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Will Critical Minerals Get Their Own OPEC?

The metals and critical minerals that are needed for the transition to a net-zero economy are largely concentrated in only a handful of countries, raising the likelihood that those suppliers could form a new global cartel. Such a development would have major adverse implications for global markets.

MUNICH – We know that the future will be powered by metals, but it remains to be seen if those metals will be fenced in by iron curtains. After all, most critical minerals come from only a handful of countries: China controls nearly all heavy rare-earth materials (including 91% of magnesium and 76% of silicon metal), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accounts for over 60% of the global cobalt market, and South Africa controls 71% of the world’s platinum supply.

These metals and critical minerals are crucial for the green transition, because they are used in everything from electric vehicles to wind turbines. The International Energy Agency estimates that the global critical minerals market already doubled over the past five years, and will (at least) double again by 2040, owing to rising demand for EVs, battery storage, low-emissions power generation, and electricity networks.

The DRC, Chile, Peru, China, Russia, South Africa, and even Australia all stand to benefit from surging demand for critical raw materials. With every other country determined to secure its own supply, mineral-rich ones could follow the OPEC model and try to form an Organization of Metal-Exporting Countries (OMEC).