Sustainable governance of scarce metals: The case of lithium

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Journal Article
Science of the Total Environment, 2013, 461-462 pp. 785 - 791
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Minerals and metals are finite resources, and recent evidence suggests that for many, primary production is becoming more difficult and more expensive. Yet these resources are fundamentally important for society-they support many critical services like infrastructure, telecommunications and energy generation. A continued reliance on minerals and metals as service providers in modern society requires dedicated and concerted governance in relation to production, use, reuse and recycling. Lithium provides a good example to explore possible sustainable governance strategies. Lithium is a geochemically scarce metal (being found in a wide range of natural systems, but in low concentrations that are difficult to extract), yet recent studies suggest increasing future demand, particularly to supply the lithium in lithium-ion batteries, which are used in a wide variety of modern personal and commercial technologies. This paper explores interventions for sustainable governance and handling of lithium for two different supply and demand contexts: Australia as a net lithium producer and Switzerland as a net lithium consumer. It focuses particularly on possible nation-specific issues for sustainable governance in these two countries' contexts, and links these to the global lithium supply chain and demand scenarios. The article concludes that innovative business models, like 'servicizing' the lithium value chain, would hold sustainable governance advantages for both producer and consumer countries. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
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