A lot is happening in the EU linked to raw materials and self-sufficiency right now. In September, the EU released the updated list of critical materials and in connection with it both an action plan and a future study. Svemin’s CEO Maria Sunér Fleming on Sweden’s role when the EU initiates several measures, future needs and on the EU’s raw materials alliance, ERMA
What do these new initiatives and measures mean in terms of raw materials?
– It is gratifying that the EU for the first time are focusing on the raw materials that are necessary for our modern society and for the green transition. The critical list of 30 raw materials presented in September is the fourth since 2011, and it has grown each time. Now, for the first time, an action plan is being added to the list – a strategy for raw materials. The purpose is to secure the EU’s raw material supply.
What kind of measures does the EU link to the list?
– There are a number of different measures. Basically, all of them aims to secure the supply, but this can be done in different ways. One of the main areas is how we can increase the extraction of primary raw materials in the EU with new mines, but of course also how we can increase recycling and secure imports from countries outside the EU. And in some cases, replace certain raw materials in products with other materials.
But would not increased circular flows and recycling be enough, or that we simply reduce our consumption?
– Recycling and circular economy are a matter of course. And it is also one of the good properties of metals – that they are actually recyclable and circular to a very large extent – unlike fossil fuels which are burned. Unfortunately, there is no technology or system for recycling for all materials today, so research and development are needed here.
But does the mining industry see a contradiction between recycling and new mines?
– Not at all. Working with increased resource efficiency in society and increasing recycling is a matter of course. But at the same time, the need for responsibly mined primary raw materials does not disappear. The need for materials to cope with climate change will increase – not least battery minerals and metals found in electronics that are important in, for example, renewable energy technology and electrification. For some of these materials, the EU predicts an increase of several hundred percent – for lithium, which is important in batteries, an increase of 60 times the current need is forecast for 2050. The corresponding figures are for cobalt and graphite 15 times, nickel 4 times and dysprosium, which is a rare earth metal that is necessary in, for example, wind turbines, an increase of just over 10 times the current need is forecast. Today, there are far from enough of these materials in circulation to meet the need from recycling. In addition, the need for other base metals, such as copper and iron, is increasing in line with electrification and an increased standard of living globally.
What are your thoughts about the EU Raw Materials Alliance launched at the end of September?
– The European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA) is positive and we will be committed to it. The purpose is to work together – companies, politics, academia and the financial sector – to identify and find areas for investment and research on raw materials. All with the aim of increasing the EU’s resilience to disruptions in its supply of raw materials. This is very positive.
What role can Sweden and the Swedish mining industry play?
– We are good at sustainable mining in Sweden and see that we have great opportunities with increased focus on traceability and clearer sustainability requirements. We also know that we have a rich bedrock with great potential for increased production of important metals and minerals – which is needed for climate neutrality and our modern society. The opportunities for Sweden to be a leader and contribute significantly to when the world builds climate neutrality on sustainably produced materials are great.