2. Materials and Methods
- The first step focused on CRMs’ domestic and external sourcing, production and/or processing in the EU to manufacture a wide range of value-added products of key importance for the EU’s economic growth, as well as on their key applications, especially with regard to new technologies (Table 1);
- The second step was related to the importance of CRMs for strategic technologies and sectors development, i.e., renewable energy, e-mobility, defense, and aerospace, that have been identified by the European Commission ; raw materials recognized as important for at least two strategic industry sectors were selected for further analysis in the third step (Table 2);
- In the third step the potential availability of the primary sources of the selected critical raw materials in the EU, including deposits with identified resources and/or reserves, as well as occurrences or showings, was examined and assessed on the basis of existing data collected from past EU-financed projects [53,54,59,60], as well as on the European Commission reports [40,41,42,43,46,47] (Table 3).
3.1. Mineral Raw Materials of High Economic Importance for the EU, Their Sources, Criticality and Applications
3.2. Assessment of Importance of CRMs for Strategic Technologies and Sectors Development
- Li-ion batteries (LiBs), which are emerging as an important technology across a wide range of civil and defense applications. As a result of the increasing spreading of electric vehicles, mobile electrical appliances, and stationary energy storage systems, the demand for LiBs is expected to skyrocket (>30% per year) for the next 10 years [4,51,68,69]. The basic CRMs required in this technology are cobalt, graphite (natural), lithium, niobium, silicon, and titanium.
- Fuel cells (FCs)—the deployment of FCs has grown during the last 10 years, but it is still uncertain when they will be widely commercialized. The main barriers to their widespread use are reliability (availability and lifetime), efficiency, and cost . The CRMs essential for the production of fuel cells are cobalt, graphite (natural), palladium, platinum, titanium, strontium.
- Wind turbine generators are among the most cost-effective technologies in the clean energy generation in the EU . The most relevant CRMs required include boron metal and borates, dysprosium, niobium, neodymium, and praseodymium. The main critical material containing components in wind turbines are the permanent magnets.
- Electric traction motors (permanent magnets) are also used in numerous applications for small electronic products, e-bikes, electric cars, and heavy transportation. In the future, NdFeB magnet technology is expected to dominate the market; by 2025, between 90% and 100% of hybrids and EVs could be driven by NdFeB-containing motors [49,51]. Critical raw materials utilized in traction motors are boron, dysprosium, neodymium, and praseodymium.
- Robotics is an emerging technology with enormous potential for many applications. Out of the 44 raw materials used in robotics, 19 materials are identified as critical for the EU . The most important are boron, beryllium, dysprosium, gallium, indium, niobium, neodymium, praseodymium, and titanium.
- Drones are used for various civil and military applications. Of the 48 raw materials, 15 materials, namely borates, bismuth, beryllium, cobalt, gallium, graphite (natural), hafnium, indium, lithium, magnesium, niobium, PGMs, REEs, antimony, silicon metal, tantalum, titanium, tungsten, and vanadium, are identified as critical to the EU economy [2,51].
- 3D printing (3DP) technology utilization is expected to grow substantially, especially in aerospace, defense, and medical industries. However, key challenges include achieving sufficient quality and lowering the production cost . The main CRMs required are cobalt, hafnium, magnesium, niobium, scandium, silicon metal, titanium, vanadium, and tungsten.
- Digital technologies are strategic technologies that have changed the contemporary style of life and communication, as well as industrial productivity . The essential raw materials in these technologies include boron, cobalt, gallium, germanium, graphite, indium, lithium, magnesium, PGMs, REE, silicon metal, strontium, titanium, and tungsten.
3.3. Possible Sources of Critical Raw Materials in the EU
- Firstly, are essential for the EU economy and the risk of their supply disruption is high;
- Secondly, are recognized as important for at least two of the EU’s strategic industrial sectors;
- Thirdly, there are some recognized, though often limited, resources in the EU, which are, or can be, utilized for the production of these raw materials. Launching and/or developing their production from primary sources may contribute to mitigating the EU’s import dependency and risk of supply disruption.
