It’s high time to rethink the EU’s raw materials Policies
The CSO Coalition on Raw Materials brings together civil society organisations in Brussels and around Europe in response to the increasing metals demand across the economy and for the green and digital transitions. While we recognise the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we want to ensure that EU decision-makers design and deliver policy solutions for a transformed future, where EU consumption of raw materials safeguards people and planet.
We call for urgent action in two key areas: i) measures and targets to reduce EU demand and consumption of raw materials to stop environmental harms and human rights violations, and ii) put in place stronger regulations on the mining sector and raw materials value chains, both in Europe and abroad.
Economic and military expansion as well as the green and digital transitions are creating exponential growth in raw material demand. The mining, smelting, processing, transport, consumption and end-of-life management of raw materials have devastating impacts on communities and ecosystems around the world. As raw material demand increases, the rapid loss of biodiversity, environmental crimes and human rights abuses tied to these value chains increases with it.
The world’s biggest economies, including the EU, are largely driving the demand for more mining exploration and exploitation on a global scale, rising geopolitical tensions in turn. Each year mining for resources moves deeper into vulnerable ecosystems.
The mining sector in many parts of the world has benefited from corruption and lax fiscal, environmental and social regulations. In sourcing countries, the voices and concerns of local communities and indigenous peoples affected by proposed, active and decommissioned mining operations largely remain unheard. For the EU to become the global leader in sustainability that it envisions, its raw materials policies will require a new approach.
Urgent action is needed to:
Reduce the EU’s demand and consumption of raw materials.
Europe needs to drive its production and consumption system away from unsustainable extractivism to a less resource-intensive one, that puts the protection of our planet and human rights before profit.
This means reducing the EU’s material and energy footprints and ensuring that resources are fairly distributed. It means embracing sufficiency and efficient systems guided toward a circular society. It also means going beyond recycling by rethinking, reducing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recovering raw materials (for example, prioritising urban and waste mining initiatives over virgin material extraction and banning planned obsolescence). Most importantly, it means moving beyond an unsustainable growth-based economic paradigm that is based on endless extraction.
In order for this to happen, the EU must set binding resource reduction targets and strong legislative frameworks aiming to reduce overproduction and overconsumption, reduce environmental and social impacts of raw materials extraction and use, and drive change through alternative business models like sharing over ownership and demand-side focused measures such as moving away from car-dependent societies and renovating for less energy and resource intensive buildings and living.
Put in place stronger regulations on the mining sector and raw materials value chains, both in Europe and abroad.
The EU must guarantee the highest binding social, environmental and governance rules for companies, including in their global supply chains. This means effective legislation that holds companies to account to respect human rights and the environment, provides access to justice and remedy for victims harmed by corporate activities and ensures zero corruption and bribery.
Environmentally, no-go areas from mining must be defined, for example, protected areas, Natura2000 sites, and the arctic. A moratorium on deep-sea mining should be imposed in international waters as well as EU waters. Socially, a legal avenue to the right to say no for communities must be realised as well as the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for Indigenous peoples to be fully respected. Community engagement must happen before, during and after a mine’s lifetime and social and environmental impacts properly assessed.
Trade exploitation of third countries must end (for example, through restrictive provisions) and clear, binding and enforceable sustainability commitments and requirements must be incorporated in existing and new trade agreements, including effectively applied sanctions.
Finally, transparency must increase by creating an open database of EU mining, processing and smelting projects, including tailings storage facilities.
Civil society, including impacted communities, must be core players in shaping the future of EU raw materials policy. The road to an ecological and globally just EU raw materials policy is still to be written!