The Availability of Critical Minerals for China’s Renewable Energy Development: An Analysis of Physical Supply

  • Jianliang WangEmail author
  • Lifang Yang
  • Jingli Lin
  • Yongmei Bentley
Original Paper


In the context of depletion of fossil energy and environmental impacts of its use, society has begun to develop vigorously renewable energy (RE). As a result, concerns about the availability of critical minerals used in RE systems have been raised. This paper uses a generalized Weng model to analyze the long-term production of critical minerals for China’s RE development. In our pessimistic case, the results show that the production of most of the minerals investigated for China will peak before 2030, with a relatively high decline rate thereafter. This is an unsustainable situation for China’s RE development unless large and growing quantities of these minerals can be imported. In our optimistic case, although this delays the peak date only slightly, it significantly increases the maximum production rate and lowers the subsequent decline rate. The impacts of many other factors on production, and the implications of China’s domestic minerals production on world’s minerals supply chain, are also analyzed. We conclude that both China and the world should pay close attention to the potential supply risks to critical minerals. Possible measures in response are suggested for both China and the world.


Resource availability Renewable energy Minerals Supply 



This research has been supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 71874201, 71503264, 71673297, and 71874202) and the Humanities and Social Sciences Youth Foundation of the Ministry of Education of China (Grant No. 19YJCZH106). We also received helpful comments from Dr Roger Bentley of the Petroleum Analysis Centre, Ireland, and from anonymous reviewers.


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© International Association for Mathematical Geosciences 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Economics and ManagementChina University of PetroleumBeijingChina
  2. 2.Research Center for China’s Oil and Gas Industry DevelopmentChina University of PetroleumBeijingChina
  3. 3.Business SchoolUniversity of BedfordshireLutonUK

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