Critical Raw Materials

What are Critical Raw Materials?

Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) are those raw materials which are economically and strategically important for the European economy, but have a high-risk associated with their supply. Used in environmental technologies, consumer electronics, health, steel-making, defence, space exploration, and aviation, these materials are not only ‘critical’ for key industry sectors and future applications, but also for the sustainable functioning of the European economy.

It is important to note that these materials are not classified as ‘critical’ because these materials are considered scarce, rather they are classified as ‘critical’ because:

  1. they have a significant economic importance for key sectors in the European economy, such as consumer electronics, environmental technologies, automotive, aerospace, defence, health and steel.
  2. they have a high-supply risk due to the very-high import dependence and high level of concentration of set critical raw materials in particular countries
  3. there is a lack of (viable) substitutes, due to the very unique and reliable properties of these materials for existing, as well as future applications

Why are CRMs so important?

Other than the high-risk associated with their supply, Critical Raw Materials are so important because they are ‘critical’ for the EU’s mega-sectors and for a wide range of commercial and governmental applications: green technology, telecommunications, space exploration, aerial imaging, aviation, medical devices, micro-electronics, transportation, defence, and other high-technology products and services. As a result, EU industry, the environment, and our quality and modern way of life is reliant on access and use of these Critical Raw Materials. This can be seen in the following sectors:

Aircraft - 4
Car - 4
CT scan
Medical Devices
Phone - 6
Consumer Electronics
Green Technology

"CRMs are essential for nearly all our electronic, life-saving and green technologies"

List of Critical Raw Materials

In 2014, the European Commission published its revised list of Critical Raw Materials. This list included 13 of the 14 materials identified in the previous 2011 list, with only tantalum being removed due to a lower supply risk. Six new materials were added to the list: borates, chromium, coking coal, magnesite, phosphate rock and silicon metal, bringing the number up to 20 raw materials which are now considered critical by the European Commission. These materials can be seen below: