operation oaxaca: mineral demand.

the mineral map. (023)

Carlos Manuel Jarquín Sánchez
8 min readMar 2, 2024

this is carlos.

sry, had a few things on my plate.

now we’re back.

the information is dense.

so all these pieces will be in smaller chunks.

i’ll extract the MVP information from these articles.

and i shall add the links to the resources.

time to explain the value of these minerals about mining.


the metallic rocks.

i’ll start with the overall summary.

then i’ll dive into the specifics of each bullet point.


  • increased renewable energy supply technologies & carbon capture and storage leads to more metals to be used/mined.
  • going to a low-carbon world by 2050 makes energy systems more material-intensive compared to fossil-fuel systems.
  • the metals in demand for 2050 will be copper, silver, aluminum (bauxite), nickel, zinc, platinum, neodymium, and indium.
  • for wind technologies, the mix between geared (onshore) or direct-drive (offshore) technologies will affect metal demand, particularly for neodymium.
  • for solar technologies, choices between different types of solar photovoltaic cells will impact the demand for metals like aluminum and copper.
  • transportation technologies will need electric (lithium), hybrid (lead), and hydrogen (platinum) vehicles.


for constructing solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, we can utilize four combinations of metal content:

for crystalline silicon PV cells: it makes up about 85 percent of the current market. and it can be manufactured in monocrystalline, polycrystalline, & amorphous silicon.

for battery cells, we have two potential outcomes for the battery type and its mineral content:

lead-acid battery → lead-acid batteries are the more mature technology, previously cost less than lithium-ion batteries. but terrible energy-to-weight ratio. (50–90 Wh/L)

lithium-ion battery → strong energy-to-weight ratio and cost less. (600+ Wh/L)

Wh/L → watt-hours per liter, aka “the amount of energy stored in a given volume”.

and for 2050, these will be the minerals that we will need to transition to the clean energy technologies:

so now, to begin with the protocols and the future projections by the international energy agency (iea).

2DS → two-degree scenario.

this refers to a future scenario where efforts and policies are implemented globally to limit the average increase in global temperatures to no more than 2°C above preindustrial levels by the year 2100.

why is this important?

from the paris agreement: an international treaty on climate change. The objective of limiting warming to 2°C.

and speaking of aluminum, it’s a big chunk for solar PV.

but who else needs aluminum for clean energy technologies?

CCS → carbon capture & storage
base scenario → where we are/want to be

the red bar means what would happen if we DO reach 2°C by 2050.

but for solar, the biggest mineral that will be affected is indium.

indium is commonly used in producing thin-film solar cells… and plays a crucial role in enhancing the efficiency and performance of copper-indium-gallium-selenide solar cells.

crystalline silicon-based solar cells utilize silicon as their principal active material rather than indium.

indium is more for thin-film, and not crystalline silicon.

so that’s why crystalline silicon would go down IF crystalline silicon becomes the dominant technology.


for wind turbines, we can have two potential outcomes:

geared → geared wind turbines utilize a gearbox between the rotor and generator to increase rotational speed. costs less but more maintenance is required.

direct drive → direct drive wind turbines operate without a gearbox, using a low-speed generator to avoid the need for gears. it’s a lot simpler to make.

geared turbines make up roughly 80 percent of global installed capacity.

direct drive wind turbines feature generators that are fixed directly to the rotor and therefore turn at the same speed.

and this is the mineral demand for wind technologies under the same conditions for 2°C by 2050.

p.s.: the iron reported in this pie chart is used directly in the turbine, in either the generator core, the mainframe, or the rotor hubs. it does not include the iron needed for the steel components.

  • neodymium was used for permanent magnets.
  • nickel was used for gearboxes.
  • aluminum was used for cabling.

but the most demanding material for wind technologies is zinc.

why is zinc the main material for clean-energy technologies (wind)?

because zinc is predominantly used for protecting wind turbines from corrosion.

the other rare earth element that could spike in demand by 2050 will be neodymium. it’s used only in permanent magnet direct drive turbines. it’s a key mineral affected by the balance between these technologies.


and then comes the three forms of batteries for energy storage.

from this alone, you can see what materials and minerals we’ll need to spike up in demand if this will be our low-carbon future for 2050.

this also must contain the fact that a few countries produce the most amount of a specific mineral for global purposes/needs.

china produces nearly 70% of the world’s natural graphite, while the democratic republic of congo produces more than 60% of the world’s cobalt.

however, we stand to the conclusion in energy generation technologies:

a greater climate ambition leads to greater overall mineral demand.

but as demand levels grow, the types of technology that might meet that demand become uncertain.

so we fall into a new dilemma.

what would that demand look like?

while this is not accurate (because the further we project into the future, the more errors accumulate), we can use this as a blurry outlook into 2050.

energy mineral transition.

the following is a graph mentioning what will occur with the increase of low-carbon technologies.

part a) provides the percentage increase in mineral demand based on 2018 production figures:

…with the majority of demand coming from battery minerals like graphite, lithium, and cobalt.

part b) provides an annual increase in energy technologies for mineral productions in 2050.

about 4.5 million tons of graphite is needed to be produced annually by 2050, or a cumulative of 68 million tons.

but for cross-cutting minerals, (aka minerals used in several technologies)…

copper, chromium, and molybdenum are examples of minerals that are used across eight or more technologies, with copper being used in all energy generation and storage technologies covered in the model.

so if a change in technology or subtechnology deployment occurs in the near or distant future, the demand for the cross-cutting minerals will be unfazed.

2DS → 2 degree scenario by 2050

this graph above is important to know.

the difference can also be seen in production figures.

in 2018, ~21 million tons of copper was produced…

and 0.3 million tons of molybdenum was extracted;

a 20.7-million-ton difference between the two minerals.

the matrix.

this is the last piece before we advance to mineral recycling.

this matrix was developed to analyze what minerals are more important to attempt reusing/recycling for a low-carbon future.

the matrix has been made into two indexes to compare between the minerals:

technology concentration index → captures how cross-cutting or concentrated in a few technologies the minerals are in the matrix.

copper would be given a value of one, as every clean energy technology needs copper.

the index was based on:

  • the number of technologies that require one mineral.
  • the share of demand for minerals that comes from a single technology.

demand index → it captures the scale to which production must scale up to meet demand from energy technologies.

the index consists of the following:

  • relative demand is captured by comparing 2050 demand from energy technologies to 2018 total production of the mineral.
  • absolute demand is captured through the absolute level of demand in 2050 from energy technologies for each mineral, relative to aluminum (as aluminum is the one with the most demand).

i will stop here, before we go into the metal recycling.

all that must be concerned about is this:

which ones are worthy of prioritizing (for recycling)?

what’s their cost per metric ton, or ounce/gram?

how much would it cost to filter/recycle them?

we shall see.

© 2024–2100 by Carlos Manuel Jarquín Sánchez. All Rights Reserved.