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Trends in global mineral and metal criticality: the need for technological foresight


  • Patrice Christmann
  • Gaëtan Lefebvre



Since the beginning of the third millennium, several trends, such as the rapid rise to global superpower status of China, with its 1.4 billion habitants; the transfer of large industrial production segments from West to East (Asia) and, more recently, of the growing political and trade tensions between the USA and China; the (re)birth of nationalisms, communitarianism and autocratic regimes; and minerals and metals industry–specific sustainability issues such as greenhouse gas emissions waste production and poor social acceptance of large-scale mining projects, are threatening the mineral and metal supplies of rich OECD countries that have depended on well-functioning free markets to supply their economies’ mineral and metal needs for the past few decades. These developments happen while demography, the growth of the global middle-class, urbanisation and, now, the need for a rapid transition to low-carbon energy production all concur to a further acceleration of the global demand for minerals and metals. This context leads governments and industries to pay much more attention to potential mineral supply/pricing issues, leading to the publication of mineral criticality studies, assessing the economic importance and supply risks related to specific minerals and metals, from the point of view of specific governments, economic sectors or industries. Some criticality assessments also propose future demand scenarios for selected minerals and metals, looking at the next decades, sometimes up to 2100. While these studies provide important information on current market conditions and issues, those looking at future supply and demand appear to insufficiently consider the probability of significant technology shifts that, if confirmed, would deeply impact on future demand scenarios. Three technology shifts that appear as highly probable (Li-metal batteries (including solid-state Li batteries); low/no neodymium-, praseodymium-, dysprosium- or terbium-containing permanent magnets; and composite matrix ceramics used in aircraft jet engines and gas turbines used for electricity and heat production) are highlighting the need to better integrate technology foresight in criticality assessments as such shifts are likely to have large impacts on the demand for some of the minerals and metals that are rated as highly critical in many studies (cobalt, dysprosium, graphite, neodymium, praseodymium, rhenium and tantalum), or for which demand scenarios are presented that may outstrip possible supply.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrice Christmann & Gaëtan Lefebvre, 2022. "Trends in global mineral and metal criticality: the need for technological foresight," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 35(3), pages 641-652, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:minecn:v:35:y:2022:i:3:d:10.1007_s13563-022-00323-5
    DOI: 10.1007/s13563-022-00323-5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wang, Peng & Chen, Li-Yang & Ge, Jian-Ping & Cai, Wenjia & Chen, Wei-Qiang, 2019. "Incorporating critical material cycles into metal-energy nexus of China’s 2050 renewable transition," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 253(C), pages 1-1.
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    1. Yu, Donglei & Wenhui, Xiong & Anser, Muhammad Khalid & Nassani, Abdelmohsen A. & Imran, Muhammad & Zaman, Khalid & Haffar, Mohamed, 2023. "Navigating the global mineral market: A study of resource wealth and the energy transition," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 82(C).

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