On 29 September 2020, the second Annual Raw Materials Summit organised by EU Agency EIT Raw Materials began in virtual form to discuss a wide variety of issues that will impact industries and stakeholders dealing with critical raw materials as a result of the EU Green Deal goals.
Opening remarks from EIT Raw Materials stated that COVID 19 has accelerated a number of trends, namely digitalisation, and a desire for a more sustainable and circular economy. The EU Green Deal has laid out ambitious goals regarding sustainability and digitalisation of industry, which will increase demands for critical raw materials.
The EU needs to find secure and sustainable sources and diversify its supply chain so as not to remain dependent on other countries, making it more resilient and competitive. The COVID pandemic as revealed the “fragility” of the EU supply chains.
This summit aims to help industry leaders understand the practical solutions needed to develop the new direction of raw materials in Europe. The programme overview incudes innovation and new technologies to cover the entire EU raw materials value chain, future EU innovation programmes and their impact on the raw material sectors, a start-up and venture forum that will allow start-ups to pitch to investors, as well as access to EIT education and an alumni network.
A particular highlight on 29 September was the launch of the EU Raw Material Alliance (ERMA), announced by EU Commissioner Thierry Breton and Vice-President of the EU Commission Maroš Šefčovič. Commissioner Breton stated that, as displayed by the recent pandemic, there are major flaws in the supply chains and their ability to adapt. The EU, along with this Alliance, will create a new strategy to anticipate possible future disruptions. ERMA will boost the EU’s capacity for raw materials, enhance its circular economy, diversify access to global markets and raw materials, look for loop holes in the value chain and develop processing facilities in Europe that can develop its own raw materials, according to Commissioner Breton. ERMA will also seek to identify bottlenecks and come up with solutions, identify problems with any other critical raw materials, and will have a flexible governance framework with principles of openness, transparency, diversity, and inclusiveness.
Vice President Maroš Šefčovič mirrored Commissioner Breton, stating that the launch of ERMA is the number one action under the recently adopted CRM Action Plan, and stressed that only with collective efforts can the Alliance be successful. CRM’s are vital for renewable energy, digitalisation, electronics, mobility, construction, aerospace and defence, and other industries involving new technology. Therefore, the supply for these materials is likely to rise substantially in the coming decades.
Vice President Šefčovič also mentioned the potential for recycling and reusing, which ERMA will explore to the fullest, especially in regard to the 10 million tonnes of electrical waste. At the moment, only 30% of this waste is collected and the recovery of CRMS is less than 1% due to the lack of European infrastructure. This will be an additional ERMA focus.
To compliment the launch of ERMA, there were three parallel sessions at the EIT Summit that covered: i. a circular economy, ii. battery sustainability and iii. digitalisation in exploration and mining. These discussions with keynote speakers emphasised Europe’s upcoming strategy for sustainability by 2050.
In the discussion, “Circular Economy: Policies and Innovation”, speakers discussed climate neutrality as the new driver for a circular economy, and as the biggest driver for innovation and competitiveness, a just transition and social equity. Some key points included redefining incentives to create such an economy, such as material rewards, producer ownership, absolute scarcity, material penalties and clarify sanctionable objectives. Speakers also touched on how the circular economy can go hand in hand with digitalisation and must consider tools and partnerships with technology to help with monitoring and measuring, process optimisation, market facilitation, brokerage, logistics and safety.
In the discussion, “Towards Resilient Battery Materials Supply Chains”, speakers aim to establish Europe as a standard for an innovation ecosystem to boost a competitive, sustainable, and circular European battery value chain and drive transformation towards a carbon-neutral society. Additional speakers proposed partnerships to handle specific materials, such as VDI Innovation and Technik GmBH, Eramet, Euro Lithium Inc, and Euro Manganese Inc.
In the discussion “Digitalization in Exploration and Mining”, speakers discussed new solutions for the sustainable production of raw materials. The European Economic and Social Committee stated that the “digitalisation of EU raw materials sector is a unique opportunity to enhance the resilience of supply chains, address radically different input, economics and boost the operational, social and environmental excellence of the sector, advancing the concept of digital mining.” Committee Delegate Hilde Van Laere stated that digital technology can harness knowledge and enable continued improvements in innovation. Digitalisation will enable efficient production, monitoring and maintenance in regard to exploration and mining. Additional speakers proposed partnerships to assist with digitalisation, such as McKinsey & Company, DMT GmBH and Hitachi ABB Power Grids.
The CRM Alliance is pleased to be able to attend this event and is supportive of all efforts to address major issues regarding critical raw materials. We are particularly happy to support the launch of the EU Raw Materials Alliance and are an active supporter of its defining principles. We look forward to another educational and productive day at the EIT Raw Materials Summit, and hope to see more speakers address some of the biggest problems facing our industry ahead of the EU Green Deal.