Byproduct production of minor metals: Threat or opportunity for the development of clean technologies? The PV sector as an illustration
Today, the fight against global warming and the coming hydrocarbon exhaustion involve a drastic increase of clean energies. These technologies resort to many minor metals which are byproduct of major metals. We will take the definition of Hagelüken and Mesker (2010, Complex Life Cycles of Precious and Special Metals. In: Edition Thomas E. Graedel, Ester van der Voet (Eds.), Strüngmann Forum Report, Linkages of Sustainability, MIT Press) to show precisely what minor metals are: “[they are] metals that have relatively low production or usage, which occur in low ore concentrations, are regarded as rare, or are not traded at major public exchanges”. We will analyze the byproduct status affecting almost each minor metal in order to determine if the link with the metal main product can involve a threat for clean technology development. This paper will also deal with the theory and implications of the relationship between the byproduct and the main-product and then check it with empirical data. Until now, byproduct metal production and its variations seem relatively independent from major metal production thanks to the non-saturation of potential supply. By 2050, photovoltaic solar development should not lead to the saturation of potential supply.
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