Europe’s raw materials supply more secure and sustainable – awaited actions of the EC

Today, the European Commission published the fourth edition of the List of Critical Raw Materials(link is external). The communication of the list is contained in the Action Plan on critical raw materials(link is external) and is accompanied by a foresight study on critical raw materials for strategic technologies and sectors from the 2030 and 2050 perspectives(link is external).
Euromines welcomes the actions of the European Commission to reduce Europe’s dependency on third countries, diversifying supply from both primary and secondary sources and improving resource efficiency and circularity while promoting responsible sourcing worldwide. As the recognized representative of the European mineral raw materials industry covering more than 42 different metals and minerals and employing 350.000 directly and about four times as many indirectly, Euromines would like to highlight that Europe has its own mineral resources, world-class deposits and still major potential. We believe that the recent actions of the EC will help Europe become less dependent and improves its sustainable supply chains.

New entries on the EU CRM list include lithium, strontium, bauxite and titanium while helium has been removed. The CRM list therefore now includes a total of 30 materials. Specifically, the European Commission reckons that “almost 60 times more lithium and 15 times more cobalt” will be needed by 2050.
Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight said: ” A secure and sustainable supply of raw materials is a prerequisite for a resilient economy. For e-car batteries and energy storage alone, Europe will for instance need up to 18 times more lithium by 2030 and up to 60 times more by 2050. As our foresight shows, we cannot allow to replace current reliance on fossil fuels with dependency on critical raw materials. This has been magnified by the coronavirus disruptions in our strategic value chains. We will therefore build a strong alliance to collectively shift from high dependency to diversified, sustainable and socially-responsible sourcing, circularity and innovation”.

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market said: “A number of raw materials are essential for Europe to lead the green and digital transition and remain the world’s first industrial continent. We cannot afford to rely entirely on third countries – for some rare earths even on just one country. By diversifying the supply from third countries and developing the EU’s own capacity for extraction, processing, recycling, refining and separation of rare earths, we can become more resilient and sustainable. Implementing the actions that we propose today will require a concerted effort by industry, civil society, regions and Member States. We encourage the latter to include investments into critical raw materials into their national recovery plans.”

The Action Plan on CRMs addresses the current and future challenges and proposes actions to reduce Europe’s dependency on third countries. In particular, the plan aims to:

  • Develop resilient value chains for EU industrial ecosystems;
  • Reduce dependency on primary CRMs through circular use of resources, sustainable products and innovation;
  • Strengthen domestic sourcing of raw materials in the EU;
  • Diversify sourcing from third countries and remove distortions to international trade, fully respecting the EU’s international obligations.

To achieve these objectives, the communication identifies 10 actions to implement:

  1. Launch the Raw Materials Alliance, based on existing ventures to promote the development of advanced battery and hydrogen fuel technologies. Bolstering supply security for rare earth metals and elements used in magnets will be among the initial priorities, before extending to other raw material areas. The Commission’s concerns chime with those of many Member States who are promoting companies involved in strategic raw material production. But the proposals are bound to reignite the debate on how much ramping-up or reshoring of production in the EU is possible — or desirable, given the environmental damage that comes with big mining projects;
  2. Develop sustainable financing criteria for mining, extractive and processing sectors in Delegated Acts on Taxonomy by the end of 2021;
  3. Launch critical raw materials research and innovation in 2021 on waste processing, advanced materials and substitution;
  4. Map the potential supply of secondary critical raw materials from EU stocks and waste and identify viable recovery projects by 2022;
  5. Identify mining projects, investment needs and financing opportunities for CRMs by 2025;
  6.  Develop expertise and skills in mining, extraction and processing technologies from 2022;
  7. Deploy Earth-observation programmes and remote sensing for resource exploration, operations and post-closure environmental management;
  8. Develop Horizon Europe R&I projects on processes for exploration and processing of CRMs to reduce environmental impacts starting from 2021;
  9. Develop strategic international partnerships and associated funding to secure a diversified and sustainable supply of CRMs in 2021;
  10. Promote responsible mining practices for CRMs through EU regulatory framework (proposal in 2020-2021)

Figure: Semi-quantitative representation of flows of raw materials and their current supply risks to the nine selected
technologies and three sectors (based on 25 selected raw materials, see Annex 1 – Methodological notes)

Source: European Commission, Critical Raw Materials for Strategic Technologies and Sectors in the EU, A Foresight Study

To read the Press Release ‘Commission announces actions to make Europe’s raw materials supply more secure and sustainable’ (link is external)of the EC please click here(link is external).

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