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Trafigura CEO Jeremy Weir

Trafigura CEO Jeremy Weir

Geopolitical shocks could trigger a surge in metals prices because the market has never been tighter, according to Trafigura Group.

“We could be pushed into extreme price levels,” Jeremy Weir, the commodity trader’s chief executive officer, said at a mining conference in Saudi Arabia. “We need to address this problem now. We are at a pretty critical stage.”

His comments come as mining executives warn that much more investment is needed to ensure the world has enough supplies of energy-transition metals in the next decade.

Copper, a key industrial metal, rose to $9 000 a ton on Wednesday for the first time since June.

Minerals such as copper, cobalt and nickel are crucial for electric-vehicle batteries, wind turbines and solar farms. Supply will have to rise hugely to meet demand, Dominic Barton, chair of Rio Tinto Plc, said at the same conference.

“We don’t have enough projects going on to get close to meeting that gap,” Barton said. “I worry about short-termism in an industry that’s long-term.”

Part of the problem is that mining is seen as a dirty industry even though it’s crucial to slowing climate change, Barton added.

“We need these minerals,” he said. “But the image, it’s a stone-age image.”