for platinoids. This is well studied and integrated into the aggregate numbers when I said: here are all the carbon-free technologies and their requirements. That includes hydrogen. But hydrogen is only an intermediary storage medium. First of all, thank you for your presentation. I'll start by saying that I'm not a scientist and you were really able... I really enjoyed your presentation, which was very clear and very instructive. Thank you. The question I have, it's very interesting... I came here to hear a scientist talk about what I have read in Guillaume Pitron's books. And that's exactly what it was. So that means he's right and you're right. I'm not sure we can conclude that we are right! But this was exactly what he says about technology and metals... You've read both of his books! I've read both of his books, which are very interesting. My question is this: as a child, I was surrounded by the nuclear industry since my father worked at the CEA, but why do we keep pushing for wind and solar when you've shown... The graph is striking! ...that thanks in particular to nuclear power, we can do without most of the periodic table. So why do we bother? And that raises an underlying question that I would like you to address concerning the dependence on uranium for nuclear power plants. -Can I say pass? -Pardon me? -Can I say pass or not? -Yes, thanks anyway! No, no, I'll give you a serious answer, but... it's a political choice in a way, by some parties or elected officials to consider that the risks inherent in the nuclear industry outweigh its benefits. That's not my conclusion, but as citizens and as elected officials, for some, they are entitled to their point of view. But when you look into the specifics, you find that the road ahead is very complex and that... as Jean-Marc Jancovici explains, the shortest path to decarbonizing our industry and fighting climate change isn't to quit nuclear power. We agree on that. But after that... The democratic process requires that every voice may be heard followed by votes and elections and the majority prevail. But that isn't the most rational point of view. It's not a done deal. I agree. Many countries are reversing course on this issue. Let's be clear, the energy transition was initially considered at the national level, but everyone has come to the realization that implementing the same transition across all countries will lead to a resource problem. That's what the figures I gave you show. If we all want to drive electric cars, starting with 1.4 billion Chinese, we will have a problem. Even if there is a lot of lithium on earth. So at some point we have to emerge from this period where everyone thought they would do the same thing and find solutions based on each country's specificities, whether from a geographical, technological or political standpoint, etc. Good evening. I didn't see the mineral production coming from New Caledonia on your charts. Is New Caledonia considered national production? Nickel, for instance, is an important resource in New Caledonia. Unless I'm mistaken, but I'll let Isabelle correct me if I'm wrong, New Caledonia is independent in terms of mining even though it is a French territory. However, we have contracts with New Caledonia and we are deeply involved in mining activities. But it's one supplier among others. Thank you. And New Caledonia's nickel production compared to Australia's isn't on the same order of magnitude. So that's part of it. And there is cobalt present in New Caledonian ore that not all operators extract. * Yes, Christophe Loïc Martin Didier, retired from the CEA. A more long-term question: do we have any idea how fusion will fit into this strategic metals question, whether it be for lithium or coils, etc.? No, I've never seen any studies on this. The little I know of it makes me say that in terms of intensity... The amount of energy produced relative to the quantities of materials used is such that these needs are easily "absorbed" by currently available resources. So I don't anticipate any major difficulties, but I haven't done any studies on the subject. This is more of an intuition than a demonstration. * Gérard Cognet. Thank you, Christophe, for this presentation. A few years ago, there was a great deal of excitement around rare earth resources in Greenland, so much so that Trump considered buying Greenland. What is the reality? Greenland is very rich in minerals, in rare earths, but also in many other elements. However, rare earths in Greenland also contain, as in many places, uranium and thorium. This means that the materials left behind are radioactive and the government of Greenland is strongly opposed to its mining and has passed a law prohibiting the extraction of this ore due to its radioactivity. Of course, laws can change, but today, the people and the government are fiercely opposed to such mining operations. But Greenland is a very rich country. Thank you. Good evening. I had two quick questions, one directly related to your slides. On slide 37, you said that the fastest way to open a mine takes a minimum of 17 years. I wanted to know what causes this delay, mainly? My second question is more general: do you expect, in the years to come, a structural evolution in your institution's stance given the necessity of what you call diplomacy, in particular with African countries where a significant share of reserves are found? So, first, the long delay is because between saying, "this region "potentially has valuable resources", and opening a mine, there are many steps. You need to do airborne analysis, field sampling, drilling and probing. If its potential is confirmed, it still needs to be "cubed", i.e., how much will you actually extract from the ground? Not in the absolute, but at an economically viable cost, because you're not trying to bankrupt yourself. All of this, plus the necessary steps to obtain an exploration and exploitation permit, public inquiries, etc., usually take between 15 and 20 years. Except in the case of brines, for example, in South America. Since the resource is directly accessible, it's much faster. And this is without taking into account, I haven't yet seen any practical assessments, of the new mining code that was recently published and which adds local population consultation processes before any site is opened. Consultations inevitably add a certain number of months or years. Concerning BRGM's role, BRGM is the French Bureau of Geological and Mining Research, so natural resources and mining have been part of our DNA since our founding in '59. Until the late 1970s, we were a mining operator. We were a research and consulting institution and operated a number of mines. We lost this industrial