European Union reaches agreement on Critical Raw Materials Act

November 16, 2023

The European Council and European Parliament reached a deal on the proposed Critical Raw Materials Act. The regulation would establish a framework to ensure a secure and sustainable supply chain of critical raw materials and aims to help the EU reduce its reliance on third countries, principally China.

The Critical Raw Materials Act was first proposed in March as the centerpiece of EU strategy to allow it to compete with the United States and China in making clean tech products.

The proposal said the European Union should extract 10 percent, recycle 15 percent and process 40 percent of its annual needs by 2030 for 16 “strategic raw materials.”

“Today’s agreement lays the foundation of Europe’s strategic autonomy,” Teresa Ribera Rodríguez, acting Spanish third vice-president of the government and minister for the ecological transition and the demographic challenge said in a statement. “Our dependency on raw materials is the Achilles’ heel of our competitiveness, but with the Critical Raw Material Act we can turn this weakness into strength. We can create a truly European extracting sector; we can turn our waste into a resource; we can build closer ties to third countries and we can secure the life-line of our industry in a truly sustainable way.”

To achieve the stated goals, the proposal called for a quick and simplified permit procedure for strategic extracting projects, to be dealt with by a single national contact point.

“The provisional compromise also unifies the timings of the permit procedure,” the Council of the European Union wrote in a statement. “The total duration of the permit granting process should not exceed 27 months for extraction projects and 15 months for processing and recycling projects. While the first step of the environmental impact assessment (the production of the report, which must be conducted by the project promoter) will be not included in the time-line for the project approval, the public consultation needed for an environmental impact assessment will be part of the total duration of the permit process.”

It also called for risk analysis of possible dependencies, member states' exploration plans, higher investment in research, innovation and skills; and protection of the environment by promoting the circularity and sustainability of raw materials.

On the global stage, the regulation identified measures to diversify imports of critical raw materials ensuring that not more than 65 percent of the Union's consumption of each strategic raw material comes from a single third country.

The provisional agreement adds one critical raw material (aluminium) to the list of strategic raw materials (hence, 34 critical raw materials and 17 strategic raw materials). The compromise text also considers that in addition to the natural graphite (which already in the list) the synthetic graphite will also be a strategic raw material during a period of three years, until the Commission makes the first revision of the list.

Photo: Brussels, Belgium. Shutterstock. 


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