What are the biggest ESG concerns for Europe and the wider lithium industry today?

This video interview with Minviro’s sustainability manager, Laurens Tijsseling, covers the greatest ESG risks to the global and European EV battery supply chain

In this video interview with Laurens Tijsseling, sustainability manager for Minviro, we asked him about three key topics of concern for the lithium and battery raw materials industry, these were:

  • The biggest environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns for the lithium industry
  • The greatest ESG risks to the European electric vehicle (EV) battery supply chain
  • What are the latest technologies that help to minimize the environmental impact of lithium extraction?

Watch the full video interview with Laurens or read the key takeaways below.

What are the biggest ESG concerns for the lithium industry?

The biggest issue with ESG is that people don’t understand what it means. It’s being used as a marketing tool, rather than actually something to understand the impacts of processes or projects, or what to invest in.

The second is the aversion to technological risk. The lithium resource boom we’re having is coming out because we need to decarbonize the whole world we live in. That means that if we use the same technologies to produce lithium chemicals that we have done in the past, nothing’s going to change. So, in order for companies to get really environmentally friendly and get the regional community on board – which would be part of the social aspect – they need to really become accepting of technological risk.

What are the biggest ESG risks to the European EV battery supply chain?

Everyone thinks that domestic supply generally has a lower environmental impact than an international supply. That’s not always the case. For example, if you were to get spodumene – a lithium-containing mineral – from Australia, you would ship it to Europe and convert it to a lithium chemical. There could still be a lower environmental impact than if you would potentially get it from within Europe, given the vast number of variables that contribute to the final environmental impact, including regional energy supplies and reagent sources.

We need to think about it from an integral perspective, and then we see these three key risks to the European EV battery supply chain:

  1. Life cycle assessment: Misunderstandings of domestic supply impacts are related to a lack of consistency in existing environmental studies – LCA provides a globally recognized, ISO-compliant framework to analyze products in any commodity sector in a robust, comprehensive manner.
  2. Governance and policy: The EU is pushing for more batteries to be made domestically, but this doesn’t mean the process will be more environmentally friendly.
  3. Increase in demand: To meet this, assets need to be developed with environmentally informed decision-making and lifecycle thinking.

What are some of the latest technologies that help to minimize the environmental impact of lithium extraction?

1. Electric calcining: Spodumene crystals need to be calcined in order for the lithium to be extracted out of the mineral.

Electrification really is the holy grail when it comes to decarbonizing the world that we live in. So, if you can open up the spodumene rocks to get the lithium using electricity, that’s perfect for when it comes to sustainable production.

2. Using electrolysis to produce lithium chemicals: Instead of using the traditional thermal and chemical intensive process you actually start using electricity.

Visit our dedicated battery raw materials page to discover more insights on the factors at play in the industry in 2022 and beyond.

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