Critical Raw Materials Act: The fundamental role of raw materials in driving Europe’s twin digital and green transition

On 16 March 2023, the European Commission proposed a comprehensive set of priority actions to ensure the EU’s access to a secure, diversified, affordable and sustainable supply of critical raw materials (CRMs). With the demand for CRMs expected to skyrocket, Europe needs to mitigate the risks associated with the supply chain of strategic minerals, as highlighted by shortages in the aftermath of the Covid-19 and the energy crisis. 

During the official statement, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen highlighted:  

“This Act will bring us closer to our climate ambitions. It will significantly improve the refining, processing and recycling of critical raw materials here in Europe. Raw materials are vital for manufacturing key technologies for our twin transition – like wind power generation, hydrogen storage or batteries. And we’re strengthening our cooperation with reliable trading partners globally to reduce the EU’s current dependencies on just one or a few countries. It’s in our mutual interest to ramp up production in a sustainable manner and at the same time ensure the highest level of diversification of supply chains for our European businesses.” 

What is new?

In addition to an updated list of critical raw materials, the Act presents a set of clear benchmarks for domestic capacities along the strategic raw material supply chain, and to diversity EU supply by 2030: 

  • At least 10% of the EU’s annual consumption for extraction,  
  • At least 40% of the EU’s annual consumption for processing,  
  • At least 15% of the EU’s annual consumption for recycling,  
  • Not more than 65% of the Union’s annual consumption of each strategic raw material at any relevant stage of processing from a single third country. 

Other take-aways relevant to the LiCORNE project and the entire Li supply chain

  • Investing in research, innovation, and skills: The Commission will increase the adoption and implementation of cutting-edge technology in crucial raw materials. 
  • Protecting the environment by improving circularity and sustainability of critical raw materials: Member States will need to establish and implement national measures to improve the collection and recycling of critical raw material rich waste into secondary critical raw materials. 
  • Member States and commercial operators will need to investigate the possibility to recover CRMs from extractive waste generated by current mining operations as well as historical mining waste sites.

Eurometaux’s immediate reaction, openly stated by the Director General Guy Thiran, emphasised : “Europe has a meaningful project pipeline for the mining, processing and recycling of base metals, battery materials, and rare earths (inside and outside its territory). These can be brought online by 2030 under the right conditions, adding to Europe’s existing production with the same guarantee of high climate and environmental performance. 

Although the proposed Regulation needs to pass the European Parliament‘s and the Council of the European Union’s evaluations before adoption and entry into force, the initiative sets a clear regulatory framework to support the development and the sustainable exploitation of domestic Li resources.   

Read the official press release