- Promoting the use of secondary raw materials and improving recycling rates of electronic waste (e.g., to obtain REEs and some other CRMs), coupled with restrictions on exports of electronic scrap to Asia (especially China) or Africa;
- Developing the recovery of accompanying elements contained in the raw materials imported to the EU, e.g., REEs from imported phosphate rock, gallium, germanium, or indium from imported concentrates of polymetallic ores;
- The assessment of waste sources (old slags and dams) for the recovery of CRMs (e.g., REEs from phosphogypsum);
- Considering re-starting some domestic CRMs operations;
- A geological (re)assessment of known deposits and metallogenic provinces within the EU, with feedback from academia, industries, and governmental agencies;
- Promoting exploration surveys in foreign countries with which the EU may establish raw materials partnerships to diversify the sources of its supply;
- Prioritizing the rational and effective use of raw materials (in line with circular economy approach).
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Mineral Raw Material||Classified as|
Critical Raw Material
|Mining Production in the EU||Processing in the EU||Production of Semi-Finished Products in EU||Subject of|
in the EU
|Antimony||YES||YES||YES||YES||4.8||2.0||NO||YES 1||YES||unwrought metal, antimony trioxide (ATO), antimony powders, scrap||antimony|
|flame retardants, lead-acid batteries, lead alloys, plastics (catalysts and stabilizers), glass and ceramics|
|Baryte||NO||NO||YES||YES||3.3||1.3||YES||YES||YES||baryte aggregates, ground and micronized baryte, blanc baryte||ground baryte||weighting agent in drilling fluids, filler in rubbers, plastics, paints and paper, chemical industry|
(dried or calcined)
|alumina (mostly for the production of aluminum metal), refractories,|
cement, abrasives, chemicals
|Beryllium||YES||YES||YES||YES||4.2||2.3||NO||NO||YES||Be metal, Be alloys, and master alloys, Be oxides||-||electronics, automotive|
components, energy applications
Bi chemicals, Bi alloys
|chemicals, fusible alloys,|
metallurgical additives, and others
|Borates||NO||YES||YES||YES||3.5||3.2||NO||YES||YES||natural borates, boric acid, boron metal||-||specialty glass and glass fiber, frits and ceramics, fertilizers, chemicals, construction materials, boron metal production|
|Cobalt||YES||YES||YES||YES||5.9||2.5||YES||YES||YES||ores and concentrates, oxides and hydroxides, chlorides, intermediate products, refined cobalt||refined cobalt||superalloys, hard-facing alloys, hard materials (carbides and|
diamond tools), pigments, catalysts, magnets, batteries
|Coking coal||na||YES||YES||YES||3.0||1.2||YES||YES||YES||coking coal, coke||coking coal, coke||iron and steel production, tar and benzol production|
|Fluorspar||YES||YES||YES||YES||3.3||1.2||YES||YES||YES||fluorspar AG, fluorspar MG, cryolite, fluorine compounds||fluorspar AG (min. 97% CaF2)||Fe making, Al making,|
UF6 in nuclear uranium fuel, HF
in oil refining, CFCs for
refrigeration and air conditioning
|Gallium||YES||YES||YES||YES||3.5||1.3||NO 2||YES||YES||unwrought gallium,|
galium compounds (e.g., GaAs)
|refined high purity gallium||integrated circuits, electronics, LED lighting, CIGS (Cu-In-Se-Ga)|
|Germanium||YES||YES||YES||YES||3.5||3.9||NO||YES||YES||germanium metal and powders, GeO2, GeCl4||germanium metal, GeCl4||IR optics, optical fiber, satellite solar|
|Graphite (natural)||YES||YES||YES||YES||3.2||2.3||YES||YES||YES||graphite powder,|
other natural graphite
|refractories, Li-ion and other types of batteries, friction products,|
|Hafnium||na||NO||YES||YES||3.9||1.1||NO||YES 3||YES||hafnium metal||hafnium|
|superalloys, nuclear energy|
production (nuclear control rods), semiconductors
|Indium||YES||YES||YES||YES||3.3||1.8||NO||YES 4||YES||In-bearing zinc concentrates, residues, and slags; unwrought indium||refined|
