Commodity prices influence the development of climate change mitigation technology in the mining industry

“The goal of CCMT development is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impact we have on the environment,” Hidemichi Fujii, lead author of the report, said in a press release. “A good way to analyze how an industry’s technology is developing is to look at patent filings over time. Our team analyzed patent data from 2001 to 2016 from seven regions to calculate three main indicators of CCMT development in the industry for each region: priority, mining, and scale.”

Fujii explained that the “priority” indicator is the number of CCMT mining-related patents divided by the number of patents in the entire mining industry. That proportion would increase if inventors prioritized research on CCMT.

Commodity prices influence the development of climate change mitigation technology in the mining industry
Although the number of mining patents (orange) and CCMT (blue) increased in resource consuming and producing regions, the increase was not uniform. (Image courtesy of Kyushu University/Fujii Lab/Science Graphics).

‘Mining’ was defined as the number of patents related to the mining industry divided by the total number of patents overall. This number indicates how much inventors concentrate their efforts on developing technology for the mining industry itself.

Finally, ‘scale’ was defined as the total number of patents, which represents the total amount of research and development.

“We use these indicators to analyze the mining industry in seven major countries and regions: China, Japan, the US, Europe, Latin America, Australia and South Africa. The first four have major patent offices, while the last three are major mining regions,” said Fuji. “Through our analysis, we found several interesting trends.”

For example, while both general mining patents and mining CCMT patents grew across the board, the rate and pattern of those trends differ if a country consumes or produces resources. The latter exhibited larger shifts in R&D priorities in response to surges in commodity prices such as rare earth metals and oil.

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Further analysis showed that the development of mining CCMT patents in the US, Europe, Latin America and Australia was facilitated by a relative increase in R&D related to mining technology. Japan and South Africa have increased their focus on R&D for both mining and related CCMTs, while reducing the overall scale of their R&D. On the other hand, China and the rest of the world have increased the scale of their R&D, which in turn drives the invention of more green technology.

“Year-by-year analysis showed that the Paris Agreement contributed to an overall increase in green technology in the mining sector. Increases in metal prices also contributed to the number of patents for the industry,” said Fujii.

Following these findings, the team hopes that both countries and the mining industry will implement effective policies that promote the development of CCMT for the industry.

“The differences and similarities in R&D strategies can be used as a starting point to formulate country-specific science and technology policies that can combat the climate crisis,” Fujii noted. “At the same time, they can make the most effective use of capital and promote regulations that ensure fair wages based on experience and skill.”

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