I begin with the words of the President of the World Bank, Ajay Banja, during a session at the 54th World Economic Forum in January: “‘We have an existential climate crisis….A sense of urgency is our only saviour«. The World Bank Group is pushing to do more to battle climate change and do it faster, devoting 45% of its annual financing to climate-related projects. Talking to political leaders and economists at Davos this year, it was clear that as well as the pressing need for supply security, tackling climate change and building new energy systems were also key priorities on the WEF’s agenda.
Quality, quantity – and speed
I took to the stage to address a private audience at the ‘futur/io’ event, all keen to understand more about ‘How can mining lead the way to a sustainable future?’ You can listen to my full speech here (starting at 1:19). As the founder of Norge Mining, my team and I carry great responsibility in terms of how we create a new ecosystem to develop our deposits of three EU Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) in southern Norway. And we are proud to be creating a new paradigm in our industry.
This is because our CRMs (vanadium, phosphate and titanium) are in huge demand from nations meeting the challenges of supply security and Net Zero. They’re crucial components for clean technology, such as batteries in Electric Vehicles (EVs) and energy storage systems; essential materials as the world minimises greenhouse gas emissions, by reducing reliance on fossil fuels. And also, because the quantity and quality of these materials needed for this transition have been vastly underestimated, highlighting the need for speed in their delivery.
Sustainability throughout the value chain
The pivotal role of these critical materials in supporting a more sustainable future, however, would be negated, if the supply chain itself has any sustainability cracks in it. The strongest positive impacts from an ESG perspective unfold at the beginning, where the raw materials are being removed from the ground and processed. All links would be corrupted from the outset if the raw materials are not produced to the highest and most accountable standards. This is the cornerstone of our enterprise. When it comes to responsibly sourcing CRMs for the global green shift, sustainability must reverberate throughout the entire value chain. The needs of the present can’t compromise our future ability.
Rich Lesser, chief adviser to the World Economic Forum’s Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, sews this concept up well: “You can encourage action in your supply chain, make it easier for your customers to decarbonize, work as a sector to make it easier for everyone to move faster, work across industries to advance key technologies and work productively with governments to be a bold partner to help them but also [be] a pragmatic partner.”
Minimising environmental impact
Responsibly sourcing materials from the ground inevitably alters the landscape; there’s no escaping this. However, evolving innovations and approaches mean that extraction can be mitigated by smart land reclamation and conservation. When sites are carefully rehabilitated, ecosystems and biodiversity can be restored. Recycling and circularity must be placed at the heart of projects – where waste from one operation can become a valuable resource for another industry. While reducing energy consumption with optimised processing and cutting-edge equipment can decrease the overall carbon footprint significantly.
Innovation through collaboration
As we develop our secure Norwegian resources, we cannot act alone. We encourage collaboration between industries, environmental organisations and governments. As foreign security and policy analysts, Carnegie Europe, put it: “The future of the EU’s decarbonized energy security lies in its ability to broaden and strengthen its proposition to its strategic partnerships. It requires de-risking supply chains and co-designing economic, climate, and ecological transformations together.»
Together we can harness the potential of Critical Raw Materials – that leads the world to a more sustainable future. One where responsible sourcing and environmental stewardship go hand in hand.