|flat monitors, CIGS (Cu-In-Se-Ga) photovoltaics panels, solders,|
batteries, semiconductors, and LEDs
|Lithium||na||na||NO||YES||3.1||1.6||YES 5||NO||NO||lithium carbonate and hydroxide, lithium|
concentrate, lithium metal
|glass and ceramics, batteries,|
lubricants, aluminum production, pharmaceuticals
|automotive industry, steel|
desulfurization agent, packaging, construction
|Niobium||YES||YES||YES||YES||6.0||3.9||NO||NO||YES||ferroniobium, niobium metal||Nb-based|
alloys, Nb chemicals (e.g., lithium niobate)
|HSLA steel (for construction and vehicles), stainless and special steel, chemicals|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||5.7||2.4||YES||YES||YES||PGM metals, PGM alloys, PGM chemicals||concentrates, refined PGMs, alloys, PGM chemicals||catalysts (automotive, chemical and petroleum), electronics, glass,|
jewelry, dental, investment
|Phosphate rock||na||YES||YES||YES||5.6||1.1||YES||YES||YES||phosphate rock,|
phosphate acid, fertilizers
|phosphate and multicomponent fertilizers, food additives,|
detergents, flame retardants
|Phosphorus||na||na||YES||YES||5.3||3.5||NO||NO||YES||elemental phosphorus||phosphoric acid||chemicals, electronics, metals production|
|Rare Earth Elements||YES||YES||YES||YES||LREE 4.3|
|NO||YES||YES||REE oxides (REO), REE metals and alloys, REE compounds||REE chemicals and compounds, REE metals||catalysts, permanent magnets (for automotive applications), special|
alloys, glass, and ceramics,
phosphors, batteries, electronics
|Scandium||YES||NO||YES||YES||4.4||3.1||NO||YES||YES||scandium oxide (also scandium compounds and scandium metal)||Sc-Al alloys||Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC), Sc-Al alloys|
|Silicon metal||na||YES||YES||YES||4.2||1.2||YES||YES||YES||silicon metal,|
intermediate products (Si-based chemicals,
|silicon metal||chemicals (silicons and silanes), aluminum alloys, semiconductors (photovoltaics, wind turbines,|
electronics), Li-ion batteries
|Strontium||na||na||na||YES||3.5||2.6||YES||YES||YES||strontium ore and|
concentrates, strontium carbonate, strontium metal
|glass, ceramics, pyrotechnics, magnets, master alloys, drilling fluid|
|Tantalum||YES||NO||YES||YES||4.0||1.4||NO 6||YES||YES||tantalum pentoxide,|
|capacitors, superalloys (aviation), carbides|
|Titanium||NO||NO||NO||YES||4.7||1.3||NO||YES 7||YES||titanium ores|
and concentrates, titanium white, titanium metal
titanium metal, alloys
|alloys (space and aircraft, military, and medical applications), paints and polymers (plastics)|
and concentrates, tungsten carbides, powders, APT
|mill and cutting tools, other wear tools, catalysts, and pigments,|
lighting, electronics, aeronautics, and energy uses
|Vanadium||NO||NO||YES||YES||4.4||1.7||NO||YES||YES||vanadium ores and|
concentrates, vanadium oxides, ferrovanadium
|ferrovanadium, HSLA steel,|
Al-Ti-V alloys (aviation, nuclear energy), stainless and special steel, catalysts (chemical)
|E-Mobility||Defense and Aerospace||CRMs in at Least Two Sectors|
|Borates (and boron)||+||+||+||+|
|Platinum Group metals (PGMs)||+||+||+|
|Heavy Rare Earth Elements (HREEs)||+||+||+||+|
|Light Rare Earth Elements (LREEs)||+||+||+||+|
|Silicon metal (Si)||+||+||+|
|Mineral Raw Material||Countries with Reported:||Main Types of Deposits|
|Mineral Deposits According to ||Mineral Resources According to ||Mineral Reserves According to ||Mineral Occurrences/Deposits According to |
|Borates||-||not known||not known||not analyzed||evaporites in volcanic activity areas,|
|Cobalt||Finland, Greece, Poland, Spain, Sweden||Finland, Germany, Sweden||Finland||Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden||sediment-hosted, hydrothermal, and volcanogenic, magmatic sulphide deposits, laterites|
|Gallium 1||Poland||data not available||data not available||Austria, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Poland||rarely forms its own deposits, mostly occurring as a trace element in bauxite ores, subordinately in Zn ores|
