As with most environmental solutions, electric mining equipment (EME) offers opportunities for reducing capital and operating expenditures, while providing a host of solutions to address risks. These lower risks include decarbonization; curtailment of colossal ventilation expenses to evacuate fumes, particulate matter and heat from diesel engines; and improved employee health and working conditions. Higher profits, diminished risks and enhanced social acceptability associated with EME, are hard to beat.
Global developments in a nutshell
For the rest of this century, most of the world’s needs for critical minerals can be accommodated from mined resources in democratic countries and 95% recycling of battery content. China and the European Union have policies in place to optimize electric vehicle (EV) battery recycling.
Australia towers above the rest as a source of half of global lithium resources.
Canada and the U.S. provide financial support for advancing critical minerals activities.
Howbeit, China’s critical mineral importation practices are admittingly problematic. The antidotes are critical mineral deposits and policies of democratic counties plus EV manufacturers being sensitive to such concerns as integral parts of their public DNA image.
Too, South American lithium extraction practices pose large-scale unresolved environmental perils.
Prior to the Russian barbaric invasion in Ukraine, announcements made by the oil and gas majors seemed to imply they were engaged in energy diversification. This diversification has been typically presented as that of increasing the proportion of their assets in clean technologies while reducing the exploitation of fossil fuel reserves.
Now, with the oil and gas companies earning windfall profits linked to the Ukraine war, inflation and European urgent short-term requirements for fossil fuel sources substitutes, the real truth is coming out. High fuel prices have revealed opportunist short term thinking prevails over lofty long-term goals.
China is several years ahead of other developed countries on the migration to a green economy, in clean technology production capacity, massive market penetration and green investments. China already has an extraordinary global green export potential. China leads in renewables, electric vehicles and battery production, incrementally regulating plastic solutions, high-speed rail, private clean tech investment, government environmental support and green bonds. China’s concurrent climate actions are gamechangers destined to have huge global competition impacts on energy, economic, transportation, industrial and other paradigms, perhaps more so than the climate crisis. But there are simultaneous contradictions. China is the world’s largest liquified natural gas importer, once again ramping up coal production and certainly not a leader on human rights.
The environmental footprint of an electric vehicle represents a sectorial industrial revolution, including the first lifecycle end of an EV battery. With existing technologies, 95% of an EV battery can be recycled for inclusion in a new EV battery and/or energy storage. The remaining 5% can be handled by third party recyclers. Because the price of mined lithium is rising exponentially, recycled EV battery materials are set to compete with mined content. With high recycled content, the emissions of a new battery can be reduced by 64%. The result is massive battery recycling investments and recycling agreements with EV manufacturers are underway and planned, especially in China, Europe and the U.S. In the U.S., the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) offers tax credits that can be stacked on top of each other for the EV battery supply chain. An IRA proviso is that the raw materials, including materials derived from battery recycling, be sourced in the U.S. In addition, the U.S. Bipartisan Infrastructure Act allots US$7 billion for all battery supply chain stages, including battery recycling. To counterbalance the IRA, the Canadian 2022 Fall Economic Update includes a 30% Investment Tax Credit covering clean technologies. But the Canadian tax credits may fall short compared to the cumulative eligibility criteria impacts of the two U.S legislative initiatives. The U.S. initiatives, alongside the monumental head start in China and Europe, auger for a colossal challenge for the Canadian national and provincial governments to assure Canada is a major battery recycling player, despite two prominent existing Canadian recycling firms.