Creating a Resilient EU Raw Materials Supply Chain

by Carolyn Mathas

According to the latest JRC research, there is a burgeoning demand for materials that drive green and digital transitions, and Europe must take action to avoid being dependent on individual countries for these materials.

Moving away from fossil fuels and switching to a green and digital future is a metal and mineral-intensive undertaking. The EU’s need for lithium-ion batteries to power electric cars and energy storage will rise 21x by 2050. For wind turbines, EU demand for rare earth metals will increase 4.5x by 2030 and 5.5x by 2050, according to the estimates in JRC’s  foresight study “Supply chain analysis and material demand forecast in strategic technologies and sectors in the EU.”

The study delivers scientific evidence that underpins the Critical Raw Materials Act. The insights it provided contributed to establishing the concept and the list of strategic raw materials in the Act.

The report identifies China, in particular, controls many stages of such strategic technology supply chains, not least that of raw material extraction and processing. There is a significant dependency on imports from China at various stages of the value chain, ranging from raw materials only to raw and processed materials along with components and, in some cases, the complete value chain, for example, solar photovoltaics.

The Critical Raw Materials Act proposes targeted policy measures to ensure access to the necessary strategic materials and more secure and resilient supply chains. The measures include international partnerships for the diversification of supply, developing domestic production and processing capacities, recycling and resource efficiency, substitution and innovation, and behavioral changes.

The EU must closely monitor the supply chains of strategic and critical materials, using risk management tools that help identify and manage potential disruption risks.

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