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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Policy and strategy for raw materials

Securing reliable and unhindered access to raw materials is important for the EU. In the EU, there are at least 30 million jobs depending on the availability of raw materials. The European Commission’s actions to ensure a sustainable supply of these materials can be divided into 2 interlinked parts: the raw materials initiative and the European innovation partnership on raw materials.

The raw materials initiative

In 2008, the Commission adopted the raw materials initiative which set out a strategy for tackling the issue of access to raw materials in the EU. This strategy has 3 pillars which aim to ensure

  1. Fair and sustainable supply of raw materials from global markets
  2. Sustainable supply of raw materials within the EU
  3. Resource efficiency and supply of 'secondary raw materials' through recycling

The strategy covers all raw materials used by European industry except materials from agricultural production and materials used as fuel. Ensuring sustainable access to these raw materials is crucial to the competitiveness and growth of the EU economy and the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy.

The Commission also regularly publishes a list of critical raw materials in the EU.

A Commission expert group - the raw materials supply group, with representatives from EU countries, European Economic Area countries, EU candidate countries, and organisations representing stakeholders - industry, research and civil society - advises the Commission and oversees the initiative’s implementation.

Sustainable development goals and raw materials initiative

On 25 September 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

The EU is committed to these goals. In its 2016 communication on steps for a sustainable European future, the Commission pledged to apply the principles of sustainable development to all EU policies and initiatives. The Council of the European Union encouraged this in its conclusions on sustainable development in 2017.

A report on mining and the SDGs was published on 8 November 2016, illustrating how mining can contribute to the achievement of every SDG. The report was jointly issued by

  • the United Nations development programme
  • the World Economic Forum
  • the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investments
  • the sustainable development solutions network

The Commission helps to implement the SDGs in non-energy extractive industries through its policies derived from the raw materials initiative and through policies, programmes and actions related to

  • trade
  • environment
  • research and innovation
  • development
  • fiscal transparency

The European innovation partnership (EIP) on raw materials

The EIP is the major EU initiative implementing the raw materials initiative stakeholder platform that brings together EU countries, companies, researchers, and NGOs to promote innovation in the raw materials sector.

The main objective of the partnership is to help raise industry's contribution to the EU’s GDP to around 20% by 2020 by securing its access to raw materials. It will also play an important role in meeting the objectives of the Commission’s flagship initiatives innovation union and resource-efficient Europe. It will do this by ensuring the sustainable supply of raw materials to the European economy whilst also increasing benefits for society as a whole.

The EIP developed its strategic implementation plan with 95 actions to foster innovative solutions. These may be technological or non-technological. Specific actions include research and development, addressing policy framework conditions, disseminating best practices, building a knowledge base, and fostering international cooperation.

The European raw materials alliance - Building a raw materials value chain in Europe

The European raw materials alliance will diversify supply to achieve open strategic autonomy in the rare earths and magnets value chain. At a later stage, it could expand to other critical raw material and base metal needs.

The alliance involves all relevant stakeholders, including industrial actors along the value chain, EU countries and regions, trade unions, civil society, research and technology organisations, investors and NGOs. It identifies barriers, opportunities and investment cases to build capacities at all stages of the raw materials value chain, from mining to waste recovery.

Strategic partnerships on raw materials

In September 2020, the Commission adopted the critical raw materials action plan, presenting ten concrete actions to tackle vulnerabilities in the raw materials supply chains. The action plan announced that the EU should engage in strategic partnerships with resource-rich third countries, making use of all external policy instruments and respecting its international obligations.

Action 9 entails the development of strategic international partnerships and associated funding. It aims to secure a diversified and sustainable supply of critical raw materials, including through undistorted trade and investment conditions. Pilot partnerships with Canada, interested countries in Africa and the EU’s neighbourhood started in 2021 (between the Commission, EU countries, industry and third country counterparts).

