Axing aluminium from the Critical Raw Materials list was a mistake

Axing aluminium from the Critical Raw Materials list was a mistake

The European Commission’s exclusion of aluminium from the EU’s list of strategic raw materials is unacceptable because of the metal’s importance to key industries of the future, writes Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou.

Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou is vice-chair of the European Parliament’s committee on international trade. She is affiliated with Greece’s New Democracy party and the European People’s Party (EPP).

Since 2010, the Commission has maintained a Critical Raw Materials list. The idea behind this is to highlight materials that are of key importance to the EU’s economy and its value chains, but which for different reasons, are vulnerable to supply shocks.

Last month, the Commission proposed a Critical Raw Materials Act, which will legislate around this list. This is about moving from identifying problems to solving them. From analysis to action.

As part of this development, the Commission is now looking to distinguish between two categories of materials: Critical Raw Materials and Strategic Raw Materials.

So-called Strategic Raw Materials are those that are vital for key industries of the future and that are essential to our Net-Zero ambitions. This includes solar panels, electric batteries, heat pumps and wind turbines.

Aluminium is a key component for all those industries, as well as for the production of electric vehicles more broadly. To give an example, 85% of the material content of a solar panel is aluminium.

Since the inception of the CRM Act, it has been taken for granted that aluminium would be part of the list, but following a last-minute push by certain members of the College Commission, aluminium was removed. This despite the methodology for selecting those materials remaining unchanged.

The Commission has since sought to argue that because Bauxite – the key raw ingredient for producing aluminium – remains on the list that there is nothing to fear.

This not only disregards the symbolic significance or signalling effects that including aluminium on the list will offer but more pressingly, it ignores the fact that there will be no need for Bauxite if we let our aluminium industry fade away.

Already, between 2008 and 2021, Europe has lost around 30% of its aluminium production capacities. Furthermore, due to the rise in electricity prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, around 50% of the remaining production is now offline.

Learn more: Euractiv icon

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