EU strategic partnerships for a resilient and sustainable supply of raw materials
(Transport and Environment, 13 Nov 2023) A T&E paper analyses Europe's progress in sourcing key metals resiliently and responsibly.
When it comes to critical minerals, Europe faces a triple challenge of onshoring supply, securing diverse global markets and doing all this sustainably. As the demand for minerals such as copper and lithium used in green technologies is expected to quadruple by 2040, the EU will remain dependent on the import of raw materials from third countries for a long time.
Research shows that even if Europe fully maximises its mineral extraction, refining and recycling capabilities by 2030, more than half of critical minerals still need to come from abroad. So the challenge is to source these metals resiliently – i.e. from diverse markets – and responsible, i.e. with high social and environmental standards at the core. That’s where Europe’s new framework of “strategic partnerships” comes in. In this paper T&E analyses the progress to date and looks at what Europe needs to do to succeed.
The key challenge today is the supply of critical raw materials (CRM) from third countries is strikingly concentrated. For instance, China remains the sole supplier of processed rare earth elements to the EU, accounting for 85%-100% as of 2023.