|Germanium 2||Austria, France, Slovenia, Poland||France, Czech Republic||not known||Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia||does not form its own deposits; mostly occurring in as trace metal in Zn ores and coal ashes|
|Graphite natural||Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden||Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Sweden||Austria, Czech Republic, Spain||Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania, Sweden||flake graphite, amorphous graphite, vein/lump graphite|
|Indium 3||Germany, Portugal||Germany||data not available||Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal||does not form its own deposits; occurs primarily as trace element in Zn ores|
|Lithium||Austria, France, Ireland, Slovenia||Austria, Czech Republic,|
Finland, France, Ireland, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Sweden
|Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany,|
|Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Sweden||pegmatite, brines, thermal water|
|Magnesium||Slovakia, Greece||Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia, Spain||Austria, Poland, Slovakia, Spain||Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, United Kingdom *||high purity deposits of dolomite, magnesite and carnalite|
|Niobium 4||Czech Republic||Finland, France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden||data not available||Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain||carbonatite-hosted primary, carbonatite-sourced secondary, alkaline granite and syenite|
|Platinum Group Metals||Finland, Poland, Sweden||Finland, Germany, Sweden||Finland||Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Germany, Poland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom *||PGM-bearing (Merensky Reef type and chromite reef type), nickel-copper sulfides|
|Rare Earth Elements (LREEs, HREEs)||Greece, Finland, Portugal, Sweden||Greece, Finland, Germany, Portugal, Sweden||Sweden||Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom *||carbonatite-associated, laterite (ion adsorption deposits), alkaline igneous rock, placers|
|Silicon metal 5||data not available||Czech Republic, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, United Kingdom *||Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, United Kingdom *||Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Italy||high purity silica sand, quartz veins, quartzites|
|Titanium||Finland, France, Portugal, Romania||Finland, France, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden||Slovakia||Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Sweden||primary: igneous, metamorphic; weathered rocks and unconsolidated sediments (placers)|
|Tungsten||Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom *||Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Finland, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom *||Austria, Spain, United Kingdom *||Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom *||vein/stockwork, greisen, hydrothermal, skarn|
|Vanadium||Finland, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom *||Sweden||data not available||Estonia, Finland, Poland, Sweden||sedimentary phosphates, bauxites, fossil fuel|
|Deposits *||Renewable Energy||E-Mobility||Defense and Aerospace|
|CRMs with the highest potential for mining production development from their own deposits|
|Platinum Group Metals (PGMs)||5.7||2.4||98||+ 1||+||+|
|Heavy Rare Earth Elements (HREEs)||3.9||5.6||100||+||+||+||+|
|Light Rare Earth Elements (LREEs)||4.3||6.0||100||+||+||+||+|
|CRMs with the highest potential for production development as by-products from other metal ores|
|Germanium (Ge)||3.5||3.9||31||Zn-Pb ore||+||+||+|
|Indium (In)||3.3||1.8||0||Zn, Zn-Cu-Sn ore||+||+||+|
|Vanadium (V)||4.4||1.7||na||Fe, Fe-Ti ore||+||+|
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