Europe’s Progress in Onshoring Lithium Refining Projects

Europe is making significant progress in onshoring refining and processing of critical metals, particularly lithium, according to a new report by Transport & Environment (T&E). The report highlights the potential for Europe to reduce its dependence on imported lithium and strengthen its self-sufficiency goals in the battery sector.
Currently, Europe relies entirely on imported lithium to meet the demands of its growing battery industry. However, various domestic projects have been announced in recent years, signaling a shift towards reducing the region’s dependence on imports. T&E’s analysis of the latest project pipeline reveals 24 lithium refining projects in the EU and the UK. These projects, either integrated with mining or stand-alone plants, are in various stages of development.

The combined theoretical capacity of these projects is estimated to reach 108 kt Li by 2030. This significant capacity demonstrates the potential for Europe to almost completely reduce its reliance on imported lithium. By developing and expanding these refining projects, Europe can strengthen its self-sufficiency goals, including processing, extraction, and recycling of critical metals.

To achieve this, T&E emphasizes the importance of building partnerships with resource-rich countries and co-investing in mining projects abroad. This approach would help secure a sustainable supply of feedstock and meet the global IRMA (Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance) standard requirements. T&E suggests that Europe should consider collaborating with countries such as Indonesia, Australia, Canada, and various African nations to ensure a diversified and resilient supply chain.

The report highlights the need for Europe to strengthen its environmental and social safeguards in the refining and processing of critical metals. T&E recommends the implementation of certification schemes with multi-stakeholder governance and independent audits. These schemes would ensure compliance with regulations, protect indigenous peoples’ rights, and promote responsible waste management practices.

Source: CRM Position Paper | Transport & Enviroment
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