Battery Metals – Challenges and Skills Gaps

4 Minutes

The battery metals market is growing at an impressive rate, with the worth of the market set to reach $25 - $27 billion USD by 2031. This growth is driven by the increased demand for battery use across renewable energy storage and electric powered vehicles - both commercial and domestic use plus consumer electronics and devices. The battery metals in highest demand include; nickel, lithium, cobalt, manganese and graphite.

The battery metals industry is striving to achieve a more circular economy and is focused on solutions through battery recycling and developments in technology to make extraction, and processing more effective. While the industry faces certain challenges, through responsible processes and innovation, the future of the battery metals market can be more sustainable and efficient.

Across the battery metals space, there is vast research and innovation in play, with industry leading organisations focused on developing advancements in battery metals, and significant private and government investment in battery start-ups. 

Current challenges encountered by the battery metals industry

The battery metals industry is experiencing significant growth and advancement, a vital player in the energy transition and demand rapidly ramping up. However, there are complex and substantial challenges that are impacting the industries ability to push forward. 

Lauren Allanson, Principal Consultant in Battery Metals at CSG Talent recently discussed challenges and future considerations across the battery metals landscape and the role the UK is playing in the journey of decarbonisation with Jennifer Channel, Commercial & Partnerships Lead at Anaphite.

In the podcast Jennifer and Lauren talked through the challenge of translating research results into commercialised products in the battery metals industry, the skills gaps in operating large-scale battery manufacturing facilities and the pressing need for a comprehensive training infrastructure to develop a skilled battery workforce. 

Listen to the full podcast here – Sparking Change: A deep dive into the UK battery landscape

Below, we highlight some of the core challenges facing the battery metals industry including environmental impact, technology limitations and skills shortages.

Environmental Impact of the battery metals industry

Like many other mining materials processes, there can be a significant negative impact on the environment to mine common battery metals. Battery metals businesses are exploring new ways to reduce the impact on the environment, decrease pollution caused by mining metals and reduce the use of hazardous materials. 

In some areas, there are ethical issues with safety of mining workers, labour practices and child labour – this is an ongoing concern for the industry and an area of focus to address and make positive steps forward across all regions impacted. 

Limitations with digital technology

Technology utilised within the battery metals market means that battery recycling rates are much lower than they could be, this hinders sustainability practices and results in the loss of metals and increased number of new mines developed, having a huge impact on the environment. The process of recycling battery metals is high in cost, extremely cost effective and methods have low success rates. More needs to be done to enhance technologies to make the process of battery recycling more effective and sustainable going forward.

Current battery technology limits the range of electric vehicles, which results in less adoption across the market. With advanced technology, energy density can be improved and increased range and charge will result. Alongside this, impurities within battery metals can impact battery performance, with advancements in purification techniques and technologies impurities can be traced and removed more effectively, resulting in higher performing and safer batteries.

Supply Chain issues within battery metals

Many sources of battery metals are in far-out regions across the globe, this results in a huge global supply chain with metals travelling significant distances for processing and refining. A large portion of battery metals come from regions of instability which can also pose risks to disruptions with the supply chain. 

With the increased demand from the EV market and renewable energy storage, we’re experiencing a supply and demand issue with core metals such as cobalt, lithium and nickel. With the development of mines in these areas at a much slower pace in comparison to the demand, the industry is experiencing shortages which is having an impact on the cost of materials and processes.

Skills gaps in the battery metals space

Skills gaps are prevalent across all areas withing mining and battery metals, it’s becoming an increasing challenge for business leaders to obtain the talent needed to drive innovation and business growth and this will pose a challenge in the coming years too.

Jennifer Channel, Commercial & Partnerships Lead at Anaphite shared her thoughts on skills gaps in the UK; “We’re going to need thousands of trained people to operate gigafactories on a large scale. In the UK, there's only one Gigafactory operating in the Northeast, but we're going to see many more come online over the next decade or so. Putting in place the right skills infrastructure to help facilitate this level of training is going to be key.”

Another solution to tackling skills shortages is to tap into skillsets from allied industries, allowing businesses the opportunity to attract talent with transferable skills that can add value to their business, without necessarily having direct industry experience. 

Wenqing Su – VP of Global Projects at Ascend Elements highlighted the areas he has seen this work well; “Chemical Engineers and professionals from the solar industry can make a smooth transition, the core principals are similar, and their existing knowledge can be readily applied. Despite the significant skills gaps, the battery metals industry is on the right track. The US has the potential to close the gap with China who are much further ahead with battery metals. Companies like Ascend Elements are at the forefront of innovation and with time and investment, we can create a more sustainable future powered by efficient battery technology.”

Sophie O’Mahoney, Head of Research at CSG Talent spoke with Wenqing Su – VP of Global Capital Projects at Ascend Elements, a battery metals start-up on a recent episode of our podcast – Conversations with CSG: From Battlefield to Boardroom

Connect with an executive recruiter

At CSG Talent, our expert battery metals team are inundated with job opportunities within the battery metals space, working with a range of organisations from huge global players to smaller start-ups new to market with exciting and innovative technologies in battery metal production and recycling. If you’re looking for your new career opportunity in the Battery Metals space, explore our current vacancies, alternatively if you’re keen to hear talent insights and market information from our expert recruiters or talk through effective hiring strategies, get in touch.