The EU's Raw Materials Initiative

The strength of the European economy lies in innovation and the use of advanced materials. The Raw Materials Initiative was instigated to manage responses to raw materials issues at an EU level. The first criticality analysis for raw materials was published in 2010 by the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Defining Critical Raw Materials, a subgroup to the Raw Materials Supply Group, which is an expert group of the European Commission. 14 critical raw materials were identified from a candidate list of 41 non-energy, non-food materials. In the 2011 Communication on raw materials (COM (2011)25 of 2 February 2011), the Commission formally adopted this list and stated that it would continue to monitor the issue of critical raw materials in order to identify priority actions. It also committed to undertake a regular review and update of this list at least every 3 years.

The current review has used the same methodology, indicators and thresholds as the original 2010 (54 raw materials instead of 41) criticality assessment at EU level, but with updated data and a wider range of materials. This enables a side-by-side comparison of both assessments (2010 and 2013) to understand how the criticality of materials has changed during this time. In the 2013 exercise 54 non-energy, non-agricultural materials were analysed. The same quantitative methodology as in the previous 2010 exercise is applying two criteria - the economic importance and the supply risk of the selected raw materials. Like in 2010, the following assessment components have been used:

  • Economic importance: this analysis is achieved by assessing the proportion of each material associated with industrial megasectors at an EU level. These proportions are then combined with the megasectors' gross value added (GVA) to the EU's GDP. This total is then scaled according to the total EU GDP to define an overall economic importance for a material.
  • Supply risk: in order to measure the supply risk of raw materials, the World Governance Indicator (WGI; governmental risk) was used. This indicator takes a variety of influences into account such as voice and accountability, political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law or control of corruption.

The criticality zone is defined by the same thresholds as in 2010 to ensure comparability of the results. This extended candidate list includes 7 new abiotic materials and 3 biotic materials. In addition, greater detail is provided for the rare earth elements by splitting them into 'heavy' and 'light' categories. The overall results of the 2013 criticality assessment are shown below; the critical raw materials are highlighted in the red shaded criticality zone of the graph.

Analysis of the global primary supply of the 54 candidate materials identifies around 90% of global supply originated from extra-EU sources; this included most of the base, specialty and precious metals, and rubber. China is the major supplier when these materials are considered, however many other countries are important suppliers of specific materials. EU primary supply across all candidate materials is estimated at around 9%. In the case of the critical raw materials, supply from the EU sources is even more limited.

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