Cobalt and Nickel for a Battery-Powered Future

Why won't current mining practices be enough to meet our green energy needs?

Cobalt and nickel are both essential component materials for batteries and are playing a key part in the green energy revolution, but difficult questions surround their supply. As the International Energy Agency notes in their 2021 report ‘The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions’, cobalt supply will need a 42 times increase in supply, and nickel a 19 times increase, to reach the goals of the COP21 Paris Agreement.

In the 2021 study Assessing the adequacy of global land-based mine development pipeline in the light of future high-demand scenarios: The case of nthe battery -mdetals nickel (Ni) and coblat (Co)”, the authors review estimates of cobalt and nickel resources currently available for mining. It finds that the best estimates indicate there is no lack of these metals within reach. However, considering 67 nickel mines opened across the period from 1960 to 2020, the study identifies that the timescale for establishing mining projects has increased due to lengthening feasibility lead times, and continues to do so.

This means that, under current industry norms, terrestrial mining would be very unlikely to the accelerate and supply metals in line with rising demand over the next two decades. Therefore, alternative supply streams, such as the extraction of polymetallic nodules from the deep sea, must be fully and proactively explored.

The full paper can be found here.