The Good Times
Currently New Zealand is looking down the barrel of an economic crisis due to the advent of the Coronavirus.
We as a country will get through this crisis but we are facing some serious pressure on our economy as a result of the lockdown and controls put in place to fight this pandemic.
So why am I writing about the good times at this present point in time when we as a country are facing some of our worst economic times?
The reasoning being that we need to be planning now for how we are going to combat the downturn in our economy as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The government has spoken about the use of major infrastructure projects as a means of kick-starting our economy and this is good for the extractive industries as we well know that all infrastructure projects start with a demand for our products.
Then on top of that we have the move to a Green Economy through the use of Green Technology.
There are many people in New Zealand proposing a move to a much greener economy particularly within the Greens Party.
They all seem to believe that a move to alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar electricity are the future for our country with the resultant moves away from the use of fossil fuels.
The concept of this green technology is one that is promoted by many politicians across all of the political parties but like a lot of political concepts that are not well thought out they can often come with some perverse outcomes.
This is why I am writing this article. As a person who has spent many years working in the extractive industries (mainly quarrying), I see huge benefits for my chosen field of employment from the proposed shift away from the non-renewable resources (such as fossil fuels) and into the renewable energy field.
You may ask why would a quarryman be looking forward to such a change, and what do I stand to gain from it?
The “Green Economy” is a concept that is cherished across the political spectrum.
The interesting thing with it is that the increased use of green technology will require a serious increase in mining.
The first answer is that such a shift to renewable energy such as solar & wind electricity generation requires a lot of infrastructure for the energy produced when compared to the high-intensity sources of electricity generation such as fossil fuels or nuclear generation.
In the November 2013 edition of the Nature Geoscience International Journal an article by French academics Olivier Vidal, Bruno Goffé and Nicholas Arndt it was stated that “Humankind faces a vicious circle: a shift to renewable energy will replace one non-renewable resource [fossil fuels] with another [metals and minerals].”
Even though the fuel itself (solar or wind energy) is free the infrastructure required to allow the use of this free fuel to carry out the generation of electricity will require a huge increase in the winning of the materials to build that infrastructure.
For facilities that produce the same generation capacity (as fossil fuels) from solar and wind generation, experts have predicted that they will require the following:
- up to 15 times more concrete
- 90 times more aluminium &
- 50 times more iron copper and glass
It has also been predicted that the world will be increasing production from the current levels of approximately 500 terawatt-hours up to 25,000 terawatt-hours of electricity from solar and wind generation by the year 2050.
The building of the infrastructure to produce this level of electrical generation just from solar and wind is predicted to require the following amount of materials:
- 3,200million tonnes of steel
- 310million tonnes of aluminium
- 40million tonnes of copper
- 800million tonnes of glass
- 20billion tonnes of concrete; &
- An unknown amount of precious metals (gold, silver and platinum) and rare earth elements.
- An unknown but huge amount of coal.
- A huge increase in electricity to process all of the ores to produce the base materials to manufacture the entire mechanical infrastructure.
To provide this amount of material it is predicted that there will be a requirement for a 5-20% increase in global mining production over the next forty years.
So now it is obvious to all why I am looking forward to the change to renewable energy as it is going to help ensure the future for my industry for many years to come. It will require an annual increase in mining/quarrying production to meet this demand.
Certainly the figures that I have quoted above are based on a world-wide increase in the use of renewable energy for electricity generation.
Given the current New Zealand government’s moves away from the use of fossil fuels for generation of electricity, the ban on any further oil or gas exploration and the ban on any further hydro-electric generation we will need to develop much more capacity for renewable fuelled generation from solar and wind power.
This development of infrastructure for green generation of electricity has already shown from current completed projects around wind farms, that it has the ability to significantly increase demand for quarry products.
With the benefit of hindsight and looking back a couple of years to the situation where New Zealand was almost totally reliant on fossil fuelled generation from the lack of hydro generation capacity due to drought conditions and taking into account current global warming effects, we are going to need to develop a significant increase in renewable generation if we are going to keep the lights on in the future.
So we can kick-start the economy by developing major infrastructure projects & developing much greater use of green technology and let the Good Times begin for the Extractive Industries.