Critical Raw Materials Resilience: Charting a Path Towards Greater Security and Sustainability



European Commission

1. Introduction

Metals, minerals and natural materials are part of our daily lives. Those raw materials that are most important economically and have a high supply risk are called critical raw materials. Critical raw materials are essential to the functioning and integrity of a wide range of industrial ecosystems. Tungsten makes phones vibrate. Gallium and indium are part of light-emitting diode (LED) technology in lamps. Semiconductors need silicon metal. Hydrogen fuel cells and electrolysers need platinum group metals.

Access to resources is a strategic security question for Europe’s ambition to deliver the Green Deal. The new industrial strategy for Europe proposes to reinforce Europe’s open strategic autonomy, warning that Europe’s transition to climate neutrality could replace today’s reliance on fossil fuels with one on raw materials, many of which we source from abroad and for which global competition is becoming more fierce. The EU’s open strategic autonomy in these sectors will therefore need to continue to be anchored in diversified and undistorted access to global markets for raw materials. At the same time, and in order to decrease external dependencies and environmental pressures, the underlying problem of rapidly increasing global resources demand needs to be addressed by reducing and reusing materials before recycling them.

The enormous appetite for resources (energy, food and raw materials) is putting extreme pressure on the planet, accounting for half of greenhouse gas emissions and more than 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress. Scaling up the circular economy will be vital to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, while decoupling economic growth from resource use and keeping resource use within planetary boundaries.

Access to resources and sustainability is key for the EU’s resilience in relation to raw materials. Achieving resource security requires action to diversify supply from both primary and secondary sources, reduce dependencies and improve resource efficiency and circularity, including sustainable product design. This is true for all raw materials, including base metals, industrial minerals, aggregates and biotic materials, but is even more necessary when it concerns those raw materials that are critical for the EU.

As if this challenge was not enough, the COVID-19 crisis has revealed just how fast and how deeply global supply chains can be disrupted. The Commission has proposed an ambitious COVID-19 recovery plan to increase resilience and open strategic autonomy and to foster the transition towards a green and digital economy. With its aim of ensuring resilience through a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials, this Communication can make a major contribution to the recovery and the long-term transformation of the economy.

Building on the EU’s Raw Materials Initiative, this Communication presents:
– the EU 2020 list of critical raw materials
– the challenges for a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials and actions to increase EU resilience and open strategic autonomy


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