Europe Must Get Serious About Critical Minerals
Access to strategically important raw materials has been a key determinant of economic wealth and development throughout history. To achieve strategic autonomy, maintain economic competitiveness, and meet its climate ambitions, Europe must secure its supply of this century’s new vital commodities.
LUXEMBOURG – Throughout human history, raw materials have played a key role in economic development, international relations, and the destinies of entire nations and civilizations. From precious metals (silver and gold) and agricultural commodities (sugar, rubber, silk, and spices) to energy resources such as oil and gas, changes in demand spurred by technological developments have rewritten global trade patterns, shifted fortunes, and often fueled conflict and exploitation.
In the 2020s, we are becoming increasingly reliant on a new set of critical raw materials, including rare-earth elements (REEs) and metals such as lithium, gallium, and germanium. These commodities’ use in everything from solar panels, batteries, and wind turbines to computer chips for industry and defense makes them vital to the green and digital transitions, which in turn will determine our future on this planet.
Europe will never be able to meet its own demand for REEs or lithium domestically, but nor should that be its goal. The goal, rather, is to secure access to critical raw materials so that we do not find ourselves at the mercy of those who might weaponize them – as the Kremlin has done with hydrocarbons. Such access is crucial for strengthening our strategic autonomy, maintaining our competitiveness, and meeting our climate ambitions.
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Correction Sep 15, 2023 09:35UTC
The final sentence in the eighth paragraph, about projected battery production in Europe, has been revised.