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Raw Materials: Source of wealth, products and conflict

Ries Kamphof

The European industry is lacking some of the most critical raw materials and natural resources in Europe itself. These raw materials are related to many conflicts, all over the world. 

Three years ago, the European Union identified a list of 'critical' raw materials, all minerals and metals. These raw materials are subject to a 'higher risk of supply interruption'. Indeed, as the governments and corporations in the EU have outsourced many of the 'dirty' mining explorations to other parts of the world, it now becomes clear that the European industry is lacking some of the most critical raw materials and natural resources in Europe itself. Among them are many fairly unknown examples to the wider public, such as antimony, beryllium and fluorspar or more renowned examples such as rare earths and coltan. The critical raw materials are best recognized by their applications, such as mobile phones, electric cars, batteries and medical equipment. These raw materials are not only 'critical' for the European industry but are also related to many conflicts. From the Senkaku Islands in Asia to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. In a way, individual citizens and consumers are the most overlooked solution to the problem. 

Ries Kamphof is a Researcher International Relations at NCDO, the Dutch knowledge and advisory centre on sustainable development. Recently, he wrote a (Dutch) dossier on natural resources and the geopolitical context. He also started his PhD research on the European Union and international organisations at Leiden University.

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