By Paul Homewood
From The Globe Echo:
There are concerns in the German economy because Germany is dependent on imports for so many raw materials – sometimes even more than for gas and oil. Where could that be a problem? An overview.
Representatives from politics, industry, science and civil society are discussing Germany’s supply of raw materials at the Raw Materials Congress of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) in Berlin today. From the point of view of the BDI, a secure supply of raw materials is a prerequisite for the green and digital transformation of the economy and society to succeed. It must therefore be considered strategic for national security – but where does Germany actually stand in terms of raw material supplies?
BDI President Siegfried Russwurm told the German press agency that the dependence on critical mineral raw materials – especially from China – is much greater than that of oil and natural gas.
“The race for strategically important raw materials is in full swing. Germany and Europe are in danger of losing important sources of raw materials in competition with other countries. The result: dependencies are increasing,” says Russwurm. Without raw materials there will be no energy transition, no e-mobility or digitization.
In 2019, Germany was the second largest producer of lignite, the third largest producer of raw kaolin, the fourth largest producer of rock salt and the fifth largest producer of potash salt.
For many raw materials, however, the country is heavily dependent on imports from abroad. In addition to energy raw materials, these include metals and industrial minerals such as quartz or graphite, which are at the very beginning of industrial value chains and are needed in many companies. We have an almost 100 percent import dependency on China for rare earths,” said Matthias Wachter, head of the International Cooperation, Security, Raw Materials department and aerospace at the BDI, recently in Deutschlandfunk.
According to the EU Commission, the demand for critical raw materials will double by 2030. The World Bank even expects demand for metals and minerals to increase thirtyfold over the next 30 years. In order to cover these quantities, more than three billion tons of the raw materials would have to be dug in the period. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects demand for individual minerals such as lithium to increase by a factor of forty.
Lithium is a key raw material for modern storage technologies and is therefore essential for e-mobility. The experts at the German Raw Materials Agency estimate that funding will have to be increased globally by a factor of four to seven in the coming years so that the switch to electromobility can be successful. Lithium-ion batteries are also installed in smartphones, PCs and tablets. As a result, the price of the element has increased almost eightfold since the beginning of last year.
According to the Natural Resources Agency, 75 percent of the lithium production capacity is in Chile and Australia.
For some non-replaceable raw materials, the countries of origin are classified as critical. According to the RWI – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, nickel and palladium – which is used in catalysts, among other things – is about Russia, cobalt – which is used for batteries and alloys – about the DR Congo and China as suppliers.
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October 21, 2022