The EU wants to revive mining in Europe. One stumbling block: it does not have the money to give its ambitions the foundations they need. Banks shy away from what they see as risky trades, while the sector is controlled by non-European actors.
Gathered in the Berlaymont hotel in late January, a short walk from the EU offices and Belgium’s national car and military history museums, executives from Europe’s leading banks were called to action. “I want you to invest,” European Commissioner Thierry Breton told the financiers, “in operations in the critical raw materials value chain.”
Two months later, the European Commission presented its draft Critical Raw Materials Act. The CRMA, which could be among the fastest EU laws ever adopted by early 2024, wants to guarantee Europe’s supply of nickel, lithium, magnesium and other materials essential for the green transition and strategic industries. They are vital for electric cars and renewable energy, military equipment and aerospace systems, as well as laptops and mobile phones.
The Commission wants new mines to open across Europe, reducing the bloc’s dependency on China, but there is a problem. One which Thierry Breton’s hotel gathering reflected: the Commission has no specific fund to finance its CRMA ambitions.