Supply chain shocks: The European Union has just added titanium to its Critical Raw Material list for the first time, along with a reminder that: “Metals, minerals and natural materials are part of our daily lives… Critical raw materials are essential to the functioning and integrity of a wide range of industrial ecosystems.”
Through the prism of the COVID-19 crisis, the parameters have changed – so too, has the urgency. We have all now experienced the stark reality of how fast and how deeply global supply chains can be disrupted; the risks seem greater than ever.
At the moment, China produces 45% of the world’s titanium. And yet, the greatest supply chain shock of recent history emanated from China – the origin of the global Coronavirus pandemic. China’s dominance in markets for industrial metals – such as titanium – has sparked increasing concerns. “The era of a conciliatory or naïve Europe that relies on others to look after its interests is over,” according EU industry commissioner, Thierry Breton. It’s clear, then, that Europe must attempt to forge a new path and build its own metallic supply chains – and soon.
EU action plan for critical raw materials
The European Union says its CRM plan should include:
- Develop resilient value chains for EU industrial ecosystems
- Strengthen the sustainable and responsible domestic sourcing and processing of raw materials
And yet, in the EU’s latest report on its new critical list, there is just one throwaway mention of Norway – despite its strategic position and potential on the road ahead. I find this extraordinary, when juxtaposed with an EU understanding that “mobilising Europe’s domestic potential better is an essential part of the EU becoming more resilient.” Along with vanadium and phosphorus – still on the list this year, as in 2017 – our explorations so far have indicated that there are large reserves in the south of the country at our Bjerkreim site. We are continuing our investigations – including drilling at depth to see the true potential of titanium, vanadium and phosphorus. All our results so far are exceeding expectations. It’s an exciting time for Norway, as it diversifies its economy away from oil. It’s also an exciting time for Europe, if Norway evolves into the supply chain panacea that we believe it can be.
A mighty metal
The only real surprise about the addition of titanium to the EU CRM list is that it’s taken this long to be included. Titanium’s almost supernatural strength makes it a vital ingredient in aeronautics, space and defence manufacturing. Lightweight, durable and capable of withstanding extreme temperatures, its used in a plethora of products, from tennis rackets to fighter jets, to reconstructed body parts and space shuttles. It’s even used as a lightening agent in toothpastes and sun creams. A Europe with no supply of titanium is a weak one, indeed.
Plugging the gap
With all this in mind, Norge Mining will be reaching out to the European Union, as we have done in the past – to update its specialists on our investigations in Norway, and how we might be able to help plug the supply gap in the future.
For more information regarding the EU’s 2020 Critical Raw Material list – including the diagram and quotes used in this blog – please read more here.
For more detail about titanium and its extraordinary uses in many different industries, read our next blog: Titanium: 10 things you may not know about this mighty metal.