Since the mid-2000s, many European Countries, including the EU, have realised how dependent they have become on foreign imports to access non-energetic raw materials.
This dependence has been interpreted as a threat to Europe’s industry and global competitiveness. A list of “Critical Raw Materials” was established in 2010 and revised in 2014 (European Commission MEMO/14/377, 26/05/2014 Figure 1).
Figure 1: The 20 critical raw materials in Europe in 2014 (European Commission MEMO/14/377, 26/05/2014)
None of the 20 raw materials listed are significantly mined or produced in Europe (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Producers of the 20 critical raw materials in Europe (Source: European Commission)
Europe holds valuable mineral resources in both primary and secondary mines:
- Concerning primary mines, Europe has been mined actively over many centuries and a significant number of the easy-to-access mineral deposits are now greatly depleted. The major opportunities to access raw materials within the EU are in populated areas, in low grade or small complex deposits that may vary in composition over time and contain different sizes of particles from coarse to very fine grains.
The challenge today lays in the evolution of the existing processing of these raw materials to respond to Europe’s constraints.
- The challenges are numerous and the task even more complex for secondary mines. Processes must be adapted and some even specifically designed for the treatment of material or waste. Before their industrial development, these processes must not only be efficient but also consider the economic, environmental and societal aspects in Europe and abroad.
It is therefore necessary for the European industry (i.e. mining and metals industry, technology providers, recyclers…) to access a network of knowledge that can work in a cross-sectorial and innovative way by combining the expertise of all stakeholders.
Flexibility and speed needs to be enhanced and solutions must enter into industrial use faster and more efficiently. Future needs and challenges remain unknown, but the flexibility and versatility of a network and a strong cooperation between research partners and stakeholders will enable industry to overcome these challenges more efficiently.
PROMETIA is the research and integration network designed to address these challenges.