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EU must ensure its Strategic Partnerships on raw materials are fair and equal

The EU’s proposed Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) foresees Strategic Partnerships with resource-rich countries to secure access to lithium, graphite, and other critical minerals. To avoid replicating past mistakes, these partnerships must significantly improve on sustainability and human rights, as the EU Raw Materials Coalition, including SOMO, warns in a briefing paper. Reducing the EU’s consumption of minerals should be at the heart of this approach.

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The joint paper, launched during Raw Materials Week(opens in new window) , recommends that the EU include specific measures to tackle illegal and unsustainable mining, support partner countries’ transition, and ensure integrity and transparency in the mining sector.

Alejandro González, Senior Researcher at SOMO: “The EU must ensure that Strategic Partnerships with resource-rich countries are designed and implemented in a way that respects human rights, environmental sustainability, and local development. The recommendations in this briefing provide a blueprint for how the EU can get it right.”

Developing and monitoring Strategic Partnerships

The briefing paper concludes that an inclusive, transparent, and robust process is paramount for developing and monitoring Strategic Partnerships. This means that representatives from impacted communities, trade unions, and environmental and human rights NGOs should have a seat at the table. Documents such as reports of negotiations, Memorandum of Understandings, Roadmaps, and impact assessments should be publicly available.

Any agreements reached under the Strategic Partnerships should set time-bound and measurable priorities, detail each party’s requirements and gains, and include measures to achieve tax justice and equal revenues.

People-centred and transparent

The Global Gateway and Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) need to be aligned with development policy objectives, meet communities’ needs, and ensure that resource-rich countries can achieve their transition. Decision-making processes for allocating funding for Strategic Projects led by companies must be transparent and inclusive and come with sustainability conditions.

In SOMO’s view, the proposed Critical Raw Materials Act must ensure a truly green and just transition for both the EU and its Strategic Partners. People and the environment need to be at the heart of this approach, as well as a reduction of the EU’s global material footprint.

The Critical Raw Minerals Act

The European Union’s CRMA is essential to the bloc’s attempt to address the challenges of securing sustainable access to Critical Raw Materials (CRM). The EU hopes to reduce dependency on single third-country suppliers and promote circularity and sustainable sourcing practices. Strategic Partnerships with resource-rich countries form an essential element of the Act.

The briefing considers ways to ensure these partnerships benefit local development, respect and uphold environmental sustainability and the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples, and include strong transparency measures. It finds that the partnerships presently foreseen must improve significantly to meet these ambitions.

Alejandro González concludes: “Any regulation that fails to address unsustainable consumption in the Global North runs the risk of reinforcing an economic framework where resource-rich third countries are pushed to remain as suppliers of raw materials that feed the unsustainable lifestyles of rich countries.”

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