Article published in Elements, an international magazine of Mineralogy, Geochemistry, and Petrology
The consumption of mineral resources and energy has increased exponentially over the last 100 years. Further growth is expected until at least the middle of the 21st century as the demand for minerals is stimulated by the industrialization of poor countries, increasing urbanization, penetration of rapidly evolving high technologies, and the transition to low-carbon energies. In order to meet this demand, more metals will have to be produced by 2050 than over the last 100 years, which raises questions about the sustainability and conditions of supply. The answers to these questions are not only a matter of available reserves. Major effort will be required to develop new approaches and dynamic models to address social, economic, environmental, geological, technological, legal and geopolitical impacts of the need for resources.
Adopting disruptive technologies for decarbonizing hard-to-abate industrial sectors requires experimentation through demonstration (pilot) projects. However, from an economic perspective, the potential long-term benefits and the difficulties in designing relevant public policies are not addressed in the standard valuations of those projects.
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