dimension but we have real expertise. Today, we provide technical support to the State, both in terms of strategic vision, technological and economic oversight, and resource diplomacy, where we work alongside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Industry. André Lacroix. Sorry, a question and then a request. The question: you only talked about land resources. Yet there are many resources at the bottom of the sea. That's my question. And could you give us a very, very quick overview, of current uranium resources? In the past, France was in Niger, etc. Now it's much more extensive. Could you give us a quick overview of uranium resources today? Thank you. So, on deep-sea resources. I was consulted 15 days ago by the Senate on this subject. Indeed, there are resources that are not well known because we have recovered only a few samples, which is extremely limited, which are either polymetallic nodules or concretions in thermal waters that emerge in deep waters. Those are the two main typologies with concentrations of a number of relevant metals that appear interesting. I'll add two caveats to that right away. "Appear interesting" means that a sample contains quite a bit of material. However, the big question for all of the mining industry is whether it is economically attractive. Is the cost of extracting this material commensurate with the price at which I can sell it? Who can answer for the deep sea? We have 0 answers regarding that. And the second point, which is even more important, is that mining resources from the seabed will be justified once it has been demonstrated that its environmental impact is less than that of opening a mine in X, Y or Z country. And that is a long way off. We don't know how ecosystems work at 2 or 3,000 m below sea level. We don't know how they will recover. So the first challenge is the decision that the President has made, to invest in exploration. So yes, we need to understand these environments better. We have a lot to learn. Some time will pass before we can start mining, and we must demonstrate that we are capable of doing so in sustainable conditions. Having worked a lot on environmental issues, I doubt that the impact on the sea bed is any less than that of a mine in Brittany, in the Massif Central or elsewhere in Europe. This is just a reminder of the well-known NIMBY syndrome, when it's out of sight, we assume the impact is smaller. Regarding uranium resources... I forgot the second question. ...today we have significant available resources which have guaranteed us, at the current expected rate of nuclear power growth, roughly half a century or a century of autonomy. But it should immediately be made clear that... One thing I didn't insist on, is the distinction between reserve and resource. When we say we have reserves, we mean: "I can get this much material at such and such price." If the price is twice as high, I can go after much more material so my reserves increase. Reserves are highly dependent on the cost of the resource. Just like the cost of uranium. Its cost has little impact on the cost of electricity produced by nuclear power. So uranium reserves have some elasticity. If the price of uranium were to rise by a factor of 5, 6 or 7, economically viable reserves would increase without significant impact on the cost of electricity. This obviously represents a major potential for growth. But we are far from having explored every region of the world and there are many places with reserves that have not yet been identified and developed, for example in Africa or in China. So there is potential, not to mention the 4th generation and broader use of isotope 238. Good evening. First of all, thank you for your very informative and instructive presentation. You have shown us some beautiful exponential curves on expected metal consumption. You explained that supplies for many metals will become critical. Do we have any idea when peak production will be reached, as was the case with oil, an equivalent point at which extraction will become very difficult for the metals you presented? Can we assume that by 2100, since recycling doesn't work and consumption is booming there won't be enough for everyone? This is a different question because these resources do not have the same origin. Oil is organic matter that was trapped in a specific location 200 million years ago and transformed under the effects of pressure and temperature. So it's a finite resource and outside of those places where it's deposited, there is none. Mineral resources are not the same. There was nucleosynthesis after the Big Bang, a certain number of atoms was created, and they are everywhere. Any given element will have some uranium atoms. But it's insignificant. Resources are everywhere, and we are looking for places where they can be found in sufficient concentrations. So we won't see total exhaustion of resources. The real issue is that at some point you'll be spending more energy searching for these materials than you will recover from building a power plant, a solar panel or a wind turbine. In which case, you've reached the limit of what's available. And you can only hope to improve the energy efficiency of your technologies. So the issue is different here. And I don't think we can talk about... peak copper or peak whatever... It's not the same approach. Thank you. I'm struck by the number of misconceptions spread by the media in our society regarding wind turbines, etc., through the lack of information on the scarcity of metals that you just presented. Does BRGM plan to publish any articles or have a media strategy to improve this situation and improve awareness in French society? BRGM does a lot of scientific mediation, in terms of communication, either on its own behalf or for the government. I can refer you to a site that I could have mentioned called MineralInfo, a website that provides information on mineral resources which BRGM manages on behalf of the French government. We are also fairly present in the media. Hardly a day goes by without us being approached. However I do agree that we have been rather timid or shy in taking a position in a number of debates. This is something that we hope, at the executive level, with our president, to rectify in the coming years. It doesn't change with a snap of the fingers. We need to send a clearer message. Everyone is free, of course, to use this information as they see fit to contribute to the public discourse. * Joël Allard, retired from the aeronautics industry. You spoke about recycling materials and the fact that only a small portion can be recycled. I wonder about the carbon footprint of recycling. Considering that to recycle materials in the coming