Going beyond the sole focus on the raw materials sector and representing over 30 European national geological surveys is the EuroGeoSurveys (EGS) . EGS members are public sector institutions carrying out operations and research in the field of geosciences. EGS provides European institutions with expert advice in areas such as:

  • The use and management of on- and off-shore natural resources related to the subsurface of the Earth, including energy, minerals, water, and soils;
  • The identification of natural hazards of geological origin;
  • Environmental management and waste management;

Due to growing international interest, a number of studies and initiatives have been launched with regard to raw material supply and criticality. Several countries, including both suppliers and users of raw materials, have instigated studies and initiatives to develop national strategies for securing a stable supply of raw materials, linked to the most important materials for their economy (see Table below). These countries are at different stages of the supply chain and consequently take different approaches. For example, Japan focuses heavily on substitution, China on processing and metallurgy, South Korea on recycling, Australia on sustainable mining, and Canada on exploration.

The funding for these programmes can often be vast, for example South Korea is investing US$300M over 10 years for its research into forty technologies covering refining, smelting, processing, recycling and substitution of raw materials. Russia is also known to have an active programme on stockpiles of and export restrictions on raw materials, China has tightened its export quotas for rare earth elements, ostensibly to secure internal supply, and the US has long had a stockpile of raw materials for strategic defence purposes. Some initiatives go greatly beyond the sole focus on raw materials. For instance, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) covers a wide variety of topics related to ecosystems health, natural hazards, natural resources, impacts on climate and land use change.

Concerns are also being raised over the origin and responsible sourcing of raw materials, leading to renewed concerns over the supply of various materials such as cobalt and gold. Materials stewardship schemes and legislation have been put in place to provide greater confidence and traceability in various materials markets, for example, schemes such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the International Council on Mining and Metals Materials Stewardship Scheme . In the US, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires electronics companies to verify and disclose their sources of cassiterite (tin ore), wolframite (tungsten ore), and tantalum, as part of wider legislative reforms. This was in direct response to concerns over conflict minerals coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighbouring states. Similar regulation is now under consideration in the EU.

Table: Materials Research and Development Policies of selected non-EU countries (source: DG GROWTH study on criticality of raw materials at EU level )



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