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EU’s quest for critical raw materials: Strategic partnerships and the path to sustainable development

In the global pursuit of critical raw materials (CRMs), institutions like the EU, World Bank, and US Geological Survey define these resources based on economic importance and susceptibility to supply disruptions. For the EU, CRMs are vital for technologies like solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars due to their scarcity and lack of viable substitutes.

The EU has expanded its partnerships with resource-rich nations through Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs). Recent agreements include Canada and Ukraine in 2021, followed by Namibia and Kazakhstan in 2022, and several South American and African countries in 2023. These partnerships align with the EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act, which aims to secure and diversify CRM supplies.

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The MoU with Kazakhstan, signed in 2022, emphasizes local value creation, sustainable mining processes, and environmental governance. However, the implementation roadmaps and MoU details were initially only available in English on the EU Commission’s website, prompting calls for transparency and multilingual dissemination in Kazakhstan.

Central to the MoU is the encouragement for cooperation with civil society and stakeholders in the mining and processing sectors. This engagement aims to ensure transparency, sustainability, and public oversight, crucial for mitigating social and environmental impacts.

Despite these commitments, progress in implementing meaningful civic participation has been slow, hindering the potential benefits for Kazakhstani communities. Effective civic engagement could enhance accountability and ensure equitable distribution of benefits from CRM extraction and processing.

Looking forward, the EU-Kazakhstan partnership underscores the importance of governance, transparency, and sustainable practices in CRM exploitation. As global demand for these resources grows, fostering inclusive and responsible resource management practices becomes increasingly imperative.

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