Low-carbon energy technology could revive Uganda’s copper

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July 20—Uganda, at one time, Africa’s second biggest producer of copper, could cash in on an […]

July 20—Uganda, at one time, Africa’s second biggest producer of copper, could cash in on an expected boom in low-carbon energy technologies which require inputs of aluminum, copper, lead, lithium, manganese, nickel, silver, steel, and zinc. Rare earth minerals such as indium, molybdenum, and neodymium will also be on  companies’ shopping lists.

Riccardo Puliti, the Senior Director and Head of the Energy and Extractive Industries Global Practice at the World Bank said this week,  “With better planning, resource-rich countries can take advantage of the increased demand to foster growth and development.”

He was speaking this week at the official launch of The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future. The report covers the types of minerals and metals that will likely increase in demand as the world works towards commitments to keep the global average temperature rise at or below 2°C.

He said, “Countries with capacity and infrastructure to supply the minerals and metals required for cleaner technologies have a unique opportunity to grow their economies if they develop their mining sectors in a sustainable way”.

However, uncertainty still surrounds Kilembe Mines in western Uganda, after the government finally kicked out Tibet Hima Mining Company Limited for various reasons, but mainly for not delivering on their financial commitments. At its peak, Kilembe was producing nearly 20,000 tonnes of copper annually. The Chinese consortium failed to pay previously agreed fees for the 25-year concession awarded four years ago, nor show any evidence of working the mine. In June, President Museveni directed Evlyn Anite, the state minister for investment to cancel the contract.

Based on current trends, it is expected that Chile, Peru, and (potentially) Bolivia, will play a key role in supplying copper and lithium; Brazil is a key bauxite and iron ore supplier; while southern Africa and Guinea will be vital in the effort to meet growing demand for platinum, manganese, bauxite, and chromium. China will continue to play a leading role in production and reserve levels in practically every key metal required under low-carbon scenarios. India is dominant in iron, steel, and titanium, while Indonesia, Malaysia, and Philippines have opportunities with bauxite and nickel.

According to the World Bank report,the future demand for specific metals is not only a function of the degree to which countries commit to a low-carbon future, it is also driven by intra-technology choices. The low-carbon technologies that emerge as most applicable and beneficial, will play an important role in defining the commodity marketplace of the next 50 years.

For example, the three leading forms of alternative vehicles — electric, hybrid, and hydrogen — each have different implications for metal demand: electric vehicles require lithium; hybrid vehicles use lead; and hydrogen-powered vehicles use platinum.

Demand for individual metals and minerals will reflect the component mix of low-carbon technologies, corresponding with economic changes and technical developments. To position themselves well, countries will need reliable sources of economic data and market intelligence, as well as the capacity to turn that information into plans, investments, and sustainable operations.

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