The EU must strengthen its raw material security quickly by creating a strategic stockpile system to protect the continent from the risk of blackmail by strategic suppliers, according to officials and mining experts.
Europe is seeking to reduce dependency in the medium term through new, EU-funded exploration.
These were the conclusions of a conference on raw materials security in Europe organised by the Czech Presidency last month.
The objective was to discuss with EU states, cooperating countries and potential members the future policy on critical raw materials and how to bolster security and self-sufficiency.
Mark Rachovides, the President of Euromines and Chair of Cypriot mining company Venus Minerals, said the pandemic and subsequent disruption in the supply chain, followed by the Ukraine war, prompted the EU to rethink the globalisation of trade, which created a highly complex and interdependent supply system.
Critical raw materials (CRMs) – such as lithium, cobalt, and rare earth elements – are essential commodities for the EU economy.
They are also key enablers of Europe’s digital, environmental, and defence ambitions.
China currently produces 86% of the world’s rare earth supply.
The EU imports 93% of its magnesium from China, 98% of its borate from Turkey, and 85% of its niobium from Brazil. Russia produces 40% of the world’s palladium.
The Conference called on the European Commission to put in place an EU-wide system of strategic reserves of imported minerals the bloc depends on to protect its raw material security from direct threats, such as those arising from the war in Ukraine.
“We must also reduce import dependency in the short and medium terms,” Rachovides said.
The conference called on the EU to fund new geological exploration in member states.
“We need sustainable domestic production of some of the raw materials consumed by the Union.
“Cyprus, for instance, can go back to being an important producer of copper, the third most used metal in the world, which is vital in the realisation of the Green Transition.
“More than 400 copper alloys are currently being used in numerous applications in a wide variety of sectors.
Rachovides said Venus Minerals is poised to start developing the island’s resources, delivering lasting benefits.
“Venus Minerals is focused on exploring and developing copper-gold assets in Cyprus.
“It is currently operating projects across the country, including Magellan, Mariner and Apliki.
“The company uses state-of-the-art, low-impact exploration methods, while it plans to introduce modern mining and mineral processing to minimise impact and maximise efficiency.”