With COP26 just completed, many countries around the globe have made commitments to decarbonise their economies. The route chosen usually involves the use of ‘renewable' energies such as wind turbines and electric vehicles, and one repeatedly sees phrases such as ‘zero-emission' or ‘carbon-free' associated with these technologies.
Adrian Finch, Professor of Geology at St Andrews, will look more critically at two consequences of these commitments and challenge some of the assumptions behind them. First, each wind turbine contains about half a tonne of the metal neodymium (Nd), of which more than 90 per cent of global demand is mined in China. Of the ore, Nd constitutes 0.1 per cent, which means that for the 500kg in each magnet, more than 500 tonnes of rock were mined, crushed and processed using diesel-driven vehicles and coal-fired power.
Second, the sudden increases in demand for critical metal resources that the world's economies would require to fulfil their pledges is unattainable unless many more critical metal mines are opened. Adrian will review the geological resources available to Europe, plus the solutions that will need to be implemented to ensure Europe is successful as a producer of critical resources.
Adrian specialises in mineralogy, petrology and geochemistry of rift-related magmas. His research focusses on describing the mineral deposits which form in rift environments, which include rare earths, niobium and tantalum. He works by explaining the shape and grade of the deposit and by developing models of how they formed and has worked on alkaline rocks from all over the world (from Mongolia and Malawi to Greenland) with a particular reputation for fieldwork in the Arctic.
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