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New Report Finds Surge in Critical Minerals Demand :: Uganda Radionetwork

New Report Finds Surge in Critical Minerals Demand

Among the different minerals, lithium saw the sharpest increase in investment, a jump of 50%, followed by copper and nickel. While the report does not specifically mention Uganda, the country is believed to have these critical minerals in plenty.
12 Jul 2023 10:13
If all planned critical mineral projects worldwide are realised, supply could be sufficient to support the national climate pledges announced by governments, according to the IEA’s analysis
The market for minerals that help power electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels and other technologies key to the clean energy transition has doubled in size over the past five years, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. 

The report by Earnest and Young -EY found that energy transition has picked up momentum, driven by a global regulatory push, changing stakeholder expectations, evolving customer behaviors and new emerging technologies. 

It said by 2030, electric vehicles are expected to make up nearly half of the global light vehicle sales, and significant investment is planned for charging infrastructure.

In addition, the International Energy Agency -IEA is forecasting a doubling of renewable energy capacity under its Stated Policies Scenario (STEPs) by 2030 and a whopping 291% increase by 2050. 

Under the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario, renewable capacity is expected to increase by almost six times by 2050.  

The first annual IEA Critical Minerals Market Review, released on Tuesday today along with a new online data explorer, shows that record deployment of clean energy technologies is propelling huge demand for minerals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and copper.


From 2017 to 2022, the energy sector was the main factor behind a tripling in overall demand for lithium, a 70% jump in demand for cobalt, and a 40% rise in demand for nickel.

The market for energy transition minerals according to the report reached USD 320 billion in 2022 and is set for continued rapid growth, moving it increasingly to centre stage for the global mining industry. Investment in critical mineral development rose 30% last year, following a 20% increase in 2021.          

Among the different minerals, lithium saw the sharpest increase in investment, a jump of 50%, followed by copper and nickel. 


The strong growth in spending by companies on developing mineral supplies supports the affordability and speed of clean energy transitions, which will be heavily influenced by the availability of critical minerals. 


International Energy Agency, Executive Director, Fatih Birol described this as a “pivotal moment for clean energy transitions worldwide”.

“We are encouraged by the rapid growth in the market for critical minerals, which are crucial for the world to achieve its energy and climate goals," he said.   

He however said even with the growth, major challenges remain.“Much more needs to be done to ensure supply chains for critical minerals are secure and sustainable,” said Birol.    

The report found that if all planned critical mineral projects worldwide are realised, supply could be sufficient to support the national climate pledges announced by governments. 


Diversity of supply also remains a concern, with many new project announcements coming from already dominant countries. 

Compared with three years ago, the share of the top three critical mineral producers in 2022 either remained unchanged or increased further, especially for nickel and cobalt. 


Accompanying the Critical Minerals Market Review 2023 is the new IEA Critical Minerals Data Explorer, an interactive online tool that allows users to easily access and navigate the IEA's data and projections for critical minerals.  


In its initial version, the tool provides users with access to the IEA's demand projections under various scenarios and technology trends. Supply-side information will be added in future updates.  

Exploration spending also rose by 20% in 2022, driven by record growth in lithium exploration.  


Canada and Australia led the way with over 40% growth year-on-year, notably in hard-rock lithium. Exploration activities are also expanding in Africa and Brazil. Lithium stood out as a clear leader in exploration activities, with spending increasing by 90%.

While the report does not specifically mention Uganda, some of the critical minerals like cobalt are present in different parts of Uganda awaiting exploitation.

There is copper and cobalt around Kilembe in Kasese. Canadian firm Falconbridge previously mined copper from Kilembe but it stopped due to the then-low copper prices. Other cobalt sites have been identified in the Bujagali area.


Uganda also has many parts dotted with uranium from which the government plans to produce nuclear energy. 


Uranium also experienced a significant surge in spending by 60% due to renewed interest in nuclear power amid concerns over Russian supplies. 


Nickel was a close follower with a 45% the growth rate for exploration, led by Canada, where high-grade sulfide resources, proximity to existing infrastructure, and access to low emissions electricity create attractive investment opportunity.  


The IEA report also indicates that battery sector is undergoing transformative changes with the emergence of new technology options.


Global battery demand for clean energy applications increased by two-thirds in 2022, with energy storage becoming a growing part of the total demand.


Demand for batteries in vehicles outpaced the growth rate of electric car sales as the average battery size for electric cars continued to rise in nearly every major market. 


The trend of favouring larger vehicles seen in conventional car markets is being replicated in the EV market, posing additional pressure on critical mineral supply chains. 


The report found that Sodium-ion batteries witnessed a leap forward in early 2023, with plans for production capacity exceeding 100 gigawatt-hours, primarily concentrated in China. 


Initially, companies are targeting less demanding applications such as stationary storage or micro-mobility for this technology and it remains to be seen if it will be able to meet the needs for EV range and charging time.