Europe seeks to secure its raw material supply chain

08 September 2020 | Muriel Cozier

‘We cannot afford to rely entirely on third countries for some rare earths.’

The European Commission has set out an action plan to ensure that its supply of raw materials, critical for the blocs green and digital transition, is secure and sustainable. The list of Europe’s critical raw materials has also been updated to include lithium for the first time. Lithium is essential for the shift to increased battery use.

The so called Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials has a number of aims. These aims include: reducing the dependency on primary critical raw materials through circular use of resources, sustainable products and innovation and strengthening domestic sourcing of raw materials in the EU.

Ten ‘concrete actions’ have been outlined to achieve these aims. The first of these is establishing a European Raw Materials Alliance. This will bring together relevant stakeholders and focus on increasing the EU’s resilience in the ‘rare earth and magnet value chains,’ vital for most of the EU’s industrial ecosystems such as renewable energy, defence and space.

The Commission will also work with Member States to identify mining and processing projects that can become operational by 2025. A special focus will be on coal-mining regions and others in transition to cleaner products.

The Commission will also promote the use of its earth observation programme, Copernicus, to improve resource exploration, operations and post-closure environmental management. In line with the European Green Deal other actions will address circularity and sustainability of the raw materials value chain.  Strategic international partnerships, to secure critical raw materials, will also be developed. Pilot partnerships with Canada, African countries and the EU’s neighbours will start in 2021.

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. By diversifying the supply…we can become more resilient and sustainable.’

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