Column: Aluminium is the West’s critical minerals blind spot – by Andy Home (Reuters – May 23, 2023)

LONDON, May 23 (Reuters) – Aluminium is classified as a critical mineral by both the United States and the European Union. You wouldn’t know it from the perilous state of primary metal production on both sides of the Atlantic.

High energy costs, particularly in Europe, have caused multiple smelters to close or curtail output with the result that run-rates are the lowest this century. Back in 2020 the World Bank identified aluminium as a “high-impact” and “cross-cutting” metal in all existing and potential green energy technologies.

Yet aluminium hasn’t even made it onto the list of metals covered by the EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), which will set targets for both domestic production and import dependency. The United States has tried via import tariffs to support its domestic producers but with little lasting success.

Even the Inflation Reduction Act with its generous subsidies for domestically-sourced metal is unlikely to work without addressing aluminium’s green energy paradox. Western European primary aluminium production has been sliding since 2017 but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting spike in energy prices have accelerated the downtrend.

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