Environment

Activists slam EU after vote on Critical Raw Materials Act

Activists concerned following European Parliament vote on Critical Raw Materials Act

Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service / Christophe Licoppe

Published

September 17, 2023

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Published:

September 17, 2023

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After the European Parliament adopted a position on the proposed Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), civil society organizations from various regions including Serbia, Europe, Latin America, and Australia responded with a joint statement. Their message to European institutions is: “Stop selling people and nature to the mining.”

“The EU Commission is on a mining bonanza! It wants to give way to big, industrial mining across Europe and beyond,” environmental organizations said after the European Parliament adopted its negotiating position on the Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA).

The law proposal was put forth by the European Commission, with the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (relevant ministers from member states) expected to reach a consensus by the end of the year. Environmental organizations previously claimed CRMA would enable the violation of environmental and human rights.

“In partnership with the mining lobby,” a plan was created to increase car production under the guise of ecological sustainability, allowing European car manufacturers and the mining industry to profit, the activists commented.

The proposal calls for the acceleration of permitting for mining projects

The speed at which the law is progressing and the insufficient involvement of civil society in decision-making are causing concerns among environmental organizations. The vote was only recently scheduled the vote for the current week. It was originally planned for October, so the activists said they weren’t given enough time to prepare, arguing that it hindered adequate public consultation.

The proposal envisages the possibility of rapid expropriation of property from locals in the path of mining operations

The proposal aims to expedite permitting for mining projects and limits public participation and the right to a fair trial, the announcement reads. It includes the possibility of rapid expropriation of property in local communities that are in the path of mining operations, as strategic importance could be declared, according to the organizations.

Rights of local communities are crucial for a just energy transition

“A transition that does not address Europe’s unsustainable consumption and prioritize reduction in output, caps on wealth and other non-mining solutions can not seriously call itself green,” the statement said.

The proposal does not include a ban on mines in protected areas

The signatories emphasized that the rights of residents, indigenous peoples, and nature are essential for a just energy transition. Furthermore, they pointed out the proposal doesn’t include a ban on mining in protected areas including Natura 2000 areas, the deep sea, and the Arctic.

The organizations added that in the coming months, they would carefully consider all legal options to prevent the proposal from being adopted.

Representatives of Serbian organizations, including Marš sa Drine and the Association of Environmental Organizations of Serbia (SEOS), are among the signatories. Extinction Rebellion Serbia and Earth Thrive, both from Serbia and the United Kingdom, are also part of the group.

Critical materials according to EU criteria

After this year’s revision, the EU has 34 critical raw materials listed as essential for the transition to sustainable energy, designating 16 of them as strategic. The European Commission can also add new materials to the list if deemed necessary, the activists said.

The administration in Brussels has the following materials in its strategic list: bismuth, boron – metallurgy grade, cobalt, copper, gallium, germanium, lithium, magnesium, manganese, natural graphite, nickel, platinum group metals, rare earth elements for magnets, silicon, titanium and tungsten.

Strategic significance of a raw material is determined in line with its relevance to the green and digital transition

The EU determines critical materials based on their relevance for the green and digital transition as well as for defence and space applications.

Following the vote in the European Parliament, the European Commission said its aim is to make the EU more competitive and autonomous.

The law will reduce bureaucracy, promote innovation throughout the value chain, support small and medium-sized enterprises, and “encourage research and development of alternative materials and more environmentally friendly mining and production methods,” according to the European Commision.

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