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AMG Lithium: A key player in the EU’s quest for resource self-sufficiency

AMG Lithium has established operations in Bitterfeld-Wolfen with the goal of contributing significantly to the European Union’s (EU) plan to secure essential resources for its industries. As the German subsidiary of AMG Critical Materials N.V., a US-based company, AMG Lithium aims to construct a refinery plant for battery-grade lithium. This initiative is intended to support Europe’s emerging battery industry and reduce dependence on Chinese lithium supplies.

Stefan Scherer, CEO of AMG Lithium, highlighted the company’s objective to eliminate Chinese intermediaries from its lithium supply chain by 2028. This move aligns with the EU’s ambitious target to achieve self-sufficiency in critical raw materials, including lithium, phosphorus, bauxite and rare-earth minerals. The EU’s newly implemented Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) sets benchmarks for domestic capacities along the raw material supply chain, aiming to diversify EU supply by 2030. The regulation mandates that at least 10% of the EU’s annual consumption of critical raw materials be extracted domestically, with a significant portion of processing and recycling capacities based within the EU. Additionally, the CRMA limits the sourcing of strategic raw materials from any single third country to no more than 65% at any relevant processing stage.

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Melanie Müller, a senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), emphasized the importance of coordinating the needs of EU member states to compete geopolitically with global players like China and the US. China’s dominance in global metals markets poses a threat to European supply chains and the continent’s transition to green industries. The EU’s push for a reliable domestic raw materials base is crucial for manufacturing key technologies essential for its twin transition to sustainability and digitalization.

However, achieving the EU’s mining output target of 10% by 2030 will require significant investment and time. Developing a lithium mine from discovery to production typically takes around 17 years. Furthermore, the investment costs for establishing a new plant to produce lithium hydroxide range from €500 million to €1 billion. Despite the challenges, Scherer emphasized the importance of investing in commodities projects, although caution prevails due to the recent crash in lithium prices.

To support private resource projects, a joint initiative by France, Italy, and Germany aims to raise €2.5 billion in initial funding. However, commodities expert Alice Yu doubts that state funding alone will be sufficient to stimulate the necessary investment. The EU may need to consider collaboration with Chinese expertise and capital in the lithium refining space, given China’s significant presence in global battery production capacity.

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