Earlier this moth, the European Parliament’s industry committee voted to endorse the EU’s draft Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA – see our coverage here) which sets benchmarks to increase domestic capacity for critical minerals extraction in an effort to reduce the EU’s over-reliance on supplies from China and other countries.
The vote is a timely one and came on the same day 19 companies sent a joint letter to EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen urging immediate action to strengthen the European battery value chain.
The joint letter, signed by companies like battery maker Northvolt, battery materials maker Umicore, recycler Li-Cycle, as well as miners and industry bodies including Recharge and Eurometaux, urges the creation of an equivalent to the EU Hydrogen Bank for the critical minerals sector. Acknowledging European efforts including the above-referenced CRMA and the Net Zero Industrial Act aimed at clean tech manufacturing, the signers argue these efforts aren’t targeted enough. While the U.S., they say, “is fast catching up with its mammoth investment package under the Inflation Reduction Act, (…) Europe’s investment climate has been further worsened from the ongoing Ukraine conflict.”
While Europeans often point to accelerated efforts in the U.S. to strengthen critical mineral supply chains, U.S. observers question whether the U.S. is in fact doing enough to reduce its own over-reliance, pointing to challenges associated with both the Inflation Reduction Act provisions, as well as some other policy avenues that have recently been pursued particularly against the backdrop of ever-increasing material demand scenarios.
The latest case in point: a new CSIS White Paper arguing that for all recent efforts, the U.S. government is currently lacking a coherent approach that truly acknowledges “[m]ining’s strategic importance in ensuring decarbonization, strengthening national security, and contributing to economic development.”
The paper argues that failure to enact a comprehensive and bipartisan mineral resource strategy may only worsen the mineral-related imbalance in which the country finds itself, and recommends several steps to correct course, which range from broadening the definition of what constitutes a critical mineral (see our recent discussions of copper, which recently made a Department of Energy list of critical materials but has yet to be incorporated into the overall U.S. Government’s critical mineral list), over designating a lead agency to formulate strategy, to increasing domestic extraction and processing and developing a more comprehensive narrative around the issue of mineral resource security (see ARPN’s latest post on grassroots involvement).
As U.S. lawmakers return to the capital to work on unresolved policy issues this month, there are rumblings that momentum to tackle some of the mineral resource related agenda items has been waning, particularly a push to further permitting reform. Perhaps a look across the pond to Europe, where stakeholders aim to kick mineral resource supply chain security efforts into high gear, can serve as the nudge U.S. stakeholders need to push forward with an all-of-the-above approach to mineral resource security, as the global race for resources will only continue to heat up.