Strategic partnership on raw materials between the European Union and Canada

The partnership with Canada received political endorsement at the EU-Canada summit on 14-15 June 2021. The partnership aims to advance the value, security, and sustainability of trade and investment into resilient raw materials and downstream value chains across Canada and the EU. The areas for cooperation are

  • Integration of Canada-EU raw materials value chains
  • Science, technology and innovation
  • Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria, and standards

The framework of the partnership was adopted on 21 June, at the meeting of the EU-Canada Bilateral dialogue on raw materials.

Framework for a strategic partnership on raw materials between the European Union and Canada

Ensuring the security of supply chains for the minerals and metals critical to the transition to a climate-neutral and digitised economy is a priority for Canada and the European Union. To reduce supply chain risks and foster a competitive Canada-EU value chain, Canada and the EU established a Canada-EU strategic partnership on raw materials. The strategic partnership will advance the value, security, and sustainability of trade and investment into raw materials and downstream value chains across Canada and the EU to support the green and digital transition.

This partnership was established within the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement mandate, notably of the bilateral dialogue of raw materials (Art. 25.4).

Framework for a strategic partnership on raw materials
Overarching goal
To advance the value, security, and sustainability of trade and investment into resilient raw materials and downstream value chains across both Canada and the EU
Integration of Canada-EU raw materials value chains Science, technology and innovation collaboration Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria, and standards
Bring investors (including downstream industry end-users of critical raw materials) and raw material project proponents together, share information on opportunities, and identify and leverage private and public investment into a pipeline of projects at various stages of the raw material value chain. Collaborate with industry and other stakeholders to advance critical raw materials supply chain research and innovation, including extraction and processing from low footprint, economic ore deposits to low waste streams, supporting end-to-end value chain sustainability and circularity. Lead by advancing world-class ESG credentials in a Canada-EU integrated critical raw material value chain, while advocating in multilateral fora for strong and effective international practices.

Strategic Partnership between the European Union and Ukraine on raw materials and batteries

During the High Level Partnership Conference on 13 July in Kyiv, the EU and Ukraine officially began the strategic partnership on raw materials and batteries by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU).

In line with the EU’s critical raw materials action plan, the partnership with Ukraine will help diversify, strengthen and secure both sides’ supply of critical raw materials and batteries, which are essential for the green and digital transitions. The partnership is crucial for the global competitiveness and resilience of European and Ukrainian industries.

As with the Canadian partnership, we will increase cooperation with Ukraine in three key areas through

  • responsible mining based on sustainable mining principles
  • integration of (critical) raw materials and battery value chains by facilitating joint venture projects and business opportunities
  • research & innovation along the critical raw materials and batteries value chains (e.g. Horizon Europe), capacity building, and data management and sharing

While the MoU sets the political framework, the partnership roadmap defines the partnership’s concrete actions and activities. The first roadmap was already endorsed by the partners for the period of 2021-22. Specifically, they agreed to utilise the European Raw Materials Alliance and the European Battery Alliance as stakeholder platforms for project funding, investment, collaboration and development to

  • develop a low carbon strategy and roadmap to decarbonise raw material mining, extraction and processing in Ukraine
  • strengthen sustainable and responsible sourcing and processing of raw materials and batteries in Ukraine
  • digitalise and strengthen data management of Ukrainian mineral resources/reserves
  • enhance the use of Earth-observation programmes and remote sensing for resource exploration, operations and post-closure environmental management
  • identify and conduct joint-venture projects for EU and Ukrainian industrial and investment actors

The partnership was developed under the existing framework of the EU-Ukraine High Level Industrial Dialogue – Working Group on Raw Materials. We will also use this collaboration structure to monitor and discuss matters of relevant to the roadmap’s implementation.

Supporting information

  • EIT RawMaterials, knowledge and innovation community of European Institute of Innovation and Technology

Raw materials initiative

European innovation partnership on raw materials

Related EU policies


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