New European raw materials act – good, but too narrow

  • 2022-09-15
  • 13:29
  • News

The EU must become more self-sufficient in metals and minerals and is therefore now investing in a new raw material act. This was stated on Wednesday in Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union.

– It is very gratifying that our issues are now being given more focus, it is absolutely central to securing Europe’s access to socially important raw materials and reducing our import dependence, says Maria Sunér, CEO of Svemin, who at the same time sees some concern about the act.

In her speech, von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, underlined the need for metals and minerals to cope with the climate transition and thus Europe’s Green Deal. She stated that it is necessary to increase the degree of self-sufficiency within the EU in order to reduce dependence on undemocratic states. Today, the EU uses 30 percent of all metal and minerals produced in the world, but mines only 3 percent within the EU. For some raw materials, the EU is completely dependent on countries such as China, Russia and Congo.

Sweden has a long tradition of mining and refining metals and minerals, and already today accounts for a significant part of, among other things, the iron, copper and zinc mined within the EU. This gives Sweden a special position, and a special responsibility.

– Sweden must now take the lead in the work with the new raw materials act, with our position as Europe’s leading mining nation, and work actively before and during our presidency of the EU, says Maria Sunér.

In Sweden, there is also potential for many raw materials with high demand – metals and minerals that are absolutely necessary for the climate transition – materials that are not mined in Sweden today. Among other things, there are deposits of graphite and rare earth metals that can cover a considerable part of Europe’s needs.

The EU’s new raw materials act, formally called “European Critical Raw Materials Act.”, focuses on these critical raw materials, something that partly worries the Swedish mining industry.

– It is important that the act also includes raw materials that are not yet critical, but nevertheless extremely important and strategic for society and the green transition. Increasing our ability to produce takes a long time and a too narrow focus on what is already critical today risks creating new critical topics in the future, says Maria Sunér.

In the case of metals and minerals, they are almost always found together, and in practice the substances on the critical list are often by-products of other metals.

– Obstacles should not be built into an important document like this, she says.

Maria Sunér also sees that the attractiveness of exploration and mines within the EU must increase.

– Today there are obstacles in EU law that prevent the mining industry from investing in the EU, that must change. Not least, it applies to how trade-offs between the protection of nature and other land claims should be made. If we are to pass the green transition and increase the European level of self-sufficiency, it boils down to dissolving what stands in the way. The EU must have a coherent view of the mining industry as the enabler we are, says Maria Sunér.

Ursula von der Leyen, State of the Union full address here