EU Adds Copper, Nickel to Strategic Materials List

The European Union added copper and nickel to its strategic materials list for the first time on Thursday, which has been welcomed by the industry, as well as the bloc’s Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) ensuring speedier permits and easier access to capital. However, metals sector also said more could be done to secure supplies. The CRMA strategic materials list had previously focused more on niche minerals like cobalt, lithium and rare earths.

Copper is used in renewable energy systems and for wiring in electric vehicles (EVs) while nickel is a major component in many EV batteries.

Mining and metals companies, including Sweden’s Boliden, praised EU plans in the CRMA to provide streamlined permits and access to financing for projects designated as strategic.

Still, industry groups and companies argued that other industrial metals such as aluminum should be included in the list to ensure a supply of materials needed for energy transition. The industry also says fair competition with China needs to be addressed.

The VDM Association of German Metal Traders and Recyclers was among those pushing for aluminum and zinc to be included.

“These areas of the metal industry also need fast approval procedures and, above all, competitive energy prices,” the group said in a statement.

15% of EU’s copper needs are already produced domestically, well above the overall 10% target set by the EU for strategic minerals, but the situation could deteriorate, Aurubis CEO Harings said. The German miner is Europe’s biggest refined copper producer.

“Every mine gets depleted therefore it is time to act now to ensure that new mining projects, which will take years to develop, are being approved in time,” Harings said.

Harings also said the EU must ensure fair competition with China and other countries so the metals recycling industry can thrive.

“We have absolutely no problem in being in competition if there’s a level playing field. If everybody has to respect minimum environmental, labour and other standards.”

Aurubis sees recycling as a huge growth area with new plants being built and has the intention in the longer term to also move into recycling of EV batteries.

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