European Union considers adding to its list of critical minerals

October 31, 2019

The European Commission’s list of critical minerals could grow by as many as five minerals when it revises the list next year.

The demand for minerals to power a low emission economy has lead the European Union, the United States and Japan to look for ways to secure a supply chain that is independent of China. Each group has compiled lists of the most strategic minerals in response to China’s dominance of minerals used in electric vehicles and other high-tech applications.

The EU has had a list since 2011, which it has revised every three years and an update is expected in the first part of 2020.

Peter Handley, head of the Commission’s resource efficiency unit, told Reuters the Commission was assessing arsenic, cadmium, hydrogen, strontium and zirconium ahead of the publication of the new list.

Cadmium is valued in Europe because of its use in some battery technology and hydrogen is “crucial for decarbonization of EU industry,” Handley said.

Zirconium is used in the nuclear industry, while strontium has applications in magnets. Arsenic is used in semi-conductors.

For now, the EU has a list of 27 critical raw materials compared with the United States’ list of 35, published in 2018. Japan designated 30 minerals as strategic in 2012.

All three governments will take part in trilateral discussions on critical resources in Brussels in November.

The talks have been held annually after China’s decision to put quotas on overseas shipments of rare earths in 2010, which drove up prices and focused world powers on efforts to cooperate to protect their own supply chains and cut reliance on China.

Japan and the EU are heavily dependent on imports of many minerals and all three powers have yet to challenge China’s dominance of production of rare earth metals, used in advanced electronics.

Some analysts question what the trilateral talks can achieve in a context of global trade tension and national self interest.

Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, who has led EU efforts to accelerate electric battery production, told Reuters the EU sought short, clean supply chains.

 

 

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