Access to critical raw materials (CRM) is vital for the most essential sectors of the European Union’s society and economy including energy, transport, digital technologies, health, defence, and space. But the EU and its member states face a major challenge: demand for CRM is on the rise, and it is unsure whether sufficient supplies at affordable prices will be available to match the needs of a green, competitive and secure EU. Great power competition and increasing protectionist tendencies are already severely impacting CRM supply security. Geopolitical clout is increasingly intertwined with the control of CRM and strategic technologies, enabling supplier states to coerce others to align with their geopolitical interests.
As a result, the EU and its member states are moving fast in response to the changing geopolitical setting, taking proactive measures to build resilience into CRM supply chains. In March 2023, the European Commission introduced the proposals for European Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA). The Netherlands is busy with the implementation of the Nederlandse Grondstoffenstrategie, adopted in December 2022. The two acts have a similar goal – to bolster domestic CRM production while simultaneously enhancing supply chain resilience through international collaboration.
This new HCSS report, commissioned by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explores the challenges and opportunities for Dutch companies to expand their presence in the CRM sector and contribute to diversified and resilient supply chains. The study aims to inform the implementation of the Nederlandse Grondstoffenstrategie and European Critical Raw Materials Act by offering recommendations on how the Dutch government can support companies in diversifying CRM supply chains.
This report builds on insights from over 30 interviews with industry representatives from the Netherlands. It contributes to the existing debate on CRM in two ways; (1) by providing up-to-date information about the capabilities of companies active in the CRM sector in the Netherlands; (2) by offering first-hand insights from the industry about the challenges and opportunities to strengthen their position within global supply chains.
Achieving the goals of the EU CRMA and the Nederlandse Grondstoffenstrategie requires a comprehensive approach to revitalize domestic industry, empowering it to diversify supply sources and strengthen supply security. Creating the necessary conditions for companies to stay competitive – i.e., an enabling socio-political, economic and legislative environment – is an essential step in creating opportunities for further expansion. Issues must be addressed in relation to public opinion, limited dialogue with the government, fragmentation of mandates and red tape.
At the same time, the Netherlands can play an important role in strengthening European mineral supply security by encouraging knowledge exchange and industrial partnerships, clarifying financial instruments and investing in knowledge development.