The presence of strong and independent trade unions and collective bargaining will ensure sustainable extractive industries with good working conditions, a safer and healthier environment, job satisfaction and decent wages.
The European Raw Materials Week, which took place this week (14-18 November), brought together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss raw materials policies, strategies and initiatives. IndustriAll Europe participated in several events and workshops.
Access to sustainable raw materials is a strategic priority for the EU to enable the transition to clean energy. Electrification and clean energy production require new infrastructure, which in turn requires key raw materials. Raw materials are key components for green technologies, such as those needed for batteries, wind turbines or photovoltaic plants.
The availability of raw materials is a matter of strategic autonomy, and Europe is working to secure sustainable supplies through various strategies. A legislative act on critical raw materials, a package of legislative and non-legislative initiatives, will be published in March 2023.
Raw materials are also an important issue for industrial workers. Their impact on industrial production in Europe and thus on industrial jobs is obvious. Workers are also concerned about working conditions along the raw material supply chain, from extraction to refining, production and recycling. Given the current dependence on raw materials in the EU, especially in strategic value chains such as renewable energy, defence or health, the issue is even more important today.
The raw materials sector provides about 350.000 jobs in the EU and there are more than 30 million jobs in the downstream sectors.
IndustriAll Europe participated in the Raw Materials Week and used the opportunity to put forward its demands for a strong and coherent industrial policy for raw materials:
- A strong focus on the circular economy to limit the use of primary raw materials. There is huge potential for the use of secondary raw materials, but challenges remain. We need a stronger and fairer circular economy. This requires more incentives, investments and measures for collection and sorting, eco-design and control of scrap losses. More attention should also be paid to the potential of mining waste. It could be an opportunity for regions in transition.
- We need sustainable domestic mining and quarrying in Europe. This requires stronger regulation and high social and environmental standards. Sustainable mining means high health, safety and working conditions, but also trade union participation!
- Europe needs to lead the way in research, development and innovation. To reduce the need for critical raw materials in production, we need more incentives and public support for substitution, recycling and eco-design.
- Secondary raw materials from the circular economy will not eliminate the need for raw materials from outside Europe. The EU must therefore ensure that the procurement of these raw materials fully complies with EU legislation and standards on social and environmental aspects. The Due Diligence Directive for Sustainable Businesses could be a good tool for this, but needs to be improved.