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Raw Materials Significant Issues


Looking ahead, under a scenario in which materials are required at steadily growing levels to meet evolving needs but markets fail to adapt to varying technology mixes and materials intensities over time, hypothetical shortages of raw materials would emerge—as demand is expected to grow significantly faster than supply. Meanwhile, metals with smaller mine supply (such as tellurium) would need to show even faster growth—as such, these are the main candidates for required substitution and technological innovation.


Requirements for additional supply will come not only from relatively large-volume raw materials—for example, copper for electrification and nickel for battery EVs, which are expected to see significant demand growth beyond their current applications—but also from relatively niche commodities, such as lithium and cobalt for batteries, tellurium for solar panels, and neodymium for the permanent magnets used both in wind power generation and EVs. Some commodities—most notably, steel—will also play an enabling role across technologies requiring additional infrastructure.

Pricing Interplays

While raw-materials needs will grow exponentially for certain metals, lead times for large-scale new greenfield assets are long (seven to ten years) and will require significant capital investment before actual demand and price incentives are seen. At the same time, with increasingly complex (and largely lower-quality) deposits needed, miners will require significant incentive (for example, consistent copper prices of more than $8,000 to $10,000 per metric ton and nickel prices of more than $18,000 per metric ton) before large capital decisions are made.

Technology Shifts

Just as there are several possible trajectories through which the global economy can achieve its target of limiting warming to 1.5°C, there are corresponding technology mixes involving different raw-materials combinations that bring their own respective implications. Metals and mining companies will be expected to grow faster—and more cleanly—than ever before. At the same time, end-user sectors will need to factor potential resource constraints into technology development and growth plans.

Demand Destruction

As the move toward cleaner technologies progresses, the metals and mining sector will be put to the test: it will need to provide the vast quantities of raw materials required for the energy transition. Because metals and mining is a long lead-time, highly capital-intensive sector, price fly-ups and bottlenecks will be unavoidable as demand outstrips supply and price volatility creates uncertainty around the large up-front capital investments needed for production. With the expected demand growth ahead, miners will need to rebuild their growth portfolios.

Materials Substitution

prices react strongly, and materials substitution kicks in. The industry is unable to bring in new supply fast enough and technological innovation leads to materials substitution within that application (for instance, cobalt after a price spike). In such cases, performance of the technology deployed may be compromised, with implications for overall needs, for example, lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries being less energy dense than NMC (LiNiMnCoO2) batteries.

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