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  • Title Critical Minerals and Energy‒Impacts and Limitations ofMoving to Unconventional Resources

    Author(s) McLellan, Benjamin; Yamasue, Eiji; Tezuka, Tetsuo; Corder,Glen; Golev, Artem; Giurco, Damien

    Citation Resources (2016), 5(2)

    Issue Date 2016-5-13

    URL http://hdl.handle.net/2433/226321

    Right

    © 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

    Type Journal Article

    Textversion publisher

    Kyoto University

  • resources

    Article

    Critical Minerals and Energy–Impacts and Limitations of Moving to Unconventional Resources

    Benjamin C. McLellan 1,2,*, Eiji Yamasue 3, Tetsuo Tezuka 1, Glen Corder 2, Artem Golev 2 and Damien Giurco 4

    1 Graduate School of Energy Science, Kyoto University, Yoshida honmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan; tezuka@energy.kyoto-u.ac.jp

    2 Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia; g.corder@smi.uq.edu.au (G.C.); a.golev@uq.edu.au (A.G.)

    3 Faculty of Science and Technology, Ritsumeikan University, Nojihigashi 1-1-1, Kusatsu City, Shiga 525-8577, Japan; yamasue@fc.ritsumei.ac.jp

    4 Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney, Ultimo, New South Wales 2007, Australia; Damien.Giurco@uts.edu.au

    * Correspondence: b-mclellan@energy.kyoto-u.ac.jp; Tel.: +81-75-753-9173; Fax: +81-75-753-9189

    Academic Editor: Witold-Roger Poganietz Received: 7 August 2015; Accepted: 3 May 2016; Published: 13 May 2016

    Abstract: The nexus of minerals and energy becomes ever more important as the economic growth and development of countries in the global South accelerates and the needs of new energy technologies expand, while at the same time various important minerals are declining in grade and available reserves from conventional mining. Unconventional resources in the form of deep ocean deposits and urban ores are being widely examined, although exploitation is still limited. This paper examines some of the implications of the transition towards cleaner energy futures in parallel with the shifts through conventional ore decline and the uptake of unconventional mineral resources. Three energy scenarios, each with three levels of uptake of renewable energy, are assessed for the potential of critical minerals to restrict growth under 12 alternative mineral supply patterns. Under steady material intensities per unit of capacity, the study indicates that selenium, indium and tellurium could be barriers in the expansion of thin-film photovoltaics, while neodymium and dysprosium may delay the propagation of wind power. For fuel cells, no restrictions are observed.

    Keywords: minerals; energy; deep ocean resources; unconventional resources

    1. Introduction

    As global growth in economies and population places greater pressure on the finite resources of the planet and environmental issues at all scales become increasingly urgent, important conjunctions of issues are seen to require simultaneous consideration. One of these areas is the minerals-energy nexus [1]. This nexus may have significant implications for the future, in issues such as fuel mineral depletion implications for conventional energy system expansion or continuation; declining ore grade and increasing depth of mining impacting on the energy requirement for extraction of minerals; and the available reserves of functional minerals required for energy efficient devices and clean energy technologies. These issues must also be viewed within the broader global trends of development and associated environmental, social, political, supply security and economic challenges.

    This paper has two main aims: firstly to provide an overview of background issues and contexts of importance to the minerals-energy nexus, and secondly to undertake an initial assessment of a variety of supply scenarios for critical minerals associated with clean energy to provide for the needs of alternative energy demand scenarios.

    Resources 2016, 5, 19; doi:10.3390/resources5020019 www.mdpi.com/journal/resources

    http://www.mdpi.com/journal/resources http://www.mdpi.com http://www.mdpi.com/journal/resources

  • Resources 2016, 5, 19 2 of 40

    The paper is structured as follows: Firstly, the nexus is considered from the perspective of supply and demand, and the key drivers in and between each category are discussed. The current state of affairs and recent historical context are briefly examined with regards to energy and minerals separately. The focus of this paper is then to selectively examine how the nexus of these issues may constrain or enhance future sustainable development. Next, the paper considers the nexus implications for critical minerals—which have attracted significant attention in recent years—and in the unconventional and secondary sources of minerals that may supplement or substitute for conventional reserves as depletion progresses. The paper presents three scenarios for energy consumption growth, based on data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) [2,3] extrapolated using recent growth trends and assumptions of future progress in demand reduction (with developed and developing countries considered concurrently). Each of these scenarios then further contains three levels of energy generation limits from solar, wind and fuel cells (10%–30% of total primary energy), which is used to provide the material demand for critical minerals in each scenario. Production trends for key critical minerals are then compared with the demand for clean energy expansion in these energy scenarios, with 12 different supply estimates used to identify potential shortfalls (including four base scenarios, with two recycling scenarios applied to each). The results are then discussed, in conjunction with important considerations on the viability of deep ocean and energy-urban ore deposits.

    2. Current Overview of Global Energy and Minerals

    2.1. Energy

    Despite energy demand now falling in developed countries such as the United Kingdom (UK), [4] global demand for energy is still rising, due to both increasing population and concurrent economic development; at the same time, concerns about global warming are driving the use of more energy-efficient and clean energy generation technologies. The overall demand trends can be seen from Figure 1, in which the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) is effectively the group of highest-income, developed, or North, countries, while the non-OECD are generally the lower-income, less-developed global South. (Using the OECD/non-OECD partition is due to the groupings applied in International Energy Agency (IEA) statistics [2].) Some important points to note are that the growth of energy demand in developed countries has been at nearly the same rate as the population growth, while in developing countries growth in demand has grown at approximately double the population growth. Moreover, the GDP growth of developing countries has been at double the energy demand growth—or close to five times the growth of population—while growth in developed countries’ GDP has been at a similar ratio (around five times the population growth). However, if it is assumed that the “ideal” sustainable future would bring the ratios of OECD to non-OECD figures for GDP, population and energy consumption close to equal (in order to have equitable consumption of all resources), then there is still a significant gap between the two groups. Bridging this gap will require a significant increase in energy usage by the developing world, hopefully combined with a concurrent reduction in energy usage by the developed world.

    On the supply side of the balance, it is important to consider the source of the energy being supplied, as this is critical to the impacts of supplying that energy. Figure 2 shows this for (a) the non-OECD and (b) the OECD. It is apparent that, until 2012, coal was the major supporting fuel for non-OECD energy growth while the OECD had developed more capacity in renewables, and nuclear and natural gas. In this period the OECD has increased its reliance on natural gas, renewable energy and nuclear power, while the non-OECD has decreased renewable energy as a percentage of its energy mix (see Table 1 for the relevant percentages of the Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) mix). The falling costs of solar may result in future changes to the historical mixes shown.

  • Resources 2016, 5, 19 3 of 40 Resources 2016, 5, 19 3 of 39

    Figure 1. (a) World final energy consumption (1971–2012); (b) World population (1971–2012); (c)

    World GDP in 2005 USD (1971–2012). (Data source: International Energy Agency [2]).

    On the supply side of the balance, it is important to consider the source of the energy being

    supplied, as this is critical to the impacts of supplying that energy. Figure 2 shows this for (a) the non-

    OECD and (b) the OECD. It is apparent that, until 2012, coal was the major supporting fuel for non-

    OECD energy growth while the OECD had developed more capacity in renewables, and nuclear and

    natural gas. In this period the OECD has increased its reliance on natural gas, renewable energy and

    nuclear power, while the non-OECD has decreased renewable energy as a percentage of its energy

    mix (see Table 1 for the relevant percentages of the Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) mix). The

    falling costs of solar may result in future changes to the historical mixes shown.

    Figure 1. (a) World final

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