Europe's raw material supply


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.” With these words of caution from Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight, the European Commission presented on September 3, 2020 an Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, the list of critical raw materials for 2020 and a foresight study on critical raw materials for strategic technologies and sectors from the perspective of 2030 and 2050.

The security of supply of raw materials to EU industry is not a new issue and has been actively promoted by the EU since 1970. However, new problems and challenges are arising in the course of digitisation and electrification. The European Green Deal and the new EU industry strategy recognise that access to resources has become a strategic security issue in order to make green and digital change a success. The corona crisis in particular highlights many problems of current supply chains and existing dependencies, which is particularly critical in public security sectors and other strategic areas. Europe must make a long-term effort to develop open strategic autonomy and diversify the supply of raw materials.

The Action Plan presented addresses current and future challenges and proposes measures to reduce Europe's dependence on third countries, to diversify supply from both primary and secondary sources and to improve resource efficiency and the cycle, while promoting responsible procurement worldwide. In addition, the list of critical raw materials has been updated to reflect the changing economic importance and supply challenges based on their industrial application. It contains 30 critical raw materials. Lithium, for example, which is essential for a switch to e -mobility, has been added to the list for the first time.

To implement the action plan, the Commission outlined ten concrete measures. In the coming weeks, for example, the Commission is to establish a European Raw Materials Alliance, in particular to strengthen the EU's resilience in the value chains of rare earths and magnets, as this is crucial for most of the EU's industrial ecosystems, such as renewable energies, defense and space.

It also aims to make better use of domesticresources. To this end, the Commission will work with Member States and regions to identify mining and processing projects in the EU that can be brought into operation by 2025. The Commission will promote the use of its Kopernikus Earth Observation programme to improve resource exploration, operations, and environmental management after closure. At the same time, Horizon Europe will support research and innovation, particularly with regard to new mining and processing technologies, substitution and recycling.

The Commission will also develop sustainable funding criteria for the mining and extractive industries by the end of 2021. It will also map the potential of critical secondary raw materials from EU stocks and waste to identify viable recovery projects by 2022.

Also essential is the development of strategic international partnerships to ensure the supply of critical raw materials not found in Europe. Pilot partnerships with Canada, interested countries in Africa and in the EU's neighborhood will start in 2021. In these and other forums for international cooperation, the Commission will promote sustainable and responsible mining practices and transparency.


Related links:

Commission Press Release.

Action Plan.