We believe the initiative is very timely considering last year’s awakening of supply deficiencies due to the pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fact that other world regions and economies are strategically stepping up efforts to secure their own supply or further concentrate their market-dominant position. This could increase the EU’s vulnerabilities and structural supply risks. The absence of a coherent EU raw materials policy fostering EU production with an internal mining and external trading dimension could affect the EU’s ability to achieve the green and digital transition.
To ensure and increase the domestic supply of strategically important raw materials, we believe that facilitation through guidance and incentivization to expand and open mining operations in Europe, paired with a level playing field in state aid provisions for environment and climate protection costs throughout the mining value chain from exploration to processing is needed.
Fostering the license to operate for mining (legal and political)
- Lack of investment in mineral exploration and later lengthy, unforeseeable, and complex permitting procedures hinder the uptake of mining projects in the EU. We urge the Commission to model guidance to policies similar to the provisions of the Trans European Network Regulation for Energy infrastructure to facilitate permitting procedures by providing a general interpretation of the EU legal framework, ensuring that raw material projects receive adequate funding when venture capital is not sufficient and bringing raw materials into the scope of projects of overriding public interest (IROPI).
State aid and OPEX Level Playing field
- To ensure long-term investment certainty for raw materials mining in Europe and to keep supply chains in the Single Market, certain state aid provisions will be necessary for primary raw materials extraction to be able to model OPEX within a reasonable margin of fluctuation to be competitive on and in global markets. This pertains in particular to indirect CO2 cost compensation and CEEAG.
Interaction of the Raw Materials Act with other policy areas
- Raw materials mining and production is an energy-intensive process that is limited and hampered by the current energy price crisis. While REPowerEU provides some references to the raw material needs for the roll-out of its objectives, the interaction between raw materials provisions and REPowerEU objectives remains rather vague in as much as high energy prices are not being tackled. In addition, we urge that the CRM-Act will be accompanied by guidance for interpreting the EU environmental acquis to ensure a streamlined and efficient permitting procedure.
- In line with the Commission’s Better Regulation agenda, we urge to refrain from using this mandate to add additional layers of regulation but follow the one-in-one-out approach. Moreover, a “raw materials check” for new legislation should be introduced to avoid a legislative burden that could weaken domestic raw materials production and would contradict the aim of the EU raw materials policy.
Identification of priorities and objectives for improving the security of supply to European industries – how to future-proof the Critical Raw Material Act
- Widen the scope to strategic materials rather than only what is critical today. We call for an industrial eco-system-based approach that takes into account all materials and the whole production value chain (exploration, mining, processing and recycling) necessary to achieve a solid degree of autonomy for strategic sectors (e.g. clean energy technologies, defence, micro-electronics, fertilisers).
- Build up a long-term EU pipeline for future primary production; focus on facilitating and attracting investments in exploration and mining in Europe.
- Apply the TEN-E principles of PCI and IROPI to mining and raw material projects
Monitoring and data exchange: the need for an EU Raw Materials Agency/Governance
- To avoid data-silos and adequate monitoring for the Single Market on raw materials, a fully equipped EU raw materials agency/governance could better provide the needed services and support the data exchanges between national agencies.
- The agency/governance should be tasked to promote EU raw materials projects, with a particular focus on the development and production of raw materials within the EU. This must go hand in hand with a mandate to inform about and increase the public standing and acceptance of the EU mining industry.
- Also, the agency could support and incentivize increased mineral exploration projects (e.g. funding).