Europe’s strategy for critical raw materials “a double-edged sword”
But if left unchecked, mining for the materials needed to produce them could cause major environmental and social damage, the EEB warned.
The European Commission has unveiled today its strategy to boost the domestic supply of raw materials needed to manufacture vital goods such as batteries and renewable energy technologies.
The roadmap includes an updated list of materials identified as critical and the development of an alliance which promises major investments in the exploration, extraction, and recycling of materials on European soil.
The announcement comes as EU leaders seek to reduce their dependence on third countries and strengthen their supply of raw materials amid recent trade disruptions and growing geopolitical instability.
Critical materials such as lithium, which is used to produce batteries, are set to gain a central spot in the strategy due to increasing demand for electric vehicles and energy storage technologies. Such products are necessary to help Europe ditch fossil fuels and transition to clean energy.
However, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) warned of a ‘double-edged sword’, arguing that the environmental and societal costs of mining must be properly assessed. The focus must be on reducing the use of limited resources and avoiding environmental disasters often linked to mining such as deadly pollution, water shortages and the displacement of people.
Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, policy officer on resource efficiency at the EEB, said: “Simply opening the flood gates to new mining projects in Europe would contradict the European Commission’s ambition to keep resource consumption within planetary boundaries, as set out in the circular economy action plan in March. What we need is more efficient, recyclable and durable batteries produced from responsibly sourced materials to alleviate the burden on the planet.”
The EEB also called for the adoption of a headline target to halve material footprint in the EU by 2030, and on the development and monitoring of complementary indicators on land, water and carbon footprints.
Similarly, Diego Francesco Marin, a project officer for environmental justice at the EEB, said: “By relocating mining to Europe, we are likely to also import the environmental damage that has been inflicted on communities in South America, Asia and Africa for decades. The European Commission must ensure that local communities and civil society groups become part of a comprehensive consultation process so that they can raise concerns about new mining projects near their homes before it’s too late.“