An analysis made by SoSMinErals (Security of Supply of Mineral Resources) for the British Committee on Climate Change estimates that 265,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate would be required by manufacturers to provide innovative NMC 811 batteries to make all British based cars and light vans electric by 2050 and for all new sales of such vehicles to be battery only by 2035. Goods vehicles are excluded.
Other metal resources which would be required to secure this target for entire replacement are : cobalt 208,000 tonnes, neodymium/dysprosium 7,200 tonnes and copper 2,362,000. Ominously, the report concludes that “there is not enough of these metallic resources being mined and refined in the entire world today for Britain to meet its green transition goals in the next generation”. In September 2021 there were 32 million licensed cars and vans in Britain. The estimated global figure was one billion – a doubling in less than twenty years.
China dominates global production of minerals essential for manufacturing with 60% or rare earth elements and 45% of molybdenum type ores but it is has secured concessions world-wide such as cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, lithium in Australia, platinum and gold in South Africa and various elements in South America. The U.S.A. by comparison has closed many of its mines and factories during the past thirty years. In 1990 it led the world as a producer of mineral wealth ; today it occupies 7th place and imports thirty of its most widely used minerals.
This is why the present proposals for the mining and refining of Lithium and other valuable mineral assets held by Portugal need to be re-examined most urgently to ensure that they are not exploited by the voracious industrial predators and commodity dealers whose interest is only great profit for themselves and not the improved environmental and economic health of our country.
Even supposing that Chinese entrepreneurial prospectors may succeed in their global search for new mining concessions and will possess the logistics necessary to literally move mountains to manufacturing centres, it seems most unlikely that the ambitious targets set for conversion to all electric vehicles by year 2050 can be achieved. Moreover, little thought seems to have been given to where the electric power will come from to charge one billion batteries if fossil fuels for generating stations are to be phased out. The alternatives of wind, solar and water power all use the same increasingly rare mineral resources for the manufacture of operative machines and equipment and have relatively short periods of depreciation before repair or replacement is necessary. They are not “green” in creation, operation and retirement.
What portends for our planet is not the start of a WW III but a Cold Peace II in which the battle will be for the possession of natural but finite resources and the power to make decisions concerning their beneficial use for only a selective proportion of Earth´s eight billion population. The ensuing struggle will not be so much one of ideology (capitalism v. communism) but that of systems and who controls them.
The U.S. will continue to be supreme in its governance of global markets for info technology and finance and may extend this to other states of the Americas whose rulers are already controlled politically and commercially. But its many ventures into the economies of Europe and Africa will begin to wane as the alliances between China and Russia (and perhaps India) relentlessly progress and expand into these territories. Where armed conflicts may arise, such as is in The Ukraine, the sanctions imposed by the U.S in the areas of finance, technology and entertainment will effectively be countered by the withdrawal of the opposing blocs from the export of resources and manufactured goods. For example, Russia and Belorus together produce more than one half of the world´s potash.
Because of its coveted mineral wealth, Portugal has a proportionately larger role to play in the future European economy. This must be centrist in concept and avoid military alliances (such as NATO) with the dominant blocs and thus be devoted to protection of the environment and advancement of its culture to benefit a gradually reduced population.