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European Commission sets up an action plan on critical raw materials

The European Commission wants to secure the supply of critical raw materials (photo: C.Garcia)
The European Commission wants to secure the supply of critical raw materials (photo: C.Garcia)
EU. The European Commission wants to make the supply of critical raw materials in Europe more secure and sustainable for strategic technologies and sectors by 2030 and 2050. This will be based on three pillars: an action plan, a list and a prospective study.

Presented on Thursday 3 November 2020, the action plan on critical raw materials "examines current and future challenges and proposes measures to reduce Europe's dependency on third countries, diversify primary and secondary sources of supply and improve resource efficiency and circularity, while promoting responsible supply worldwide", as highlighted in a European Commission press release. It is based on ten concrete actions and the establishment of a European alliance for raw materials.

The disruptions during the coronavirus crisis raised this need to secure strategic value chains. "We will therefore build a strong alliance to move collectively from a high level of dependence on diversified, sustainable and socially responsible supply, to circularity and innovation," comments Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President in charge of inter-institutional relations and foresight. The transition to a green and digital economy should help all this.

"A number of raw materials are essential if Europe is to play a leading role in the green and digital transition and remain the world's leading industrial continent," says internal market commissioner Thierry Breton. We cannot afford to rely entirely on third countries - or even, in the case of some rare earths, on a single country," he said. By diversifying supply from third countries and developing the EU's own capacity to extract, process, recycle, refine and separate rare earths, we can build up our resilience and sustainability".

Thirty critical raw materials identified

The Action Plan will develop resilient value chains for EU industrial ecosystems, reduce dependence on critical primary raw materials, strengthen their supply on the EU internal market and diversify supply from third countries while eliminating distortions in international trade.

Revised every three years since the first published in 2011, the EU list identifies 30 critical raw materials (see table below). It includes four new entries, including lithium. This alkaline metal is essential for a transition to electromobility. "For electric car batteries and energy storage alone, Europe will need, for example, 18 times more lithium by 2030 and up to 60 times more by 2050. As our prospective study shows, the current dependence on fossil fuels must not be replaced by a dependence on critical raw materials", stresses Maroš Šefčovič.

As for the prospective study, it will identify mining and processing projects within the European Union for a better use of domestic resources. As well as the possibilities for the supply of critical secondary raw materials from EU stocks and waste.
The Copernicus earth observation programme will be used "to improve resource exploration, operations and post-closure environmental management", says a commission statement.

The 2020 list of critical raw materials (in bold the news compared to 2017)

Antimony Hafnium Phosphorus
Baryte Heavy rare earths Scandium
Beryllium Light rare earths Silicon metal
Bismuth Indium Tantalum
Borate Magnesium Tungstene
Cobalt Natural graphite Vanadium
Coking coal Natural rubber Bauxite
Fluorspar Niobium Lithium
Gallium Platinoids Titanium
Germanium Natural Phosphate Strontium

Source : European Commission

Major supplier countries of critical raw materials to the EU (source European Commission)

Frédéric Dubessy

Thursday, September 3rd 2020

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