Europe’s Efforts to Secure Critical Metals

Europe has set its sights on becoming more self-sufficient in the production of critical metals such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt. With China currently holding a strong advantage in controlling key supply chains and the US driving investments into critical metals production, it may be easy to dismiss Europe's efforts. However, Europe has announced several projects aimed at extracting these critical metals while adhering to strict social and environmental criteria.
Transport & Environment has identified 18 mining projects in Europe, of which 17 will be integrated with downstream refining capacities. These projects aim to produce almost 70 kt Li by 2030, with France, Serbia, Germany, and Spain projected to have the largest mining capacities. However, 40% of this volume comes from projects facing opposition from local communities and/or governments in Serbia, Spain, and Portugal, leaving timelines and viability uncertain.

Despite the challenges, Europe’s lithium projects could potentially meet up to 43% of Europe’s needs (and 26% when excluding those facing opposition) for Li-ion batteries in Transport & Environment’s base case scenario of 1,050 GWh by 2030. When considering the demand from electric light and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as energy storage in the minimum regulatory scenario (860 GWh requiring 103 kt Li), the projects can cover up to 53% of the demand for lithium by 2030.

To achieve self-sufficiency, Europe will need a mix of measures, including ambitious recycling and circularity policies, innovation, substitution, and exploiting its potential for critical metals while adhering to high social and environmental standards. Companies like Vulcan Energy Resources, Eramet, Lithium de France, and Northern Lithium are leading the development of Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE), a more environmentally friendly technology for lithium production.

While Europe’s efforts to become more self-sufficient in the production of critical metals face challenges, the projects announced so far offer a promising outlook. It remains to be seen how successful these projects will be, but Europe’s commitment to strict social and environmental criteria and innovative solutions may give it an edge in securing its critical metals supply chain.

Report source: Transport & Enviroment Graph source: CIC energiGUNE

source: CIC energiGUNE
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