In a guest article in the business newspaper Handelsblatt, Roberto Garcia Martinez of Swedish mining company Eurobattery Minerals writes that European states should seriously consider sourcing key raw materials for more climate-friendly technologies domestically rather than relying on imports from countries with questionable human rights and environmental protection records. “These nations import copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, and rare earths, thereby ruling out fully sustainable battery manufacturing.”
As nations throughout Europe work to phase out coal mining – the region’s most economically important commodity – new regulations, such as Germany’s supply chain law, which takes effect in 2023, will make it more difficult to outsource mining activities to foreign countries, according to Martinez.
The mining lobbyist claimed that a climate-neutral Europe could not be founded on human rights atrocities in other areas of the world. He claims that all key raw materials for e-car manufacture can be found in Europe, implying that the area could provide up to 70% of demand using local sources. However, significant regulatory obstacles mean that even contemporary mining operations might take up to 10 years to implement. “This can’t carry on like this,” Martinez argues, adding that in order to meet its environmental goals, Germany and other European countries must consider reviving mining industries at home.
Low-emission technologies have a considerably broader resource requirement than fossil fuels, which means that concerns around raw material procurement and recycling will become increasingly important as e-cars, renewable energy installations, and power storage systems become more common. According to a 2019 UN report, metals and mineral extraction and processing may account for half of global greenhouse gas emissions and up to 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress, which is why initiatives like the supply chain law are increasingly being called for to better monitor and manage resource handling.