20 critical raw materials - major challenge for EU industry Published on: 26/05/2014
The European Commission presented today a revised list of Critical Raw Materials. The 2014 list includes 13 of the 14 materials identified in the previous list of 2011, with only tantalum moving out of the list (due to a lower supply risk).
Six new materials appear on the list: borates, chromium, coking coal, magnesite, phosphate rock and silicon metal bringing the number up to 20 raw materials which are now considered critical by the European Commission. The other 14 raw materials are: antimony, beryllium, cobalt, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, indium, magnesium, natural graphite, niobium, platinum group metals, heavy rare earths, light rare earths and tungsten. In the revised list, rare earths are for the first time split into two separate categories: light and heavy rare earths.
The list should help to incentivise the European production of critical raw materials and facilitate the launching of new mining and recycling activities. Furthermore, the list is being used by the Commission to help prioritise needs and actions. For example, it serves as a supporting element when negotiating trade agreements, challenging trade distortion measures or promoting research and innovation. It can also serve as a source of information for companies who would wish to evaluate the criticality of their own supply of raw materials.
Raw materials are everywhere - Just consider your smartphone: it might contain up to 50 different metals, all of which help to give it its light weight and user-friendly small size. Key economic sectors in Europe - such as automotive, aerospace and renewable energy - are highly dependent on raw materials. These raw materials represent the life-blood of today's industry and are fundamental for the development of environmental technologies and the digital agenda.
European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship commented: "The Commission, in cooperation with Member States and stakeholders, is taking a wide range of measures to implement this strategy. These include a reinforced Raw Materials Diplomacy and trade policy, fostering sustainable supply within the EU and boosting resource efficiency and promoting recycling. The EU list we presented today aims at contributing to the implementation of the EU industrial policy and to ensure that European industrial competitiveness is strengthened."
Supporting European industrial competitiveness
Raw materials are called critical, when their high supply risk is mainly due to the fact that a high share of the worldwide production is concentrated in few countries. This concentration is in many cases compounded by low substitutability and low recycling rates. While all raw materials are important, critical raw materials deserve particular attention. Therefore the list represents a useful tool in the context of the overall EU raw materials strategy. Criticality is based on an analysis of the supply risk and the economic importance of raw materials.
The current 2013 review has used the same methodology, indicators and thresholds as the original 2010 criticality assessment at EU level, but with updated data and a wider range of materials. Two main parameters are taken into account to measure whether a raw material is critical or not: its economic importance and the risk of supply. As regards economic importance, the analysis is achieved by assessing the proportion of each material associated with industrial mega-sectors at an EU level.
The list of critical raw materials is part of the Commission’s second progress report on the implementation of the EU Raw Materials Initiative, launched in 2008, which was also issued today.
In 2010, the Commission published an expert report, which established a methodology for the identification of raw materials deemed critical to the EU. In its 2011 Communication on raw materials (COM (2011)25 of 2 February 2011) the Commission adopted a first list and stated that it would continue to monitor the issue of critical raw materials in order to identify priority actions. It also committed to undertake a regular review and update of this list at least every 3 years. The new report contains recommendations for how to improve the next revision which is planned to start in 2016.