EU starts screening raw materials ‘critical list’

No – the economic importance should be decided on the balance of probabilities, where they will best help to continually reduce the resource intensity of the EU.

We are still thinking in the old paradigm, climbing the roller coaster to the top of the resource curves; when we go over the top, events will happen fast and the time to think will be swallowed up faster.

We should not be thinking Aero or Auto but how we continually reduce the ‘resource intensity of mobility’ (RIoM) – therein lies the future economy, jobs and  coherent societies

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“For example, a given raw material may be used in 40% by the automotive sector and 30% by the aerospace sector,” said an EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the methodology is still being adjusted. “And so we can utilize these percentages to aggregate the economic importance of these raw materials for the sectors that use them.”

“The economic importance will be determined either by the employment or the added value of the sector,” the official said.

EU starts screening raw materials ‘critical list’ 

 

Published: Tuesday 1 December 2009   

An expert group set up by the European Commission has begun screening a list of forty-nine “potentially critical” raw materials whose availability to industry could come under threat as global competition for natural resources intensifies, EurActiv has learned.

A preliminary list of twenty raw materials considered to be potentially critical for the EU economy, published by the Commission a year ago, has been expanded to include nineteen new substances.

A first batch of raw materials – cobalt, lithium and rare earths – was examined by the expert group during its first meeting in November, with the objective of testing the Commission’s proposed methodology on the raw materials’ “criticality”, EurActiv has learned.

“For example, a given raw material may be used in 40% by the automotive sector and 30% by the aerospace sector,” said an EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the methodology is still being adjusted. “And so we can utilise these percentages to aggregate the economic importance of these raw materials for the sectors that use them.”

“The economic importance will be determined either by the employment or the added value of the sector,” the official said.

EU industries, and particularly those active in telecoms, aerospace and other hi-tech sectors, are facing fierce competition for natural resources from emerging economies, the Commission pointed out last year, outlining its draft raw materials strategy.

High-tech materials are increasingly at the basis of innovative “green techs”, associated with renewable energy and reduction of greenhouse gases, it pointed out, saying Europe should seek ways of securing supplies or risk running short.

Those considered as “potentially critical” for ‘high tech’ sectors include niobium, platinum and titanium, the EU executive said in its preliminary assessment (see annex of Commission’s raw materials initiativePdf external ).

The new strategy, to be fully fleshed out next year, should aim to lower the consumption of primary natural resources by increasing resource efficiency and recycling, EU industry ministers agreed after a meeting in May (EurActiv 04/06/09).

Three types of risk

The expert group put together by the Commission has already identified three types of risks:

  • Import risk, where raw materials are imported from a politically instable region or from a country where the market economy does not work. “That is relatively easy to do as the World Bank has put together governance indexes which measure the political and economic stability index of countries,” the EU official explained.   
  • Production risk within the EU, with potential problems such as land access. “If we are in a country for example where the population density is very high, where urbanisation is very high, obviously access will be weak,” the EU official explained.
  • Environmental risk, based on indicators such as air or soil pollution, where the impact of raw materials use is measured from an environmental point of view. “This is innovative compared to other studies,” the EU official said. “We have just launched a life-cycle analysis to determine what the environmental impact is for each raw material in terms of exploitation, use, treatment, recycling etc., for air or soil pollution as well as emissions of greenhouse gases.”

The three types of indicators are then aggregated to determine risk, but this is where things get “a bit more complicated,” the EU official said.

Full story at http://www.euractiv.com/en/sustainability/eu-starts-screening-raw-materials-critical-list/article-187791

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