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The growing concern around the need to cut emissions is fuelling the rising demand for electric vehicles. While that’s good news in terms of being able to lower the carbon emissions attributed to the automotive industry, not all implications are positive. People are concerned because in solving one environmental problem, another is exacerbated. Electric cars will support the mining industry as they drive up demand for metals such as cobalt, nickel, and lithium for batteries, as well as some rare earth metals for permanent magnets.
The result is that pressure is applied to the mining industry to increase production. The level of demand is looking to exceed that of the available resource, meaning that the mining industry will have to evolve in order to meet this need. Mining is already seen as an industry falling behind in its efforts to convert to sustainable and green processes, so there is apprehension around the impact of increasing demand for mined materials.
Need to Achieve Sustainability in the Mining Sector
How will the mining industry adapt to ensure it can produce enough resource in response to the growth of the electric car market while minimizing its environmental impact? In order to meet demand, the general theme of the evolution of the mining industry will be on sustainability and clean processes. The solution to the increase in demand for various metals will result in various tactics that will fit under the umbrella of sustainability.
A focus on responsible sourcing will be important for the future of the mining industry. Given that increased mining is required to balance out the growth of electric cars as clean technology, concern over the ethics and sustainability of the industry is elevated. Therefore, there will be demand for supply chain due diligence and traceability, to prove to the companies purchasing the metals that suppliers have met sustainability criteria. In order to create a more sustainable supply chain, big players in the mining industry will be joining forces with automotive companies, changing the face of the industry as it evolves to be more integrated with the industries it serves.
Search for Alternative Materials
Further to this, to overcome the challenge of resources being depleted, tech companies will be looking to alternative materials that can take the place of those whose resource is becoming scarce. For example, scientists are developing batteries for electric vehicles that rely on zinc rather than lithium or cobalt, which is in much greater supply. This method, of seeking alternatives, may lead to the reopening of abandoned mines, in order to access these materials that weren’t of interest at the time the mine was in production. Mines are often flooded once they seize production. Robotic technology is currently being developed to allow for surveying inundated mines, and even to retrieve material from them without needing to remove the water. The future of mining will rely more on these systems of unmanned operations, which will have the impact of making mining safer, more precise, and cleaner due to the difference in tools being used.
The advent of electric cars will have the overarching impact of forcing the mining industry to reinvent itself into a cleaner industry. The focus will be on committing to sustainable sourcing and using new technology to source new materials from old mines, resulting in a more ethical sector with systems in place to ensure its longevity.