The Resource Race is On

Image credit: Dominik Vanyi on Unsplash

Powering our digital lives and green technologies are some of the Earth’s most precious metals — but they are running out

The green-tech revolution has been praised as the silver bullet to a new world. Drawing on six years of research across a dozen countries, the book “The Rare Metals War” by Guillaume Pitron, cuts across conventional green thinking to probe the hidden, dark side of green technology.

By breaking free of fossil fuels, we are in fact setting ourselves up for a new dependence — on rare metals such as cobalt, gold, and palladium. They are essential to electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels, our smartphones, computers, tablets, and other everyday connected objects. China has captured the lion’s share of the rare metals industry, but consumers know very little about how they are mined and traded, or their environmental, economic, and geopolitical costs. A central narrative to the book is the perilous nature (at least for Western countries) of China’s dominance in not only supplying rare metals, but also in controlling manufacturing of the end-products of these metals, such as batteries and high-powered magnets, that are needed for renewable energy generation and storage.

“The Rare Metals War” uncovers the reality of our lavish and ambitious environmental quest that involves risks as formidable as those it seeks to resolve. The minerals industry is often perceived as a contributor to global environmental degradation but can it be seen as the provider of the raw ingredients needed to transition us to a greener future?