Europe Struggling To Secure Metal Supply

An extensive analysis of how Europe is facing a shortage of supply of green metals needed for clean energy.

FREMONT: Europe is facing a race against time to secure the metals it needs to power the energy transition to green fuels. The EU – which is dependent on Russia for its main supply of aluminium, nickel, and platinum – is facing a crisis due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A study by Belgium's KU Leuven University found that the global energy transition is progressing faster than the construction of the mining project pipeline, with copper, cobalt, lithium, nickel, and rare earth metals all at risk of a disruptive demand-pull between now and 2035.

The Swedish metals group Boliden estimates that completing the building of a new mine needs 15 years to move through the planning, permitting and construction stages of being fully operational.

The European Union also faced a crisis regarding its dependence on metal imports from China when an industrial power in Shaanxi province caused a disruption of the magnesium supply for Europe's factories. The EU Chip Act, revealed in February of 2022, is a comprehensive attempt to lessen Europe's dependency on overseas suppliers of semiconductors. This strategy includes financing, better subsidy investment facilities and coordination mechanisms across member states to monitor the supply of semiconductors, estimate demand trends and predict shortages.

The clean energy campaign group Transport and Environment proposes that Europe learn from the United States’s move to invoke the Defense Production Act to jump-start its critical minerals supply chains and China's government’s decisions to exhort its battery metal producers to maximise output and development plans. She strongly advocates for creating a European strategic minerals agency similar to Euroatom in the nuclear materials sector.

While recycling is a viable option, studies have demonstrated that it will be feasible for Europe's primary supply source for most transition metals but only after 2040. Until then, other solutions need to be found.