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Modern mining and metals

A balancing act: Scaling the value chain in the new wave of electrification

ANDREA DE MORI, Managing Director, Minerals and Batteries
SIDDARTH SUBRAMANI, Global Director, Lithium

The shift to a battery-centric economy has been driven by the urgent need to curb carbon emissions and transition to sustainable alternatives. With governments and organizations setting ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the adoption of electric vehicles and renewable energy, battery production is experiencing a seismic shift.

The battery market is undergoing a significant transformation, reshaping established mining and manufacturing value chains. Multiple stakeholders are evolving in this dynamic landscape, including established producers, mining and technology startups, traders, and government agencies that are driven by cutting-edge technologies in the race toward rapid implementation.

To navigate this complex ecosystem, a comprehensive and integrated approach is essential. It necessitates a deep understanding of natural resources, battery materials, cell manufacturing, and recycling, encompassing battery supply as well as the full battery life cycle. Organizations benefit from strategic partners capable of bridging the gaps between mining, processing, and manufacturing, all while facilitating the relationships between miners and the original equipment manufacturers in the automotive industry.

Amid the current wave of electrification, a challenge has arisen—a surge in demand for battery materials that outpaces supply. This scenario mirrors the commodity boom from the early 2000s, an era we marked with a series of flagship projects. Today, we can draw from these learnings to address the urgent needs of the battery market. The industry is adjusting to the current surge of investment across various metals, including lithium and nickel, but is hindered by a reduced collective capacity to develop projects, which stems from the latest pandemic as well as the 2013–2017 market downturn.

One way to address this capacity challenge is by redefining industry engagement, execution methods, traditional processes, and workforce structures. A valuable lesson learned from the 2000s commodity boom centers on the importance of meticulous design, efficient execution, and tailored solutions as the recipe for success. Employing an EPCM approach that places process engineering at its core ensures successful project delivery by emphasizing tailored execution and a preservation of the technology intent. Striking the right balance between speed and safe, sustainable development is something that leading industry
players need and value.

Battery chemicals, cell manufacturing, and recycling are industries that are bringing new partners together, creating a culture of collaboration. These emerging markets offer an exciting opportunity for innovation and the development of novel approaches, particularly in the realm of design-supply models. These models empower organizations to make informed decisions, even in the face of calculated risk, with the potential to achieve improved outcomes for all parties.

Effective communication and thought leadership play a crucial role in times of transition. When tough business choices need to be made, it is essential that solutions consider multi-faceted perspectives, including strategic advisory, technology, engineering, and project delivery, centered around the clients’ business cases. This comprehensive approach ensures no critical aspect is overlooked, facilitating more holistic and effective problem-solving.

The journey toward sustainable electrification will not be easy; there is a hunger for metals and batteries, and there is limited global expertise to meet the current demand. As leaders, we are continuously developing skillsets and nurturing new partnerships across the entire battery market supply chain to ensure the development of holistic solutions. Scaling the industry remains our top priority.

We continue to push the boundaries of critical minerals extraction, battery chemicals production, cell manufacturing, and recycling, balancing performance with sustainable practices. In the true spirit of our founder, Gerry Hatch, who married market understanding with technical expertise, innovation, and project management discipline, we are deploying our creativity to prioritize speed-to-market. With this approach, we remain meticulous and safe as we unravel the full potential of electrification and pivot toward a greener, more sustainable world.

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