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Industry Insight - Sustainability Analyst, Interview with Oliver Heathman, Roskill

Oliver Heathman, Sustainability and Cost Analysis Manager at Roskill, spoke with Chairs of the CMA’s public perception of mining group Lucy Crane, Cornish Lithium and Ben Lepley, SRK Consulting, as part of their conversations with people working across industries related to critical minerals.

The interview examines the current demand context for critical raw materials and electric vehicle trends, how the industry is responding to the challenges in meeting this demand, and what this means for jobs in the critical resources industry. Oliver Heathman discusses his role at Roskill, a commodity consultancy which evaluates critical mineral supply chains from the resource discovery, through to the mining, refining and eventually to the consumption of those materials.

'When I left school, I was unaware of this whole industry of people working to evaluate, study and undertake desk based work on mining and metals. There is not much field work, but still lots of travel opportunities. My role requires a different skillset - more of an analytical one. I don't know where my rock hammer is but I'm pretty well versed in Excel!' - Oliver

Oliver studied Geology at Bristol University, has a Masters in Mining Geology from Camborne School of Mines, and moved on to doing commodity research in London. His current role involves evaluating the mineral supply chain by looking at the cost of building and producing new mining and refining assets. More recently, he is working to quantify the sustainability implications and concerns across various supply routes.

The Critical Raw Materials and Electric Vehicle Demand Context

At Roskill, there is a large focus within the critical minerals base on battery raw material supply chains, and the supply chains of other metals such as rare earths that are used for technology like motors. Currently, there has been an unprecedented increase in demand for battery raw materials, mainly to support the growth in electric vehicle demand. This demand is expected to reach 30 million electric vehicles, or vehicles with some electric components, produced per year which will all require some form of battery in them. This has put a significant amount of pressure on the demand for battery materials, particularly lithium and nickel which form a key component of these battery chemistries.

How is the Industry Responding this Growth in Demand?

With the lithium industry, an industry that was once niche in its applications, the growth in electric vehicle demand has meant the sector will consume 90% of all lithium produced. This requires a dramatic increase in supply over the next ten years, which can only be supported by strong investment in exploration and project development. This doesn’t come without its challenges, as pricing can become volatile.

New sources of lithium must also be developed, and we have seen a change in how supply is valued over the last few years. Whereas before, one would just think of the lowest cost of producing a mineral, and now, people are more concerned with the sustainability of the supply chain. This is not just from a cost perspective, or regional supply security, but also concerning the environmental footprint of the supply chain. This has been demonstrated by the increase of projects incorporating innovation to lower their CO2 footprint. Innovation is critical for the battery sector in order to meet the increase in demand sustainably.

What does this mean for Industry Jobs?

Traditionally, one would have looked at projects from an engineering standpoint, which is still the case, but now there is an added component of having to understand and evaluate a project from economic, social and environmental sustainability aspects. Thus, the skills, expertise and experience needed in industry jobs will evolve in order to ensure sustainable sourcing of critical minerals in the future.

Thanks Oliver! Find out more about Roskill here.

Article by Phoebe Dawes, MSc Environment & Development, King's College London

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