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New EU regulation addresses critical raw materials: Transforming resource management strategies

The European Union has taken a significant step towards managing critical raw materials with the introduction of the “Critical Raw Material Act” Regulation (CRMS). Published in the European Journal, this regulation aims to ensure greater order in production by 2030. It mandates that at least 10% of critical raw materials must come from local extraction, with 40% sourced from internal transformations within the EU and a minimum of 25% from recycled materials. Additionally, no more than 65% of consumption should depend on a single third country.

The recent conflict in Ukraine has highlighted the vulnerability of European industries, particularly in the energy, aerospace, and high-tech sectors. With China being a major supplier, the EU aims to diversify its sourcing to reduce dependence on any single country. For instance, China currently provides 100% of the EU’s supply of heavy rare earth elements, while South Africa supplies 71% of platinum needs. However, the EU seeks to change these percentages through increased exploration and extraction efforts.

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One of the most significant challenges lies in the competition with China, particularly in the battery sector. While China currently dominates as the largest producer globally, efforts to enhance research and exploration in other countries could impact its market share. However, the EU must also consider the costs of extraction and ensure that strategic extraction projects are accelerated and operationalized in a timely manner.

The regulation identifies 34 materials as critical, including those used in mobile phones, batteries, energy generators, and medical devices. Each EU member state is required to inform the Commission about strategic projects and adhere to the framework classification of resources established by the United Nations.

The UN has emphasized the importance of sustainable resource management to avoid environmental degradation and minimize the impact on local communities. By adhering to these principles, the EU aims to achieve a more sustainable approach to resource extraction and management by 2060.

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