operation oaxaca: who shall live?

mineral recycling prioritization (024)

Carlos Manuel Jarquín Sánchez
5 min readMar 3, 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.


this is where i left off from the previous article:

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?


the top five minerals to prioritize recycling for a clean energy transition & environmental impact reduction are:

  1. aluminum: it has widespread use across almost all energy generation technologies and storage with demand increase. aluminum is a high-impact, cross-cutting mineral due to its extensive application and potential for recycling to make a considerable impact on demand reduction.
  2. cobalt & lithium: the substantial increase in demand projected for these minerals (488% for lithium and 460% for cobalt relative to their 2018 production levels) makes them vital for battery technologies… because we’ll need batteries in the future lol.
  3. nickel & copper: these cross-cutting minerals have significant roles in a 2-degree scenario (2DS). they’re required in all clean energy technologies. so these are a no-brainer.

but how can we determine if the recycling/reusability is effective for the mentioned minerals?

this would be the criteria:

end of life (EOL):

the percentage of material that’s recovered at the end of a product's life & recycled into new material.


recycled content (RC):

the percentage of a new product that’s made using secondary (recycled) material.


approximately 102.8 million tons of aluminum is required to meet demand from energy technologies under a 2DS by 2050.

if RC rates remain constant at today’s levels of 35%…

then 42.3 million tons would be met by recycled production.

the remaining 60.5 million tons arrive from primary production… (specifically, bauxite extraction).


if EOL rates increase to 100% by 2050 (aka all aluminum available is recycled)…

then RC rates rise to 61%.

the final amount of aluminum needed to supply technologies doesn’t change.

the amount met by secondary production rises to 57 million tons…

with 24 percent less primary production required.

this does not mean that mining will go away.

but if we wanted to…

primary production would go down (and increase scrap availability) would involve changing the design of energy technologies to enable better mineral recovery.


current RC rates are assumed to be 28.5% & a hypothetical increase to 100% EOL by 2050 increases RC rates to 59 percent.

this lowers the total demand for primary copper from energy technologies by 26%.

that’s good.

but, with some errors involved…

the primary demand for aluminum will outweigh the primary copper demand by more than three times.

46 million tons for aluminum is demand up to 2050.

>14 million tons for copper is in demand up to 2050.

so how many tons can we get from recycled copper + aluminum?

2DS → two-degrees celsius scenario

it would not push the primary demand down completely, but in the long run, this saves us from emitting more emissions and environmental damage.

how much?

cumulative emissions of CO2 equivalent from aluminum for energy technologies could fall from 840 MtCO2e to under 500 MtCO2e as a result of low-carbon transitions/increased recycling.

MtCO2e → million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

recycling aluminum saves up to 95% of the energy required to make the same amount of aluminum from its raw source (mines/bauxite ore).

recycling copper saves up to 85% of the energy used in its original production.


it’s an essential mineral for the future.

specifically, to a green energy future as it is needed in

  • energy storage
  • lithium-ion batteries,
  • a wide range of generation technologies, as a component of the steel required.

scrap nickel centers on 35% on RC.

and if RC stays the same, nickel demand stays over 20 million tons.

and assuming that EOL rates increase to 100% by 2050…

then RC rates increase to 58% and primary demand for nickel would fall by 23% compared to today’s RC rates.


cobalt has an RC of 32%…with primary cobalt accounting for 5.4 million tons of demand up to 2050.

an increase to 100% EOL by 2050 increases RC to 47%.

this reduces the overall cumulative demand for primary cobalt from energy technologies by 15%.

but this is the tricky part.

aluminum & copper are easier to recycle for battery use than cobalt, due to how their properties behave in sludge, tailings, water, etc.


and this fella has an interesting twist.

current lithium recycling rates (EOL and RC) are close to zero.

the EOL rose to 60% by 2050 implying an estimated 39% RC rate.

recycling will lower the cumulative demand for primary lithium by 26%.

xtra details.

end of life (EOL) → how much of a mineral is recycled at the end of its use in a product.

recycled content (RC) → the percentage of secondary material that goes into end-use demand for a mineral.

EOL and RC rates are not equal…and the former is higher than the latter.

the primary reason for this difference is the availability of scrap.

let’s use aluminum as an example.

between 42-70% of aluminum is recycled at the end of its life.

the industry is also well-developed in recycling the scrap that it obtains.

yet the recycled content of new aluminum products has been estimated at between 34-36%.

and this may change with its respectful modifications to clean energy as time progresses.

however, my mind has been made up for me.

the two minerals i’ll attempt on the filter will be aluminum & zinc.

then we will shoot for the bigger men like:

  • copper
  • nickel

i’ll speak more about the energy market and perhaps include geothermal.



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