Frances Wall and Carol Pettit from Met4Tech were in Brussels for the first part of the annual EIT Raw Materials Week (14 to 18 November 2022). After a gap of a few years (for Brexit and Covid-19) it was good to be able reconnect with our European associates working in the critical raw materials (CRM) arena, and to meet others from Canada, Australia, and USA who had travelled to Brussels as well. Several participants had previously been to COP27 event in Egypt where they noted that the global interest in critical materials is growing.
Regarding the upcoming EU Critical Raw Materials Act, we heard this proposed (currently under consultation) will go beyond the definition of what is considered to be critical and will also look at which CRMs are strategic resources, as well as the base metals that are carriers for the CRMs. This full value chain approach will look from mining/refining through to recovery of CRMs from mining wastes. The EU Commission will promote using the UN Framework Classification approach to develop a database of CRM projects across the EU. This approach looks at the triple viability of a project by considering economic, social, and environmental factors as well as technical feasibility.
At the UNECE special session on Tues 15th November we were pleased to see how widely the new UNFC (United Nations Framework Classification) system is being applied across the EU member states. The UNFC approach is proving particularly useful for providing a harmonised view across a wide range of mining and extraction projects, which helps to support decision-making by local authorities and higher policy groups. This UNFC achievement stems from the strong support provided from the EU Commission which has encouraged many of the EU geologic surveys to embrace and implement the UNFC for projects within their respective member states. The EU Geosurvey noted that regional approaches are necessary but not sufficient, and that global approaches are needed.
In addition to hearing about the many success stories from the suite of projects funded through the EU Horizon (H2020) programme, we also heard about several recent projects looking at specific applications for the UNFC approach. These new case studies cover various types of metals and mineralisation, including REEs (rare earth elements) projects, several graphite projects in Norway, numerous copper projects in Finland, and aggregates project for land use.
The new project FutuRaM will be applying the UNFC to look at the ‘urban mine’ of secondary raw materials and will be building on the previous research findings and the Urban Mine portal developed by the PROSUM project. This project plans to develop numerous case examples of applying the UNFC to look at sources of anthropogenic materials (eg batteries, WEEE, End-of-Life vehicles, minewaste, scrap, and construction demolition waste). A further new project will use the UNFC to look at metals and a geothermal energy project which includes a UK partner.
These new case studies applying the UNFC approach are of particular interest to the researchers from Met4Tech Circular Economy (CE) Centre, who are also looking at application of the UNFC as well as the more extensive UNRMS (United Nations Resource Management System) framework within our Met4Tech project. The Cornwall Case Study developed by Met4Tech to illustrate our new CE Geo-model of the Lithium/Tin/Tungsten mineralisation in Southwest UK, has been expanded to illustrate the UNFC and UNRMS framework approach. This UK-based case example of the UNRMS was presented to the global resource management community at several recent UNECE events.
The Met4Tech project is funded by UKRI and is one of five CE Centres of the NICER programme.