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Ensuring Europe’s raw material supply and fostering sustainable development

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In the pursuit of the Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) objectives, pivotal to Europe’s sustainability and digital transition, the continent faces a critical juncture. Two diverging paths lay ahead, each carrying significant implications for Europe’s strategic autonomy and resilience.

One route entails dependency, characterized by a relinquishment of Europe’s mining industry in favor of heightened imports, compromising Environmental Social Governance (ESG) standards, strategic autonomy and resilience.

Conversely, the alternative path champions the embrace of 20-30 new strategic mining projects in Europe by 2030. This trajectory leads to a sustainable and thriving European mining sector, reinforcing strategic autonomy while upholding ESG principles aligned with European values.

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As the demand for sustainable products burgeons, so does the need for mined minerals and metals. Europe boasts a mining industry aligned with stringent European ESG standards, offering substantial employment opportunities and serving as a crucial source of raw materials for prosperity.

Europe proudly leads in sustainable and responsible mining practices, leveraging cutting-edge technologies provided by EU suppliers for EU mines, while adhering to world-leading ESG principles.

However, the reality is that mining in the EU, with its unparalleled ESG performance, holds superior sustainability benefits compared to mining in jurisdictions with lax enforcement of environmental and social standards. Moreover, Europe’s mining sector helps mitigate the risk of raw materials being weaponized, ensuring a stable supply chain.

Challenges and Opportunities Europe faces rapid transformation as it endeavors to realize the ambitions of the EU Green Deal. Yet, the continent remains heavily reliant on third-country suppliers for essential minerals and metals.

To bolster Europe’s raw material supply, three key strategies are imperative:

  1. License to operate: Upholding and enhancing operational capabilities within the EU is paramount to ensure a sustainable supply chain. This entails supporting exploration activities, recognizing existing capacities, maintaining regulatory certainty, and acknowledging socio-economic benefits.
  2. Growing and investing: While the CRMA sets forth a commendable objective, additional measures are necessary to attract investments, foster innovation, and cultivate a skilled workforce. Europe must focus on operational and capital investments, as well as address international competition to spur sustainable mining activities.
  3. Being responsible: Recognizing and championing operational excellence is fundamental to sustainable mining practices. Social acceptance, cross-media synergies, and efficiency gains through sustainable production techniques are essential elements to prioritize.

Steps Towards Resilience European policymakers must swiftly undertake six critical steps to fortify the continent’s mining industry and advance its sustainability and digital transitions:

  1. Establish executive leadership: Appoint an Executive Vice President for Europe’s industrial future, tasked with fostering industrial competitiveness and driving investments across Green Deal policy domains.
  2. Forge an EU ‘Industry Deal’: Develop a comprehensive EU industrial policy that balances competitiveness with environmental objectives, refusing to compromise on sustainability.
  3. Evaluate CRMA needs: Conduct rigorous impact assessments of EU legislation to ensure alignment with raw material mining requirements, investment facilitation, and skill development.
  4. Conduct climate and environmental review: Undertake a comprehensive review of existing regulatory frameworks to reconcile mining impacts with industrial contributions, fostering a balanced approach.
  5. Ensure competitive framework conditions: Provide competitive framework conditions and targeted State aid to bridge infrastructure gaps and facilitate the transition to sustainable industrial practices.

By taking decisive action and embracing these recommendations, Europe can chart a course towards a resilient and sustainable mining sector, essential for achieving its sustainability and digital transition objectives.

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