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China’s dominance in critical minerals mining and processing will make global energy security in the energy transition “infinitely more complex,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said at a conference on Thursday.
“The fuel of this energy transition — critical minerals — is going to make global energy security infinitely more complex and infinitely more important over the next few decades,” Granholm told the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) critical minerals summit, as carried by the Financial Times.
“In this critical minerals context, we are up against a dominant supplier that is willing to weaponise market power for political gain,” she noted.
Earlier this year, the IEA said in a first-ever annual Critical Minerals Market Review that the market has doubled in recent years, but warned that limited sustainability in production and processing is one of the key challenges for the industry ahead, alongside limited source diversification.
The share of the top three producers in 2022 either remained unchanged or has increased further, especially for nickel and cobalt, compared with three years ago. China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Indonesia continue to dominate a large part of the critical raw material supply, while China is a dominant player in refining operations.
For example, Congo has maintained its strong position as the leading cobalt producer, accounting for over 70% of global production in 2022, while China continues to maintain a stronghold in refined product supplies, accounting for more than 75% of refined cobalt output in 2022, the IEA noted.
Most of the planned projects are also in several countries, with China holding half of planned lithium chemical plants and Indonesia representing nearly 90% of planned nickel refining facilities, the agency said.
As the technology war between China and the West escalates and the energy transition progresses, China is boosting investments in critical minerals overseas as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), aiming to secure more raw materials for batteries and solar panels.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com