decades, we may still rely largely on fossil fuels, I wonder: in terms of carbon footprint, will it be positive compared to mining? This is a good question and an important factor for teams developing recycling processes. Recycling only makes sense if it has less impact than digging up primary resources from the ground. Otherwise we have a problem. And it's not just the carbon footprint, but also water consumption, chemicals and energy consumption. A really important underlying factor is the return on energy investment. These are the things we look at. But I can reassure you. For those materials and elements that have been studied, we are able to design processes that are environmentally and energetically advantageous. If I may interject, the processes used for recycling are the same as those used to extract metals or other minerals and mineral resources. We use exactly the same techniques, whether in hydrometallurgy or pyrometallurgy. So we also extract in the same way. What also matters for the carbon footprint is recovery, in order to be able to recycle the materials that everyone uses, spread throughout the technosphere. Recovering these metals will also have a CO2 cost, to transport these materials from consumers to the recycling plants. This also has a CO2 footprint. I will add one more point. This point is extremely important and it raises a question for us... When I say "us", I mean the scientists working on this issue, at BRGM or elsewhere. We will have to build usage chains. I will explain. If a chemical element is perfectly purified, no impurities remain, it will be easier to recycle than if it was an alloy with many other trace chemical elements. For trace elements, I'm not sure it would be worthwhile to go hunting for a few drops mixed in with many other things from an energy perspective. We need to think about the order in which we use materials. First, I'll use it in something concentrated to easily recycle it and once I use it in something more dilute and it costs too much to recover, that will be a final step after multiple different uses. Material use must be organized, otherwise we will run into a wall. Good evening, thank you very much for your presentation. I'd like to respond to your comment about organizing material distributions. I suppose this will have to be handled by institutions and political discourse. Do you see any institutions today that might fit? Or do these institutions need to be created and what forms might they take? Thank you. I will refrain from answering the last part, on the form it should take. However, what is clear is that we need to organize our industrial sectors and we already have tools for that, even if they aren't perfect. I am thinking of the Strategic Sector Committees for a number of major sectors which are there to coordinate the different industrial actors on an objective, e.g., aeronautics or the automobile industry, and which work quite well. Our analysis in the Varin report submitted to the government on the fragility of industrial sectors relied on these strategic committees which help organize and structure activities. Will they be capable of structuring value chains? I don't know. I think the market will probably control this because materials will be priced according to their level of purity or dispersion, and this could spontaneously shape their use in one direction and then another. So it will be a mix of regulations via institutions and material costs that will vary. Hello, Salomé Queffeulou from the CEA RVE in Marcoule. I have been working on Lithium-Ion battery recycling for 4 years and I first want to thank you for this presentation. It shows the importance of recycling even if it is only a small part of the solution. But it also gives meaning to the work I can do as well as my colleagues. But it's true that we... To speak more emotionally, we... You need to give a little hope, let's say, because... seeing all of this, we're a little... It's depressing. If I may respond to that comment, if the message you're getting... Well, I'd like to correct the message I sent. No, it was saying the right thing, but if you step back and look at the big picture, you... Sorry, I'm a very emotional person. I'll calm down but... I am passionate about my job and looking at all this, you think: "My God, where are we going?" But I'll keep working, don't worry! And try to find solutions, of course. But it's true that it's a bit scary. Maybe... There are several things here. I understand that the complexity of these issues can be frightening. That is to say, we must eliminate once and for all the simple solutions and those who try to promote them. There is no such thing. We are dealing with a complex world and we are facing a situation where all solutions are welcome. And we really have no right to ignore them if they address the issue of climate change and the greenhouse effect. Obviously, recycling is extremely important. It's part of the solution, but not the entire answer. That's an important point. The second point is that we must move forward and improve our energy efficiency. There is probably some energy sobriety that may flatten the curves more than what I have shown. There is one point that I did not go into in sufficient detail, which came out in a decision taken after the Varin report: technology is evolving very quickly. You can see it with batteries, I imagine you're following this, but also with engines and many other things. So this analysis is based on today's technologies. If you do this presentation in 5 or 10 years, you will have a different point of view since technology is improving rapidly. I'm not saying that technology will solve everything and that it's not worth trying. But it is part of the solution. That is to say... For example, up until recently, batteries were made with NMC cathodes, nickel manganese cobalt. Today, major countries such as China are switching and saying that for certain uses, lithium iron phosphate cathodes would be better. So they need less cobalt, nickel, etc. That changes all my graphics. Because we're learning on the move, we're facing new problems, so we're realizing that... We need to move away from simple, one-size-fits-all solutions. We try to apply the same technologies and solutions for a bunch of different problems but we have to customize them. We won't have the same batteries for a city car that travels a few km per day and a long distance vehicle, a truck or a bus. We're just starting to absorb that and it will help broaden the scope of possibilities and also to reduce, I would say, the size of the mountains we must collectively climb. Thank you, my apologies.
"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.