Raw materials conference of BGR and GERRI started in Hannover.
The German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) and the German Research Network on Natural Resources (GERRI) have invited to a joint raw materials conference this Tuesday and Wednesday. The central topic are the challenges that arise on the way to climate neutrality in the area of raw materials supply. And these challenges are enormous, for Germany and Europe, as BGR President Professor Dr. Ralph Watzel said in his welcoming address. For climate-neutral transformation and competitiveness resilient value chains are of outstanding importance.
In his keynote address, Dr. Volker Steinbach, Vice President and Head of the Raw Materials Department at BGR, spoke of a turning point in the supply of raw materials. For the first time since the oil crisis in the 1970s, the public is once again discussing the issue of securing raw materials. Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and the dependence on Russian gas imports, the first challenge is to guarantee the energy supply for the economy and the population. The second challenge is to secure the supply of raw materials for the energy transition. New dependencies must not be created in the process. Steinbach used the example of wind energy to illustrate the enormous demand for rare earths and other critical raw materials. In 2020 alone, more than three percent of the world’s production of rare earths was consumed for its expansion, and almost four percent of the world’s production of zinc, among other things. The implementation of international climate targets will be accompanied by an exponential increase in numerous raw material requirements.
However, Germany’s starting position with regard to the raw materials required for the energy transition is currently very poor, as neither mining nor refining takes place in this country. This must change and the entire sector must be developed sustainably.
Dr. Franziska Brantner, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection, also gave a welcoming address. Brantner highlighted the importance of sustainability criteria when establishing new supply chains. She also referred to the recycling potential that has not yet been exploited, especially in the case of rare earths. Furthermore, substitution research must be driven forward.
On Wednesday, EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Thierry Breton is expected to be a guest at the conference. The topic of raw material security is therefore likely to have reached the highest political level in Europe.