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Raw materials enjoy limelight at Delft congress

The Netherlands – ‘€˜A new paradigm is emerging in the 21st century, pointing us towards innovation as a driving force that has remained largely untapped in Europe concerning raw materials,’€™ stated European Commission Policy Officer Anne Auffret at a resource scarcity congress held in the Dutch city of Delft on June 27.

The focus of the event was the recently-published proposal entitled ‘€˜European Innovation Partnership on raw materials’€™ which aims to establish the mid- and long-term security of sustainable supply of resources, including critical raw materials, industrial minerals and wood-based materials.

‘€˜It hardly needs to be confirmed that raw materials are essential to us – not just in high-tech form, but as the most basic items in our own households,’€™ remarked Mrs Auffret. ‘€˜However, Europe is becoming increasingly dependent on imports, causing severe market distortions.’€™ To counter this, the Commission believes substitutes for ‘€˜at least three key applications’€™ of both critical and scarce raw materials must be provided.

Other measures include developing standards for eco-design products so that resources may be more easily extracted, and updating the list of rare earth metals every three years. Mrs Auffret emphasises that the proposal’€™s thrust will not be limited to the much-discussed rare earths, stating that they have been ‘€˜monopolising the media lately’€™.

Apart from relying heavily on foreign suppliers, predominantly China, further urgency is added by predictions that the global population will rise to around 9 billion by 2050, stated Michel Rademaker, Chairman of the Dutch Platform Material Scarcity. It is believed that energy demand will double by 2030.

Moreover, he observed that GDP throughout Europe appears set to sky-rocket from US$ 35 trillion to US$ 72 trillion around 2030. ‘€˜This will have a far-reaching influence on the public’€™s spending behaviour, as it means they can afford more luxury products – which means, of course, that additional resources are required to keep up with the demand.’€™

The Commission notes that preparatory actions and studies were initiated in 2011, and initial findings will be collected and interpreted as of this year ahead of a full-scale review of the European Innovation Partnership in 2013 to ‘€˜take stock of progress’€™.

To read the entire proposal, visit: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/raw-materials/files/docs/communication_final_en.pdf

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