Written by Prof. Giovanni Grieco, Department of Earth Sciences / University of Milan and Micol Bussolesi, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences / University of Milan-Bicocca
The Critical Raw Materials (CRM) Act is a legislation passed in 2023 by the European Union that aims to address the shortage of critical materials needed for the production of key technologies. The legislation aims to ensure that the EU has a reliable and sustainable supply of the raw materials that are essential for the development of new technologies in key industries such as energy, electronics, and transportation.
The CRM Act is based on a list of materials that have been identified as critical to the EU economy. The list is reviewed and updated every three years by the European Commission, using criteria such as economic importance, supply risk, and environmental impact.
Italy is a country with a long history of mining and mineral production, and it has significant mineral resources that are essential to the production of many of the materials on the EU's CRM list. The country is rich in both metallic and non-metallic minerals, including calcium carbonate, feldspar, marble, and sulfides, as well as rare metals such as antimony, cobalt, and tungsten.
However, the Italian mining industry has faced significant challenges in recent years, including a decline in production due to the economic crisis, environmental concerns, and a lack of investment in modernization and exploration. As a result, Italy has become increasingly reliant on imports for many of the materials needed for its key industries.
To address this issue, Italy established the «Tavolo delle Materie Prime» (Raw Materials Table) in 2013, a public-private partnership that aims to promote the sustainable use and development of the country's mineral resources. The Table brings together representatives from the government, industry, and academia to develop strategies for promoting the exploration and production of critical materials in Italy, while also ensuring environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
The Raw Materials Table has identified several key priorities for the development of the Italian mining industry, including increasing investment in exploration, promoting the use of sustainable mining practices, and strengthening the skills and expertise of the workforce. The Table also aims to promote greater collaboration between industry and academia to advance research and development in the field of mining and materials science.
One area of particular focus for the Raw Materials Table is the development of the Italian rare earths industry. Rare earth metals are essential to the production of high-tech products such as smartphones, wind turbines, and electric vehicles, and Italy possesses some of the largest known reserves of these materials in Europe. However, the Italian rare earths industry has been largely neglected in recent years, and has faced significant regulatory and environmental challenges.
To address these issues, the Raw Materials Table has developed a strategy for promoting the sustainable development of the Italian rare earths industry. This includes supporting research and development in the field, promoting the use of sustainable mining practices, and developing new partnerships between industry and academia.
The Table has also worked to promote public awareness of the potential benefits of a thriving rare earths industry in Italy, including job creation, economic growth, and increased national security. Overall, the development of the Italian mining industry and the promotion of sustainable exploration and extraction of critical raw materials are essential to the economic growth and sustainability of the EU as a whole.
The Critical Raw Materials Act and initiatives such as the Tavolo delle Materie Prime are critical to ensuring that the EU has a reliable and sustainable supply of the materials needed for the continued development of key industries. With continued investment, innovation, and collaboration, Italy, as well as other Critical Materials-rich European countries, has the potential to become a leader in the development of critical raw materials, allowing it to play a key role in driving the growth and prosperity of the EU in the years to come.
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