Critical Raw Materials are indispensable for the EU economy and a wide set of necessary technologies for strategic sectors such as renewable energy, digital, space and defence. The Critical Raw Materials Act (CRM Act) will ensure EU access to a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials, enabling Europe to meet its 2030 climate and digital objectives.
Overview of the Critical Raw Materials Act
Critical raw materials are of high economic importance for Europe while being also highly vulnerable to supply disruptions. Critical raw materials are confronted with a growing global demand, driven by the decarbonisation of economies. For instance, EU demand for rare earth metals is expected to increase six-fold by 2030 and seven-fold by 2050, for lithium, EU demand is expected to increase twelve-fold by 2030 and twenty-one-fold by 2050. Today, Europe relies heavily on imports, often from a single third country, and recent crises have underlined EU strategic dependencies. Without joint and timely action, a well-functioning single market, resiliency and competitiveness, European industries and
EU efforts to meet its climate and digital objectives are at risk.
The Commission’s proposal for a Critical Raw Materials Act is a comprehensive response to these challenges. Building on the strength of the single market, the Act will ensure that the EU can rely on strong, resilient, and sustainable value chains for critical raw materials. The proposal for a Regulation will strengthen all stages of the European critical raw materials value chain, diversify the EU’s imports to reduce strategic dependencies, improve EU capacity to monitor and mitigate risks of disruptions to the supply of critical raw materials, and improve circularity and sustainability.
A communication accompanying the Regulation outlines how the EU intends to strengthen its global engagement to develop and diversify investment, production, and trade with reliable partners. The EU will pursue these objectives in cooperation with third countries through mutually beneficial partnerships, with a view to promoting their own economic development in a sustainable manner while also creating secure, resilient, affordable and sufficiently diversified value chains for the EU.
In line with the Green Deal Industrial Plan, the Critical Raw Materials Act comes out alongside the Commission’s proposal for a Net Zero Industry Act, which aims to scale up the manufacture of key carbon-neutral technologies for clean energy supply chains.
Actions under the Critical Raw Materials Act
Setting priorities for action
In addition to an updated list of critical raw materials for the whole EU economy, it lists strategic raw materials, which are those most crucial for strategic technologies used for the green, digital, defence and space applications.
Setting benchmarks by 2030 for domestic capacities
The Act sets these benchmarks along the strategic raw materials value chain and for the diversification of the EU supplies
- at least 10% of the EU’s annual consumption for extraction
- at least 40% of the EU’s annual consumption for processing
- at least 15% of the EU’s annual consumption for recycling
- no more than 65% of the EU’s annual consumption from a single third country
Creating secure and resilient supply chains
The Act will reduce the administrative burden, streamlining permitting procedures for critical raw materials projects in the EU while ensuring that we keep high social and environmental protection. In addition, selected strategic projects will benefit from support for access to finance and shorter permitting timeframes (24 months for extraction permits and 12 months for processing and recycling permits). EU countries will also have to develop national programmes for exploring geological resources.
Supply risk preparedness and mitigation
To ensure supply chain resilience, the Act creates critical raw materials supply chain monitoring and stress-testing, coordinates strategic stocks and sets risk preparedness obligation on large companies producing strategic technologies.
Improving sustainability and circularity of critical raw materials on the EU market
EU countries will take measures to improve the collection of critical raw material-rich waste and ensure its recycling into secondary critical raw materials. EU countries and private operators will have to investigate the potential for recovery of critical raw materials from extractive waste. To incentivise large-scale recycling of permanent magnets, the Act sets requirements on recyclability and recycled content. The Act empowers the Commission to establish rules for the environmental footprint of critical raw materials subject to various safeguards. This will help to increase the circularity and sustainability of critical raw materials placed on the EU market, allowing customers to make informed choices about products containing critical raw materials.
Diversifying the Union's imports of raw materials
International trade is key to supporting global production and ensuring the diversification of supply. EU actions include
- creating a critical raw materials ‘club’ for all interested countries to strengthen global supply chains
- using trade agreements to secure and diversify trade in critical raw materials
- expanding the EU’s network of strategic partnerships with a value chain approach and strong sustainability dimension
- using the Global Gateway for soft and hard infrastructure to deploy projects along the raw materials value chain and support connectivity
- working with EU countries to set up an EU export credit facility to low the risk of investment abroad
- tackling unfair trade practices related to raw materials and increasing enforcement
To ensure overall coordination, the act proposes a European Critical Raw Materials Board, composed of EU countries and the Commission to advise on and coordinate the implementation of the measures set out in the act and discuss the EU’s strategic partnerships with third countries.
President von der Leyen announced the Critical Raw Materials Act during her 2022 State of the Union speech, calling to address EU dependency on imported critical raw materials by diversifying and securing a domestic and sustainable supply of critical raw materials. The speech responds to the 2022 Versailles Declaration, adopted by the European Council, which outlined the strategic importance of critical raw materials to guarantee the Union’s strategic autonomy and European sovereignty. It also responds to the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe and to the November 2021 resolution of the European Parliament for an EU critical raw materials strategy.
The European Commission's Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs plays a vital role in promoting the sustainable supply and use of critical raw materials (CRMs) in Europe. The Directorate-General is responsible for implementing the Critical Raw Materials Act, alongside the EU Raw Materials Initiative
and the 2020 Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials. The Directorate is also responsible for the criticality assessment and the foresight report.
The Critical Raw Material Act is part of the Green Deal Industrial Plan. Presented in parallel with the EU’s Net Zero Industry Act, the Critical Raw Materials Act will help to scale up the EU manufacture of key carbon neutral or ‘net-zero’ technologies to ensure a secure, sustainable and competitive supply chain for clean energy to reach the EU’s climate and energy ambitions.
The Commission has been assessing raw materials for their criticality since 2011. Since then, it has published an update of the list of EU Critical Raw Materials every three years. In 2023, 87 materials were analysed for their supply risk and importance to the EU economy. See the results of the assessment published in a study, and detailed information on each screened material in its factsheet. Accompanying this work is also the updated foresight study on raw materials.