Oil and gas are currently the subject of much controversy around the world, but in the future the competition could be for other minerals as well.

It was March 8, at 5:42 a.m. when the price of nickel began to rise so fast that panic spread on the London Metal Exchange. In 18 minutes, the price of nickel reached one million dollars per ton. Due to which nickel operations had to be stopped. Even before this record was broken, the price of nickel had risen by 250% in the last 24 hours. It was the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine that a major metal crisis had erupted in the market.

Four minerals (nickel coppernickel, cobalt, lithium and copper) of future
Four metals (nickel coppernickel, cobalt, lithium and copper) of future

The increase in prices due to sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries has made it clear that a metal like nickel has become important in the world. This is important for an economy that wants to minimize its dependence on fossil fuels.

Russia is a major supplier of gas and oil. The European countries’ dependence on Russia for gas and oil during the Ukraine war shows that fuel can also be used as a weapon.

The United States and its allies have imposed tough economic sanctions on Russia to prevent an attack on Ukraine. But Europe is still forced to buy oil and gas from Russia.

President Joe Biden said on March 31 that “America’s reliance on its own clean energy will help protect our national security in the future.”

“We need to end our long-standing dependence on China and other countries for things that determine the future,” he said.

Earlier, Biden said he was enforcing the Defense Production Act to help locally produce and process minerals used in the manufacture of electric batteries and renewable energy storage.

The White House says the minerals include lithium, nickel, graphite, manganese and cobalt.

But each country has different minerals so that they can be used for better competition in market share during the transition to energy economy.

Experts warn that countries that play a key role in oil, gas and coal supplies are at risk of falling behind.

Russia, for example, whose economic power depends primarily on ground-based fuel, is the world’s second-largest gas producer and third-largest oil producer.

However, Russia could benefit from future mineral competition because Russia is the second largest supplier of cobalt and platinum in the world and the third largest supplier of nickel.

Russia has an abundance of certain minerals, but according to experts, these important minerals are found more in other countries. The largest quantities of cobalt in the world are extracted from the Republic of the Congo, nickel from Indonesia, lithium from Australia, copper chills and rare minerals from China.

Experts consider at least 17 minerals in the world to be important for alternative energy. Therefore, the countries that have the capacity to extract and process these minerals are the ones that will benefit the most.

The International Energy Agency estimates that the most important of these 17 minerals are rear earth, lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper and graphite.

Which country is leading in the production of these minerals?

International Energy Agency expert Tai Yun Kim says demand for these minerals will increase rapidly by 2040.

To estimate which nations could benefit the most from energy transfers, Tai Yun divides the countries that extract and process less minerals into two groups.

Although there are many mineral producing countries, there is only one country that dominates the processing of all these minerals and that is China.

“It’s very difficult to say which country will benefit the most from energy transfers,” Tai Yun Kim said. Because it depends on the production chain or the country’s ranking in terms of production.

But it is clear that we are at a critical juncture. While oil has played an important role in the history of the 20th century, minerals will play an important role in the history of the 21st century for alternative energy.

That’s why experts call them the ‘minerals of the future’.

Four main metals

Although electric batteries require metal, they are also important in storing many types of energy for industrial activities.

“If the supply of these metals does not match the demand, their prices will skyrocket,” said Lucas Boer, a researcher at the German Institute for Economic Research.

A study by Lucas Boer with Andrea Pescatori and Martin Sturmer was published late last year entitled Metals with Energy Transitions.

Boer says one of the key factors is the extraction of these metals. In fact, mining projects to extract these metals take a decade (16 years on average). Therefore, there may be more shortage of these metals in the coming days.

According to research, besides Rear Earth, the four most important metals are nickel, cobalt, lithium and copper. Their prices will continue to rise historically for a long time and it will not be a normal increase if the price in the international market goes up for a few days and then goes down.

Countries that produce only these four metals could earn as much as the oil sector in the next 20 years.

“These metals could be a kind of ‘new oil’, and China has become a major player in investing in other countries, as it has in cobalt-producing Congo,” Boer said.

Fear of being left behind by Western countries

In the new war situation, when Western countries need to reduce their dependence on energy, there are countries that can provide some of the growing need to accelerate this process of change.

Kwasi Ampufo, head of metals and mining at Bloomberg’s NEF Research Center, says China is in the best position to benefit from the change.

He said that if China succeeds in bringing Russia’s metals to its refineries and selling them to other countries, it could become the biggest winner in this transformation process.

However, other countries are also in the field. Speaking of nickel, Indonesia has been increasing its production capacity for the past two years. He will continue to add to Russia’s shortfall.

Nickel is the metal most affected by the Russia-Ukraine war. Russia is a country that produces 9% of its world production.

On the other hand, if there is a shortage of platinum group metals, South African countries can make up for it.

China is ahead in many ways in the fight to control the metals of the future.

In such a situation, if the western countries do not take immediate action, they may be left behind.

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