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Circularity and Critical Raw Minerals

The energy transition is also set to bring a new circularity to supply chains, especially with critical raw materials, such as lithium, cobalt and graphite, that are so integral to the energy transition, from solar cells to the motors in electric vehicles.

According to the World Bank, 500% more critical raw materials – which equates to three billion tonnes - are needed by 2050, presenting huge opportunities for new technologies and innovative businesses to recycle those minerals already in circulation.

According to Colin Mackey, Rio Tinto’s Managing Director for Europe,: “We need to think how we secure our critical raw materials supply chains across Europe - without that we are going to stall.”

Mackey expects the idea of recycling and circularity to start to play a greater role in supply chains. Rio Tinto, for instance, has created a process to develop battery grade lithium from what was previously seen as waste at its Californian plant. But while Europe may still rely heavily on foreign imports for these minerals, it excels in other areas such as decarbonisation and climate technologies. And that can have a huge impact on energy security

“When you look across Europe, it really does have an opportunity to create sustainable supply chains that make a huge difference,”

Circularity is also coming to energy production, and rather than taking more carbon out of the ground, refineries are looking to turn non-crude inputs into fuel. New feed stocks range from used cooking oil to waste plastic, alongside biomass such as fast growing cellulose plants. Ultimately, huge opportunities for companies in the energy transition.

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