EU presents new strategy on 'critical raw materials'

The European Commission on Thursday announced plans to diversify its access to rare earth materials used in producing "strategic technologies" and consumer goods like smart phones, electric cars and televisions.

Around 98% of rare earth minerals used in the EU come from China. Chile supplies 78% of Lithium, and South Africa 71% of platinum.

The EU said it is concerned over dependence on a few countries for raw materials that present a high supply risk.

By 2050, the EU will need around 60 times more lithium, essential for e-mobility, and 15 times more cobalt, which is used in electric car batteries.

Read more: What's the science on deep-sea mining for rare metals?

Also, the EU could need ten times more rare earth minerals which are used for permanent magnets in electric vehicles, digital devices or wind generators.

'Unsustainable' dependence

With its "Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials," the EU aims to strengthen sourcing of raw materials from within the EU and diversify sourcing from third countries.

"We have to drastically change our approach,'' said Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic.

"We are largely dependent on unsustainable raw materials from countries with much lower environmental and social standards, less freedoms and poor, unsustainable economies," he added.

Read more: The batteries of the future — Can sodium replace lithium?

The strategy will set up a "European Raw Materials Alliance," comprising of industry stakeholders, the European Investment Bank and representatives of EU member states to help secure and diversify raw mineral supply chains. The Commission also said it will work with member states to identify mining and processing projects in the EU that can start work by 2025.

Delivering the Green Deal

Access to resources is a "strategic security question for Europe's ambition to deliver the Green Deal," the Commission said in a brief.

Read more: EU lauds new Green Deal as Europe's 'man on moon moment'

The EU also intends to improve its exploitation of secondary raw materials with methods to reuse, repair and recycle products that contain rare earth minerals.

"We need to make better use of the resources within the European Union, where we would apply the highest environmental and social standards,'' Sefcovic said.

wmr/dj (AP, dpa)

Updated : 2021-01-21 07:08 GMT+08:00