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23rd October 2017

CRM Day: Critical & Strategic Materials – A Global Perspective

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CRM Day: Critical & Strategic Materials – A Global Perspective

Introduction

On 26 September 2017, the second bi-annual event on Critical Raw Materials took place. The event, entitled: “Critical and Strategic Materials – A Global Perspective”, gathered interested stakeholders, government representatives and EU officials to discuss the different perspectives and approaches to critical and strategic materials in the global context. The event featured two panels respectively dedicated to the European perspective and the international perspective towards critical and strategic materials.

Opening Session

Following a brief opening by CRM Alliance President, Martin Tauber, the newly appointed European Commission Head of Unit for Research Efficiency and Raw Materials (DG GROW), Peter Handley, outlined the latest developments on CRMs, notably the new CRM list, which Mr. Handley described as essential for a low carbon economy, for trade and for the defence industry. Mr. Handley went on to explain the importance of CRMs within the 10 priorities identified by the European Commission, in particular reference was made to:

  • jobs, growth and investment – to help implement a circular economy and promote green growth;
  • the energy union and climate change, stating how raw materials are used in the transition to a low-carbon economy;
  • unlocking the full potential of the single market and guarantee for a renewed industrial policy strategy;
  • for trade policy to harness globalisation, through economic diplomacy and inserting raw material chapters in free trade agreements; and
  • for the EU to be a stronger global actor, in terms of international cooperation and development.

Panel 1:  CRMs & Strategic Materials – A European Perspective

The first panel session kicked-off with an in-depth presentation from Milan Grohol, Policy Officer for Resource Efficiency & Raw Materials (DG GROW). His presentation focused on the EU’s approach to critical raw materials, notably through the umbrella of the Raw Materials Initiative, the Critical Raw Materials list, and several projects connected to CRMs: SCRREEN, CRM-InnoNet, Raw Materials Week, Raw Materials Database and other H2020 projects. Mr. Grohol also outlined the Commission’s latest CRM list, featuring 27 raw materials, as well as the main elements of the methodology that was used to identify a critical raw material, such as economic importance, supply-risk, trade parameters, end-of-life recycling input rate and import reliance.

The second speaker, Emmanuel Mounier, Counsellor of the French Permanent Representation to the EU, gave an overview of the French approach to critical and strategic materials. According to Mr. Mounier, the French government has their own strategy towards CRMs and has replicated a similar list at the national level, which can be found at http://www.mineralinfo.fr/. Mr. Mounier also outlined the main priorities of the French government concerning CRMs:

  • to create tools to help companies be more efficient in their use of raw materials
  • to identify where there is a risk of supply of a critical raw material and cooperate with the relevant administration to solve the issue; and
  • to foster dialogue between upstream and downstream users, with a strategic metals committee created

In addition, the French government is working to obtain national investments for a new recycling plan on the territory, as well as to develop mining activities.

The last speaker from the first panel session was Kay Lax, Head of Department of the Geological Survey of Sweden. Mr. Lax informed the audience that the former Swedish government had actively developed a minerals strategy, with the current government continuing and building upon the work of the previous administration. According to Mr. Lax, the Swedish government has started a new strategy for smart industry and is developing yearly programs. In addition, the government has been actively working to better address primary and secondary materials, map mining areas, reserve economic resources for geological information, develop advanced projects (e.g. exploitation mining permits, research on REEs – rare earth elements, zero waste projects, and noted that the future areas of development are batteries and electric cars). Mr. Lax did, however, mention that despite this work, there was still a lack of social acceptance of mining operations.

Panel 2: CRMs & Strategic Materials – An International Perspective

The second panel session, focusing on how third countries approached critical and strategic materials, started with a presentation from Henrik Stendal, Chief Geologist of the Government of Greenland. According to Prof. Stendal, the 2008 recession had a strong impact on the mining activity in Greenland, but mining activity is starting to resume and redevelop, for example the mining of rubies and sapphires began in 2017, as well as other projects such as Zinc, lead, and Iron. Moreover, exploration projects concerning various earth metals are on the way, such as Titanium, whilst other projects are programmed in the future such as Antimony, Tungsten and Niobium. Prof. Stendal also noted that the government of Greenland published a review of its potential resources for critical minerals in 2016.

The second speaker, Dr. Stephen Freeman of the Beryllium Science and Technology Association, outlined the approach of the United States on critical and strategic materials. According to Dr. Freeman, the first CRM policy request in the US was presented in the 1950s, with the last request presented in 2016 without any outcome yet. In 2010 and 2011, the Department of Energy issued two Critical Materials strategy reports focused on the risk of supply disruption for materials necessary for renewable energy, with the OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy) publishing a report on natural resources and critical raw materials prepared in March 2016 which contains a screening method for potential supply constraints of individual critical materials. Dr. Freeman noted that whilst both the Obama administration and the Trump administration remain concerned about potential supply disruption, no formal policy or legislation has been adopted. Dr. Freeman did stress that from a US industrial perspective, policies that restrict access or the use of CRMs are not in the interest of the US and it can be expected that minerals mined and processed in the US and which fall on a list of CRMs could become eligible for most-favoured status in the Trump Administration.

The final speaker of the CRM Day, Mr. Sunao Orii, First Secretary, Japanese Mission to the European Union, provided a Japanese perspective on critical raw materials. Mr. Orii stated that CRMs are defined by Japan as rare metals and their name derives from the difficulties connected to their extraction and their importance for industry. According to Mr. Orii, Japan is heavily reliant upon imports of rare metals from third countries, especially as the Japanese economy is dependent upon electronics, where many rare metals are used, and the competitiveness of Japanese industry is founded on the production of high-tech technologies. Japan’s strategy for securing mineral resources consists of four pillars: (i) securing mineral interests; (ii) recycling; (iii) substitute development; and (iv) stockpiling. Moreover, Japan also participates in the EU-Japan-US trilateral conference on critical materials, the last of which took place in November 2016.

End

The CRM Alliance would like to extend its thanks to the speakers, each of which provided a unique insight into the world of critical raw materials, and participants for fruitful discussion.