The European Union launched a raw materials agreement with Chile on Tuesday. Although the word lithium is not explicitly mentioned in an accompanying EU statement on the deal, there are many indications that the focus from a European perspective is on securing lithium reserves. This particular chemical element is considered key to several countries’ goal of moving away from fossil fuels: batteries are made of lithium.
Partnership between the EU and Chile is coming
According to the European Commission’s statement, both sides officially aim to “expand their cooperation in the field of sustainable raw material value chains”.
Yesterday, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton and Chile’s Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren Stork signed a declaration of intent to establish this partnership. Next, the future partner countries want to draw up an “operational roadmap with cooperation measures”.
Commenting on the plans, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “It gives me great pleasure to witness the signing of this EU-Chile partnership agreement. As like-minded people, we share the same values and are ideal partners who can become major global players when it comes to the clean energy transition and digital transformation.”
300 billion euros for Global Gateway
She mentioned the role of the Global Gateway initiative, presented in 2021 by the European Commission and Josep Borrell: “Global Gateway will be one of the key drivers of our ever-evolving partnership.”
So, in line with the EU Global Gateway Strategy and the Critical Raw Materials Act, the partnership aims to strengthen cooperation in the sustainable raw materials value chains on which both partners depend for the clean energy transition and digital transformation , to deepen. Up to 300 billion euros are to be mobilized for Global Gateway between 2021 and 2027.
Cooperation only for lithium backup?
With the agreement, however, the EU should primarily want to secure access to Chile’s lithium deposits, which of course is not emphasized in the accompanying communication on the Commission side.
An indication of this is, among other things, this official statement by Commissioner Thierry Breton: “I welcome this important partnership with Chile, which contributes to deepening our cooperation along the raw materials value chains. Chile is a leading producer of important critical raw materials, such as copper and lithium, which are essential for Europe’s green and digital transitions and for maintaining Europe’s global competitiveness. This partnership will benefit European and Chilean industry. Sustainable practices will take center stage.”
Otherwise it is clear that the European Union is currently in a process of diversifying its dependence on resource-rich countries and at the same time making its own sources of raw materials accessible. This move is also supported by the Commission’s Critical Raw Materials Act, presented in March. This draft proposes that by 2030, ten percent of the EU’s need for critical raw materials should come from its own mines, 40 percent from local processing and 15 percent from EU recycling capacities.
Chile is the second largest lithium producer
Why Chile? After Bolivia and Argentina, Chile has the most extensive lithium deposits, which are known to be used primarily for the manufacture of batteries. It is estimated that Chile holds more than a third of the world‘s lithium reserves. Last year, the South American country ranked second in the world, behind Australia, with a production of 39,000 tons.
In view of the climate crisis and the global drive to move away from fossil fuels, lithium plays a crucial role. Lithium batteries are also an essential part of electric cars and therefore important for the green transition.
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