The raw materials strategy is a framework policy first put in place in 2010 and last updated in 2019. The strategy aims to ensure long-term security of supply for raw materials needed by industrial purposes in Germany, as well as to ensure a level playing field with socially and environmentally fair supply chains, and thus to strengthen value creation in industry. The strategy is aligned with European policies and initiatives on raw materials and related topics, such as the European Commission's critical raw materials assessments and the European Commission's plan for the implementation of a circular economy in the EU.
The initial strategy was based on the premise that companies are responsible for ensuring the supply of the raw materials they need and that the government would provide institutional support for their measures. The 2019 update of the strategy focuses on changes in demand, trade conflicts, the concentration of market power, high standards for social and environmental practices in supply chains and guarantees that human rights are respected, with appropriate due diligence systems.
Seventeen measures are listed to help companies ensure secure, responsible and sustainable supplies of raw materials, thus strengthening the competitiveness of the German industry and keeping the consumption of primary raw materials to a minimum by enhancing efficiency, including more reuse and recycling. These measures are grouped in four sections: raw material sources; material and resource efficiency; sustainability and transparency and international cooperation. Several measures are relevant to critical minerals supply, including the ones listed below.
Measure 3 indicates the German government will support initiatives from the European Commission to increase the primary extraction of metals needed for e-mobility and the energy transition, such as copper, lithium and nickel, in EU member states. It will also consider how to provide companies with financial support for feasibility studies that assess better environmental- and climate-practices in raw material supply.
Measure 9 references a financial mechanism to protect lenders providing loans for raw material supply projects subject to economic or political default risks. Projects must be approved, with pertaining requirements related to the establishment of long-term purchase agreements to secure the supply of raw materials and maintenance of high environmental and social standards.
Measure 10 refers to an expansion of the scope of the monitoring undertaken by the German Mineral Resources Agency. In addition to ongoing market assessment of raw materials needed for key industries and emerging businesses, this monitoring shall consider secondary materials and products with higher added value.
Measure 11 points to the development of further requirements and measures to ensure a sustainable and climate-aligned supply of materials, with particular note to those required for the energy transition. This includes support for the development of the World Bank’s Climate Smart Mining initiative.
Measure 12 states that Germany will promote research and development in the fields of processing and metallurgy in order to optimise complex recycling processes and thus improve the economics of related projects. This applies in particular to raw materials required by emerging technologies, such as rare earths, indium, gallium, germanium and lithium.
Measure 13 aims to strengthen the supply of minerals and metals through the use of secondary raw materials. This includes measures to improve reverse logistics, contribute to a circular economy and increase recycling rates.
Measure 15 indicates the Ministry of Environment will initiate an international process to develop an international guide for environmental due diligence in raw material supply chains. This will be analogue to the existing OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains, which provides recommendations to help companies respect human rights and avoid contributing to conflict, as there is currently no OECD guide on environmental due diligence.