EC adds lithium to critical raw materials list amid transition to ‘green’ economy

The European Commission unveiled an updated list of critical raw materials on Thursday September 3 that it aims to secure the supply of while avoiding over-dependence on third countries, alongside an action plan to create domestic supply chains for raw materials.

Lithium, a material that is critical for the shift to a greener economy, has been added to this list for the first time.

Lithium is a key element in the manufacturing of batteries that power electric vehicles (EV) and energy storage systems (ESS).

The move comes while the European Union is taking decisive steps to shift to a greener and digital economy in line with the goals set out in the European Green Deal that has the ambitious target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

“For e-car batteries and energy storage alone, Europe will for instance need up to 18 times more lithium by 2030 and up to 60 times more by 2050,” Maroš Šefcovic, EC vice president for inter-institutional relations and foresight, said. “We cannot allow to replace current reliance on fossil fuels with dependency on critical raw materials, this has been magnified by the coronavirus disruptions in our strategic value chains.”

“We will therefore build a strong alliance to collectively shift from high dependency to diversified, sustainable and socially-responsible sourcing, circularity and innovation,” he added.

Critical raw materials list
The EC first released an inventory of critical raw materials in 2011 in response to soaring commodities prices. Subsequent updates were based on developing economic importance and supply challenges. The EC has added bauxite, titanium and strontium to the latest version of the list alongside lithium. The body eliminated helium from the list, which now contains 30 critical raw materials. Among other materials deemed critical and already present in the list are rare earths, antimony, cobalt and graphite.

The EU also announced it is working to establish a “European Raw Materials Alliance” within the coming weeks with the primary aim to make Europe’s raw materials supply more secure and sustainable. A primary objective of the newly created body will be to increase the EU ‘s resilience in the rare earths and magnet value chains, which are vital for key industrial applications.

The EC is also working on identifying mining and processing projects within the EU that can be operational by 2025, it said.