By Andrey Dashkov, analyst, Casey Research
One of the world’s richest economies is going green in a big way.
By 2050, it wants to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
The goal is so ambitious, it pledged to spend EUR28 trillion (or USD28.4 trillion) by December 2050 to achieve it.
I’m talking about the European Union (EU).
Back in 2020, it released a list of critical elements it needs to manufacture clean technologies – like solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles (EVs).
The list includes over 30 elements, ranging from platinum-group metals to cobalt, graphite, and rare-earth elements.
These metals will be essential if the EU wants to reach its 2050 goal.
But there’s a problem…
Right now, much of the world is dependent on China to supply these raw materials.
Magnesium, one of the metals that tops the EU’s list, is used in a number of energy-efficient technologies such as fuel cells and hydrogen gas generation.
The EU imports over 90% of its magnesium from China. And that’s just one example.
As global tensions with China build, the EU doesn’t want to rely on the foreign power for critical metals.
That’s why the EU is scrambling to form partnerships with “clean mining” companies outside China – the companies exploring for and mining materials used to help create a “greener” future.
The EU also plans to start mining some of these metals at home.
As this trend takes off, it will create massive demand for dozens of critical elements.
But one metal in particular stands out…
The King of the Clean Energy Revolution
In 2020, the EU added lithium to its list of critical metals for the first time.
We’ve spilled a lot of ink on lithium in these pages.
Lithium is essential for EVs and numerous other sustainable technologies. It’s the king of the clean energy revolution.
And, unsurprisingly, China refines about 60% of the world’s lithium.
The EU wants to change that. As I said above, it wants to mine and process lithium in-house.
But that’ll take years.
In the meantime, it’ll continue buying lithium abroad and develop supply chains that don’t involve China.
This is great news for lithium producers and processors outside of China. And the U.S. is an obvious choice for Europe.
Dusting Off an Old-World Industry
Many people believe that mining in America is an old-world industry. And in a sense, they’re right. The domestic mining industry has largely halted over the past few decades.
But as the clean energy revolution takes off, and demand for a supply chain out of China ramps up, I believe the U.S. will become a global lithium superpower.
In May, the Biden administration unveiled a plan to invest $3 billion to boost the supply of lithium-ion batteries. The private sector is also working to ensure lithium supply for U.S. consumption.
Toyota and Panasonic, for instance, have reached an agreement with a U.S.-based lithium carbonate producer, where they will receive over 4,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate. This is enough to produce 150,000 EVs in the U.S.
Take it from my colleague Dave Forest, our go-to expert on mining and “geotech metals…”
The great thing, from a U.S. standpoint, is we used to mine a wide range of geotech metals. Over the last 20 or 30 years, the domestic mining industry has largely decayed. But in-ground supplies of these critical minerals are there. So we can switch it back on again. And that’s what’s about to happen.
And work has already begun to get more lithium mines operating…
How to Play This Mining Rebound
America’s lithium exploration industry has started to rebound. Since 2017, annual lithium exploration budgets have more than doubled. These exploration budgets amounted to almost 20% of the total money spent on lithium exploration around the world.
The U.S. is also the third in the world when it comes to lithium reserves and resources, at over 33 million tonnes.
And now that lithium is on the EU’s high-priority list, the development of the global “clean mining” industry in America will only accelerate.
Mines in America are already starting to come online faster than their European counterparts… which will help supply the EU with much-needed lithium to meet its sustainability goal.
For example, Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables is building a demonstration facility for a “green” lithium extraction process. If successful, the lake where the facility is being built on could supply up to 40% of the world’s lithium. And it’s located in California.
To gain some exposure, check out the Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (LIT). It’ll benefit as the EU – and the rest of the world – shifts toward cleaner energy.
Analyst, Casey Research