Unearthing the Future

Mining is one of the world’s oldest industries. There is evidence that humans were digging for coal more than 20,000 years ago. Civilizations were excavating metals as early as 8,000 BCE.

Interestingly, this most ancient of endeavors is critical to the economy of the future. Adapting to climate change and applying artificial intelligence (AI) will require lots of essential minerals. Natural and strategic limitations on mining may slow technological process in the years ahead.

Mining directly accounts for about 7% of global gross domestic product (GDP). But the World Economic Forum estimates that mining output is essential to almost half of global GDP. A look at the cutting edge of commerce illustrates why.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are thought to be the wave of the future for ground transportation. EVs account for an increasing share of car sales, but many motorists suffer from “range anxiety,” a fear of losing power before reaching destinations. In most countries, networks of charging stations are insufficient. Some homes can accommodate chargers on the premises, but millions park streetside where it is difficult to plug in.

Energy transition is another high-priority global economic initiative. Curtailing carbon emissions has prompted the development of alternative sources of power. Wind and solar generation are intermittent and cannot fully replace conventional energy without cells to store excess production. Transmitting this power to electric grids requires an extensive network of repositories.