Swedish mining sector crucial to resilient industrial value chains in Europe
Over half of Europe’s most critical metals and minerals are found in the Swedish bedrock. When the EU on September 3d released a series of measures to increase the degree of self-sufficiency in critical raw materials, the spotlight is on Sweden, which is already today Europe’s most mining nation with a potential of supplying Europe with more sustainably mined metals and minerals.
The availability of metals and minerals is crucial for the technologies needed for the ongoing digitalization and for achieving Europe’s climate goals. As they now will become even more ambitious already to 2030, the issue of sustainable supply of the materials needed become even more important. The issue of critical raw material supply chains has also been further brought to the forefront with the ongoing corona pandemic, when supply chains rapidly broke and borders closed.
The Swedish mining industry welcomes that the European Commission now is taking action to ensure the supply of critical metals and minerals.
On September 3 European Commission released a communication on Critical Raw Material Resilience: Charting a Path towards greater Security and Sustainability (COM(2020)474final) entailing an updated list over which metals and minerals that are critical for Europe, together with several concrete measures to increase the EU’s degree of self-sufficiency. Increasing the number of mines in the EU is one of the measures pointed out by the European Commission, as well as increased recycling and strategic research initiatives.
Sweden is already today the EU’s most mining nation with high production of for example iron ore, copper and zinc needed as building blocks for the modern society. Sweden also has the possibility to play an even more important role in ensuring the EU’s security of supply in the future. In Sweden, there is potential for more than half of the metals on the new list of critical raw materials. For example, there is good potential to extract rare earth metals needed in many essential electronic components, both from already existing mines and in green field projects. Today Europe is entirely dependent on import from China regarding rare earth metals. Sweden also has potential for the battery mineral Lithium. The EU Commission highlights that EU will need 18 times more lithium in 2030 than today; and up to 60 times more by 2050.
One of the measures in the communication is the launch of The Raw Material Alliance together with the industry. We believe that this is a good measure, but it must have a board focus on industrial value chains and raw materials. It should include both need for research and innovation, together with exploring the potentials within Europe. The Swedish mining sector will take substantial part in this process.
The EU Raw material Initiative is important to put the European supply of metals and minerals on the agenda, but still the biggest obstacle in stepping up mining in Sweden remains the permitting processes – both in existing mines and in green field mines. These are too slow and unpredictable.
These obstacles are partly due to internal Swedish processes but also due to EU regulations. Different policies areas must be coherent at the EU Level. Some of the more important EU policy portfolios that already has or will have great impact on the possibilities to develop the mining sector in Europe and Sweden is the Water Framework Directive, the upcoming Strategy on Biodiversity and the regulation around the Emissions Trading scheme – especially the indirect effects on electricity prices as electrification is key to the mining sector decarbonization.
The initiatives now taken by the European Commission are needed and welcomed, but there is a need for aligning policies and national procedures in order to really step up mining in Europe in order to create a secure and sustainable supply of metals and minerals.
Maria Sunér Fleming,
FACTS: EU’s action plan, critical list and future study
On Thursday, the European Commission presented a series of measures to increase the degree of self-sufficiency in metals and minerals; an action plan for critical raw materials, the 2020 list of critical raw materials and a future study on critical raw materials for strategic technology and sectors from the 2030 and 2050 perspective.
The Action Plan looks at current and future challenges and proposes measures to reduce Europe’s dependence on third countries, diversify supply from both primary and secondary sources and improve resource efficiency and circularity while promoting responsible purchasing worldwide. The ten measures in total will promote the transition to a green and digital economy.
The list of critical raw materials has been updated to reflect the changing economic meanings and supply challenges based on their industrial application. It contains 30 critical raw materials, half of which there is potential for in Sweden.
More on the EU initiative here.