Metals for Clean Energy – New Study highlights EU supply risks

An independent KU Leuven study, commissioned by the EU industry, was launched today in Brussels. The study is looking at how much metal Europe could mine and refine domestically. In his keynote speech, Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market highlighted “Europe is taking its industrial destiny into its own hands including the area of raw materials.”

The study quantifying Europe’s metals needs for its 2050 climate-neutrality goal echoes IEA’s warning of supply risks for several metals needed in Europe’s energy transition away from fossil fuels. Shortfalls loom without new primary metals supply and better recycling in the system soon, endangering Europe’s goal of a more autonomous clean energy system.

The EU is dependent on the imports of many raw materials. Even though the potential for mining and quarrying in Europe is high, the needed permits are not granted, and many opportunities not seized. Liesbet Gregoir, the lead author at KU Leuven, commented: “Europe needs to decide urgently how it will bridge its looming supply gap for primary metals. Without a decisive strategy, it risks new dependencies on unsustainable suppliers”. 

Euromines underlines that the demand for raw materials will grow the more our society increases sustainability in living, working and producing toward climate neutrality by 2050. Ambitious climate targets increase demand for metals and minerals for climate technologies such as renewable energy and e-mobility.

“A paradigm shift is needed if Europe wants to develop new local supply sources with high environmental and social protections. Today we don’t see the community buy-in or the business conditions for the continent to build its own strong supply chains. The window is narrowing; projects really need to be taken forward in the next two years to be ready by 2030”. 

The European mining industry has made the circular economy one of its top priorities, working to reduce and reutilise waste, transform waste into resources, improve efficiency of raw materials usage and improve the recyclability of products made from mined minerals and metals. Eco-efficient processes and products are also one of the priorities of the sector, reducing energy and material consumption. However, recycling “will not provide a viable EU supply source to Europe’s electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy technologies until after 2040, however,” the study clarifies. “These applications and their metals are only just being put on the market and will not be available for recycling for the next 10-15 years.” 

“Without a more strategic approach to developing primary and secondary raw materials capacities in Europe, there will be no green and digital transition, no technological leadership and no resilience.” Concluded Commissioner Breton.

It’s time to act now!

The full Report is available here(link is external).

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