Financial Mirror (Cyprus)

Mining critical to Europe’s energy transition

- By Mark Rachovides Mark Rachovides is President of Euromines, Chair of Venus Minerals

Launched in 2019, the European Green Deal – a series of policies to make the EU climate neutral by 2050 – is well underway, though many fail to acknowledg­e that achieving its objectives requires access to large quantities of raw materials, especially those necessary for clean technologi­es.

To compound the challenge further, the Covid-pandemic and the disruption it caused to the global supply chain exposed Europe’s dependency on third countries for the raw materials the bloc needs to power its green transition.

The war in Ukraine is expected to make the situation even worse.

Over the past two years, the European Commission has increasing­ly turned its attention towards strengthen­ing the sustainabl­e and responsibl­e domestic sourcing and processing of raw materials in the European Union.

In 2020, the Commission published an Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, a List of Critical Raw Materials, and a foresight study on critical raw materials for strategic technologi­es and sectors from the 2030 and 2050 perspectiv­es.

Later the same year, it also set up the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA), an organisati­on tasked with securing the EU’s raw material supply by identifyin­g investment opportunit­ies for sustainabl­e and socially responsibl­e access to raw materials from primary and secondary sources within the bloc.

A year later, the Commission sat down with the Raw Materials Supply Group (including Member States, regional authoritie­s, industry associatio­ns, civil society, social partners, and research organisati­ons) to develop a set of nonbinding EU principles for sustainabl­e raw materials.

EU principles for sustainabl­e raw materials apply to the extraction and processing stages of non-energy raw materials and the entire minerals value chain lifecycle, from exploratio­n to post-closure, and the production of secondary raw materials from extractive waste streams such as waste rocks and processing waste/tailings.

They are built upon existing EU legislatio­n on sustainabi­lity and focus on social, ecological, and economic aspects and sustainabl­e corporate governance.

The volatility of the global supply chain over the past year, caused initially by the pandemic and subsequent­ly by the war in Ukraine, has proven that the EU can no longer depend on third countries for critical raw materials.

The new principles give the mining industry the tools to move forward with mining projects in Europe responsibl­y and sustainabl­y.

While we are seeing some traction on the matter at the EU level, member states are still hesitant about opening new mines.

This is primarily due to how the public perceives mining. However, the continent’s transition to a Green Economy will not succeed if Europe does not ensure uninterrup­ted access to critical raw materials.

Copper is needed for electricit­y grids; lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese are essential for batteries and electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, rare earth elements (REEs) are needed for permanent magnets in wind technologi­es.

China’s current de-facto monopoly in mining and processing critical minerals means that economic or geopolitic­al shocks can easily disrupt supply.

This issue is even more pressing if we consider that of the 30 raw materials the EU classifies as critical, 19 are predominan­tly imported from China.

And this dependency could increase even more in the future.

Europe needs to strengthen its strategic autonomy.

While enhancing supply security and diversifyi­ng imports is important, the EU must also step up its mining and processing activities.

For this to happen, policymake­rs and the mining industry need to address the public acceptance problem by having open and honest conversati­ons with environmen­tal groups and civil society organisati­ons.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus