Pressure Mounts on EU to Acknowledge Aluminium as a Strategic Raw Material
Pressure Mounts on EU to Acknowledge Aluminium as a Strategic Raw Material

Pressure Mounts on EU to Acknowledge Aluminium as a Strategic Raw Material

  • 26-Jun-2023 5:50 PM
  • Journalist: Stella Fernandes

Europe: France and Germany are spearheading efforts to have Aluminium categorized as a "strategic" raw material within the EU, potentially granting the industry expedited permit procedures and greater access to financing. Amendments to the EU's proposed legislation on critical raw materials would prioritize Bauxite, Alumina, and Aluminium - all key stages in the production of the metal used in various products ranging from tin cans to solar panels. By designating these materials as strategic, the EU could accelerate permit processes for Aluminium smelters and Bauxite miners. The European Commission presented the draft law in March as part of the bloc’s efforts to make its economy greener and source more of the required raw materials in the EU, to avoid dependency on rivals such as China.

Several diplomats have confirmed that France, Germany, Greece, and Slovenia are pushing for the inclusion of Aluminium, Alumina and Bauxite as part of the legislation aimed at powering Europe's green transition. This request comes amid debates among countries over how to use the legislation to support their respective national industries. The move caters to the industrial policy interests of the French and Germans, which represents a typical EU response. Another diplomat in support of the amendment explained that these materials were crucial for the energy and digital transition as the EU heavily depends on Bauxite imports.

While Poland has advocated for the inclusion of coking coal, an essential component in steel production, this move has not received the same level of support as the request for Aluminium, Alumina and Bauxite. Some diplomats believe that adding Aluminium to the list could lead to further requests to expand it. Trade groups have been actively lobbying for the inclusion of Aluminium, stating that it is a critical material for solar panels, wind turbines, and grid technologies. They have also warned that more than half of the global supply comes from China. In 2022, metal prices experienced a steep increase due to supply shortages following the war in Ukraine.

European Aluminium, a trade group, has reported that Aluminium smelting is highly energy-intensive, and last year's surge in gas prices caused smelters to shut down, leading to a 50 per cent drop in European production. If the proposed addition of Aluminium to the strategic materials list is accepted, the industry will benefit from a streamlined permitting process, reducing extraction permits to 24 months for Bauxite and Alumina and 12 months for processing permits. The EU will also be obligated to increase domestic extraction to 10 per cent of total consumption, and domestic processing to 40 per cent of consumption, with some member states aiming for 50 per cent domestic processing and raising recycling targets for strategic materials from 15 to 20 per cent.

The demand for other metals, including lithium, is expected to grow much faster than Aluminium. This is one of the reasons why Brussels did not include Aluminium in its legislative proposal, as the commission found that other technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries, required access to a secure and diversified source more urgently than Aluminium did. However, global demand for Aluminium is still projected to increase by 43 per cent from 2020 to 2050, with copper demand growing by 51 per cent and lithium demand skyrocketing by 2,109 per cent. While the process has yet to begin, the negotiation of the final list of strategic materials will involve member states, the commission, and the European parliament.

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