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Securing raw material supply for EU industries

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The European industry is facing increasing challenges in ensuring access to raw materials, which are essential for manufacturing. As a result of rising global demand, prices for many metals have reached record levels and Europe’s capacity to provide raw materials is limited. Many metallic minerals are either geologically not available within the EU or only in relatively small volumes compared with global production, e.g. copper (5%), iron ore (2%), nickel (1.7%), and zinc (8.5%). Access to raw materials is on the agenda of the forthcoming G8 Summit on 6-8 June. On that occasion a Declaration is expected to be adopted, which will address the key priorities for a sustainable and transparent approach to this question.

European industries need predictability in the flow of raw materials and stable prices to remain competitive. We are committed to improve the conditions of access to raw materials, be it within Europe or by creating a level playing field in accessing such materials from abroad.

The non-energy extractive industry is providing a wide range of different minerals, including metallic ores, clays and aggregates which are mined or quarried to produce roads, homes, schools and hospitals and many products such as computers, cars and household appliances which are often taken for granted in a modern economy. The present situation calls for an integrated approach through which relevant EU policies and instruments work in concert with the aim of ensuring availability of essential raw materials, and sustainability in their extraction and use.

Among the findings of the above document are:

  • For geological reasons the world distribution of non-energy resources is very uneven. Europe, together with Japan, United States and China, lacks specific materials, especially ores, and has to compete for them on world markets.
  • In the case of metallic minerals, Europe’s capacity to provide in its own supply through domestic extraction is very limited. As an illustration 177 million tonnes of metallic minerals were imported into the EU in 2004 with a total value of € 10,4 billion, compared to the EU’s production of some 30 million tonnes.
  • For construction minerals (in particular aggregates) Europe is self sufficient, and for certain industrial minerals such as feldspar, kaolin, magnesite, gypsum and potash, the EU continues to be either the largest or second largest producer in the world.
  • The document identifies and assesses the factors which have the biggest potential impact on the competitiveness of the industries which extract minerals within EU and recognizes that the rules on access to materials are primarily a matter for Member States. Among the key aspects identified are: access to sites, access to land, investment and operating costs, the regulatory framework, the availability of a skilled workforce, research and innovation, and health & safety requirements.

    The staff working document was prepared based on an extensive consultation of the Raw Materials Supply Group (this a stakeholder group comprising extractive and user industries, Member States, environmental NGOs, trade unions and the Commission).

    The question of availability and use of raw materials is currently being analyzed by the High Level Group (HLG) on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment which is expected to deliver policy recommendations on June 11 on a coherent approach to the issues identified.

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