From June 8 to 10, 2022, 40 experts and current and future professionals interested in developments in the field of resource management gathered at the TU Delft for a seminar about critical raw materials (CRMs), current challenges in the field, and sustainable strategies to manage them. The seminar was organized by the SusCritMOOC, an educational project by EIT RawMaterials, that has developed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Critical Raw Materials: Managing Resources for a Sustainable Future”. The seminar featured speakers from industry and policy-makers and provided an opportunity to connect with experts in the area.
After a get-together in the evening of July 8 with the strategy game “In the Loop”, the official part started in the morning of July 9 with introductory lectures on CRM management. In the afternoon, different tools for analysis were presented, and a keynote on green colonialism provided insights in the conflicts involving the indigenous people of West Papua, and the role of nickel mining for the worrying circumstances in this region. The second day was dedicated to industry and policy perspectives on critical raw materials, and on discussions of geopolitics and the future role of CRMs for industry, politics and society.
David Peck from TU Delft introduced the drivers that necessitate resource management: changing technology, geological dispersion, delays in establishing new mining operations, and price volatility. Evi Petavratzi from the British Geological Survey presented the CRMs that are crucial in the current efforts towards a sustainable energy supply. She highlighted the urgency for all supply chain players to work together to ensure sustainable and responsible sourcing. Constanze Veeh from DG GROW highlighted strategic dependencies and geopolitical risks related to CRMs, based on forecasts of wind power and solar PV deployment, and action plans and policies on critical resources in the EU.
Life Cycle Analysis of CRMs
Stefano Cucuracchi from Leiden University provided details on the phases of the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology on the example of NdFeB magnets. This life cycle includes mining, beneficiation, electrolysis, and the disposal process. Antti Roinefrom Metso Outotec and Tatiana Vakhitova from ANSYS provided in-depth company insight into process-model based LCA and software for a streamlined LCA analysis & material-related risk reporting.
Supply Chain Risks Analysis
René Kleijin from Leiden University had a presentation about supply chain resilience of electric vehicle from demand shock and supply crunch aspects and a possible shift from JIT (just-in-time) & JIC (just-in-case) management.Luca Maiotti from the OECD center for responsible business conduct presented the characteristics of minerals and metals supply chains, the OECD’s aim to promote responsible investment for CRMs, and the common 5-step framework for due diligence across mineral supply chains. Alessandra Hool from ESM Foundation and Dieuwertje Schrijvers from WeLOOP introduced a risk model connected with CRMs supply. Participants were instructed to pick one of the risk types and discuss in groups how this risk could become reality by applying related criticality indicators. Ester van der Voet from Leiden University introduced the material flow analysis (MFA) tool for a sustainable CRM use.
In their keynote talk, Raki Ap from Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Free West Papua Campaign and Anne Linn Machielsen from TU Delft/Leiden University discussed “green colonialism” in West Papua. West Papua faces many challenges related to resource exploitation including activities of multinational mining corporations, the climate crisis and the energy transition. The speakers put this in the context of the country’s strive towards independence, sovereignty and human rights.
Use case Cobalt
Tom Fairlie from The Cobalt Institute introduced their institute and presented the currently available information on the value chain of Cobalt: use, material flows, demand on the global market, current recycling policies in Europe, LCA research, and regulatory and policy drivers.
Barend Ubbink from In2Waste and A&M recycling introduced their institute and presented their current challenges in e-waste recycling: dismantling is usually labor intensive or made impossible due to an inseparable mix of materials in the products. Moreover, there is almost no viable strategy to recycle batteries. Jeroen Coxfrom KPN showed how KPN’s aim for net zero emissions by 2040 requires circular strategies to be fully embedded in the whole organization. He exemplified this with products that were specifically designed with circularity of CRMs in mind, and how they measure material circularity in the first place. Alessandra Hool introduced participants to five industry use cases (H.C. Starck Tungsten, SungEel Hitech, Hitachi Group, Rolls-Royce and Umicore) and led a discussion on the companies’ approaches to keep critical materials in the loop, and on the success factors for circular strategies for CRMs that can be derived from these cases.
As the closing event of this seminar, participants discussed “Current geopolitical events and implications on the low-carbon transition”. Supply-related questions touched upon the war in Ukraine and how a shifting geopolitical landscape is affecting CRM supply chains and markets; on the demand side, possible trends towards an accelerated energy transition were discussed. The lively discussion also revolved around responsible sourcing, the hurdles of domestic mining, and possibilities to strengthen local supply and secondary sourcing.
Besides the many interesting expert inputs, attendees had plenty of time to discuss and exchange throughout the two and a half days: during the Q&A and discussion time, the networking sessions, the breaks and the common aperitifs and dinner. The variety of the group, consisting of industry and environmental experts, mining specialist and product designers, contributed to a lively event from which everyone learnt a lot.
The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Critical Raw Materials: Managing Resources for a Sustainable Future” is available on edX.org until August 2022.