Europe relies on foreign raw materials to power its green and digital future. Now it wants to mine them at home – by David Meyer (Fortune Magazine – September 3, 2020)

The European Union is keen to boost its green and digital ambitions, making them central to its coronavirus recovery plans. But there’s one big problem: raw materials.

Those rare-earth elements needed for the magnets in electric vehicles and wind turbines? Some 98% of the EU’s supply comes from China. South Africa provides 84% of the platinum group metals needed for fuel cells and automotive catalysts.

And Europe’s supplies of lithium—critical for battery production and therefore for electric vehicles and renewable-energy storage—come mostly from Chile.

So, on Thursday, the European Commission set out a plan for diversifying its supplies, while also hopefully improving conditions in the mining of these raw materials.

“A secure and sustainable supply of raw materials is a prerequisite for a resilient economy,” said EC Vice President Maroš Šefčovič in a statement. “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.”

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