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22/05/2024
Mining News

Europe stands at a crossroads: Strengthening raw materials supply for sustainability and digital transition

Europe faces a crucial juncture with profound implications for its ability to realize the objectives outlined in the Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), pivotal for facilitating the twin transitions toward sustainability and digitalization.

One pathway entails dependency, characterized by forsaking Europe’s mining sector in favor of heightened imports, resulting in compromised Environmental Social Governance (ESG) standards, reduced strategic autonomy, and diminished resilience.

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Conversely, the alternative route involves embracing the development of 20-30 new strategic mining projects across Europe by 2030. This approach advocates for fostering a sustainable and thriving European mining industry that upholds reinforced strategic autonomy, with ESG principles aligned with European values.

Why mining, and why in Europe? The escalating demand for sustainable products correlates with a growing need for mined minerals and metals. Europe boasts a mining industry that adheres to stringent ESG practices, providing quality jobs and facilitating the supply of raw materials essential for prosperity.

Europe’s commitment to sustainable and responsible mining practices, coupled with advanced technologies provided by EU suppliers for EU mines, positions the continent at the forefront of global mining endeavors. By meeting the criteria set forth in the UN Rio 1992 Conference definition of sustainable development, EU mining endeavors aim to meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to fulfill their own requirements.

Realistically, mining within the EU under leading ESG standards offers substantial sustainability benefits compared to operations in jurisdictions with lax enforcement. Moreover, European mining helps mitigate the risk of raw materials being exploited for geopolitical leverage, thereby promoting a sustainable and secure supply chain.

However, Europe’s heavy reliance on third-country suppliers for crucial minerals and metals underscores the urgent need to fortify its raw materials supply. To achieve this, three key strategies are proposed:

  1. License to Operate: The EU must prioritize enabling and maintaining mining operations within its borders by emphasizing exploration, recognizing existing capacities, and ensuring regulatory certainty to attract investment.
  2. Growing and Investing: While the CRMA sets a commendable target for domestic extraction by 2030, additional efforts are required to attract investment, drive research and innovation, and cultivate a skilled workforce.
  3. Being Responsible: Recognizing and promoting operational excellence in mining activities through robust ESG practices, social acceptance, cross-media synergies, and sustainable production techniques.

To bolster Europe’s resilience and maintain a sustainable and prosperous mining industry, policymakers are urged to take six critical steps:

  1. Establishing dedicated leadership for Europe’s industrial future.
  2. Implementing a comprehensive EU industrial policy.
  3. Conducting rigorous impact assessments for raw materials-related legislation.
  4. Undertaking a balanced review of existing regulatory requirements.
  5. Ensuring competitive framework conditions and targeted state aid.
  6. Enhancing funding and access to finance to support the transition to a climate-neutral economy.

By undertaking these measures with urgency and commitment, Europe can foster a robust mining industry that plays a central role in advancing sustainability and digitalization objectives.

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