“It isn’t an enviable place to be in, however we aren’t alone: the US, Japan, the UK, Canada, Australia, India and others are dashing to deal with this vulnerability as effectively,” the commissioner mentioned. “I consider we’re in an analogous scenario with uncommon earths and everlasting magnets as we had been just a few years in the past with batteries and lithium: Complete dependence on China, very restricted EU manufacturing, no European regulation to encourage moral sourcing of uncommon earths, create demand for recycled supplies or give a aggressive benefit to European producers by carbon footprint necessities, and downstream industries which profit from the present scenario by way of price/profit ratio.”
Given this context, Breton mentioned that it’s important for member states and areas to comply with the instructions established within the EU Motion Plan on Crucial Uncooked Supplies and work collectively on figuring out vital uncooked materials and uncommon earths mining, processing and waste valorization initiatives that may be operational by 2025.
The previous French Minister of Economic system identified that to work in the direction of this aim, the EC has arrange the European Uncooked Supplies Alliance, ERMA, to take care of the uncommon earths magnets and motors worth chain as a precedence.
In accordance with Breton, ERMA has ready an funding pipeline that’s anticipated to contribute to fixing the dependency drawback.
“If these initiatives had been realized, 20% of Europe’s uncommon earth wants might be sourced from the EU. Up from near zero right this moment,” he mentioned. What is required now’s to seek out financing, each private and non-private.”
In his view, the nationwide restoration plans might present funding on this respect, which might be aided by the Necessary Tasks of Frequent European Curiosity, IPCEIs. This initiative is offered to member states to de-risk funding and mobilize personal actors.
“Secondly, I may also launch a dialogue with downstream market gamers. I’ve already spoken with uncommon earth and magnet producers, so I do know that it’s possible for the EU to diversify all through the entire provide chain, from uncommon earths to magnet recycling. Now it’s time to communicate with the downstream producers within the automotive, wind vitality, defence and digital sectors utilizing these magnets about what their considerations are and the way they will contribute to resilient EU worth chains,” Breton mentioned.
As a 3rd pillar within the technique to cut back Europe’s reliance on China, the Commissioner for Inner Market mentioned that as a part of the EU Motion Plan, his workplace has been fostering a lot of partnerships with resource-rich international locations to safe a diversified provide of sustainably mined vital uncooked supplies away from a single supply. These partnerships concentrate on the combination of uncooked materials worth chains between the EU and third international locations, cooperation within the space of analysis and innovation and social and environmental standards.
Breton highlighted a recent deal signed with Canada however mentioned that the aim is to additionally join with some African international locations, whereas the partnerships on the bottom are to be applied by the members of the European Uncooked Supplies Alliance and the European Institute of Innovation and Expertise.
For the Commissioner, nonetheless, there aren’t sufficient partnerships to satisfy the continent’s rising demand for vital uncooked supplies. Thus, he referred to as on member states to begin contemplating home sourcing.
For him, this proposal not solely refers to boosting circularity and recycling and rising the usage of secondary uncooked supplies but additionally to supporting mining initiatives.
“I consider that the explanations to discover sustainable mining in the EU are usually not solely of financial and geopolitical nature. We even have an ethical obligation,” he mentioned. “If we would not have an open debate about sustainable mining in Europe, with out taboos, we’ll proceed in a scenario the place we import uncooked supplies from mines distant from our houses and conveniently shut our eyes on how they had been sourced.”