Sustainable supply of raw materials
To meet its climate and digital objectives, sourcing, processing and recycling critical raw materials in Europe and securing supply chains are the challenges ahead.
Lithium, cobalt and nickel are used to produce batteries; gallium is used in solar panels; raw boron is used in wind technologies; titanium and tungsten are used in the space and defence sectors.
With the European Raw Materials Act, the EU aims to ensure secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials for Europe’s industry and significantly lower the EU’s dependency on imports from single country suppliers.
European Critical Raw Materials Act’s aims
The European Critical Raw Materials Act is the basis for building up the EU’s capacities and strengthening the resilience of its critical raw material supply chains. It includes measures to:
- strengthen domestic supply chains
- reinforce international engagement to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with third countries
Key pillars of the Act
The European Critical Raw Materials Act aims to strengthen EU’s critical raw materials capacities along all stages of the value chain. It also aims to increase our resilience by reducing dependencies, increasing preparedness and promoting supply chain sustainability and circularity. It has set out four pillars to achieve this.
The Act identifies a list of critical raw materials and a list of strategic raw materials crucial for technologies for the green and digital transition, as well as for defence and space. It also sets benchmarks for domestic capacities along the strategic raw material supply chain to be reached by 2030: 10% of the EU's annual needs for extraction; 40% for processing and 15% for recycling. No more than 65% of EU’s annual needs of each strategic raw material at any relevant stage of processing should come from a single third country.
The EU must strengthen its raw materials value chain, from mining to refining to processing and recycling. This will require development of national exploration, more streamlined and predictable approach to permitting procedures, as well as improved access to finance.
This pillar focuses on improving the EU’s ability to withstand disruptions in the supply chain. It will do so by increasing the monitoring capacity through stress tests, ensuring coordinated efforts for the build-up of strategic stockpiles and fostering sustainable investment and trade.
The EU will strengthen the uptake and deployment of breakthrough technologies in critical raw materials. The establishment of a large-scale skills partnership on critical raw materials and of a Raw Materials Academy will promote skills relevant to the workforce in critical raw materials supply chains.
The recycling of raw materials must be promoted and a strong secondary market enabled. This will be achieved by encouraging the recovery of critical raw materials from extractive waste facilities and increasing efforts to mitigate adverse impacts with respect to labour rights, human rights and environmental protection. Certification schemes to increase the sustainability of critical raw materials on the EU market must also be recognised.
Raw materials and the importance of international engagement
The EU is heavily dependent on imports of critical raw materials from third countries. Our dependency, combined with the growing global demand due to the shift towards a digital and green economy makes supply chains vulnerable.
International trade is therefore essential to supporting global production and ensuring diversification of supply. The EU will seek mutually beneficial partnerships with emerging markets and developing economies, notably in the framework of its Global Gateway strategy. The EU will step up trade actions, including by establishing a Critical Raw Materials Club for all like-minded countries willing to strengthen global supply chains, strengthening the World Trade Organization (WTO), expanding its network of Sustainable Investment Facilitation Agreements and Free Trade Agreements, and combating unfair trade practices.
The EU will further develop Strategic partnerships and work with reliable partners to promote their own economic development in a sustainable manner through value chain creation in their countries, while also promoting secure, resilient, affordable and sufficiently diversified value chains for the EU.