Critical minerals and the transition to a low-carbon economy

September 2021

Paper looks at prospects for critical minerals in the transition to a low-carbon economy


Critical minerals are named as such because they are critical to key technologies in the global energy transition, such as solar panels and batteries. With the growing number of announcements of ambitious emission reduction targets by countries, organizations and companies, interest in the current and future availability of these minerals is increasing.

In its Sustainable Development Scenario, the International Energy Agency (IEA) points to an approximately 6-fold growth in demand for critical minerals by 2040 [1]. This growth can be partially explained by the fact that technologies used for renewable energy use, on average, more minerals than traditional technologies from fossil sources. Another challenging aspect is associated with the reserves of these minerals. Copper, lithium, nickel, and cobalt reserves, for example, are today concentrated in a few countries.

Given the relevance of these minerals for the global energy transition, it is necessary to consolidate sustainable and resilient value chains, reinforcing good practices related to human rights and promoting diversification of suppliers. In addition to diversification strategies, countries have promoted circular economy initiatives and investments in prospecting for domestic reserves, as can be seen in the United States and the European Union.

Within this context of transformation of global supply chains, Brazil has the potential to play a relevant role. Its reserves of minerals such as silicon, lithium and rare earths are among the largest in the world. However, to take advantage of these opportunities, the country must overcome significant technological bottlenecks in extraction and processing. In addition, Brazil can also benefit from its long-lasting relationship with global powers in the commodity sector and from the abundance and diversity of energy sources.

Catavento prepared a paper on the global perspectives for critical minerals, analyzing their economic and social challenges and illustrating the geopolitical significance of the subject. Lastly, the paper sought to assess possible paths for Brazil, both in terms of demand and supply in this new context.

Download the paper here.


[1] IEA. The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions. 2021



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