The green transition – and the transition to sustainable and renewable energy sources – requires a wide array of critical mineral-based raw materials. Technologies and products like solar panels, electric vehicle batteries, and mobile technology all require certain metals and minerals. The demand for such raw materials has increased significantly over the last years and is expected to only increase further in the future.
Several of these mineral-based raw materials have been labelled as “critical raw materials” by the EU because of their importance for European industry and economy and because they are associated with supply risks. Most of these raw materials are produced outside Europe today.
“A fact that people might not be aware of is that the green transition depends on certain indispensable metals and minerals, and in a far bigger scale than the fossil fuel technology. In other words, it is necessary to get an overview of, and ensure, the supply of these raw materials”, says one of the authors of the report, Dr. Saku Vuori, Director for Science and Innovations at the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK).
However, a new report written by the Nordic geological survey agencies and related agencies and academia, shows that the Nordics has a major potential in their bedrock to provide a secure supply of almost the full range of these metals and minerals needed for the green energy transition. In mineral-richness, the Nordic bedrock can be compared with the most mineral-rich areas of the world, such as Canada, the USA, Brazil and Australia.
The Nordic region can become a major supplier of critical metals and minerals. We are in a unique position to make sure that all parts of our green transition are sustainable.Håkan Lind, Senior Innovation Advisor, Nordic Innovation.
Unexploited economic potential
The report points out that the Nordic bedrock represents an unexploited economic potential in the Nordic region; we already have the mining experience and technology, and knowledge about unexplored raw materials could give better utilization of and added value to existing mining operations and to our industries.
In addition to creating sustainable economic growth and employment, the Nordics can ensure Europe and the rest of the world access to CRMs produced with high sustainability, ethic and environmental standards.
“This new report points out the Nordic perspective; together as a region we can be part of a solution to the CRM supply challenge, and at the same time achieve economic development in the mining industry”, says Håkan Lind in Nordic Innovation.
The report underlines that continued research and a joint Nordic database would make it easier for decision-makers and businesses to see the opportunities in this area.
“There are resources right within reach, but the mining companies focus on few selected metals, and we do not know how much of these hidden resources exists. Many of the CRMs are by-products of other extracted metals and minerals. If the mining operators would analyse and report also other metals, it would reveal hidden resources of critical metals which could be extracted from existing mines instead of only building new ones. There are also metals hidden in mining waste which could be extracted”, says another of the author of the report, Dr. Pasi Eilu from GTK.
Facts: Raw materials shortage and demand
In addition to the fact that the green energy transition is dependent on several critical raw materials, these raw materials are also used in existing industries and technologies, which entails fierce competition for them. Todays’ extraction and the current and forecasted recycling of CRM is not enough to meet the total demand to transition to a low-carbon society and to mitigate climate change.
For example, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that the global demand for lithium and graphite, which are among of the most important raw materials for electric car batteries, will probably be 40 times higher by 2040 if the world is to reach its climate goals. Even complete recycling of used car batteries will only cover 10 % of the demand for minerals such as copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt, according to the IEA forecast.
About the report
The report is financed by Nordic Innovation as part of our Sustainable Minerals program. In enabling the ongoing green transition, the Nordics have a unique position to take the lead within sustainable mineral and metal production. With collaboration across sectors and value chains, innovation can be accelerated – and through the program we will contribute to make the Nordics a leading region within sustainable mineral production.
The report was launched in September at a meeting between the Nordic ministers of sustainable growth where they agreed on strengthening Nordic cooperation on sustainable mineral production. They see access to raw materials as central if the Nordic region is to meet its ambitious climate goals and contribute to the European Green Deal and EU’s “Fit for 55”-package – as well as for reaching the vision of making the Nordic region the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030.
- The Geological Survey of Finland
- The Geological Survey of Sweden
- The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland
- The Ministry of Mineral Resources in Greenland
- The Geological Survey of Norway
- The Norwegian Directorate of Mining
- Reykjavik University
- The National Energy Authority of Iceland
The authors are responsible for the content of the report.