Philippe Varin, Former Vice Chairman of the National Industry Council and Chairman of France Industrie, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Suez. Author of the Varin report on mineral resources.
Interview of Philippe Varin, former Vice Chairman of the National Industry Council and Chairman of France Industrie, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Suez. Author of the Varin report on mineral resources.
In your report on mineral resources, you highlight the emerging shortage.
Philippe Varin: This changing world, under these new conditions which I would describe as low-carbon and very rich in metals, where mineral raw materials will be an issue for the energy transition, will be marked by new geopolitical tensions linked to the supply of critical metals. We will move from a world governed by oil players to a geopolitical situation marked by the US-China confrontation over access to metals.
We will also see exponential growth in needs, doubled for copper, tripled for nickel and quadrupled for lithium by 2030, all critical metals for batteries! There is a serious risk of shortages.
Acces to these raw materials must be secured and assistance should be provided for processing them in France, but also new regulations must be developed.
What is BRGM's contribution in this context?
P.V.: BRGM is particularly important. In fact, it is essential and has major potential. I am convinced that it will have a key role.
Given the situation of Europe with regard to raw material extraction, we need to go international and increase the capacities of our mining companies. BRGM will therefore be a major player in guiding the process of securing strategic mineral supplies, naturally drawing on our substantial knowledge and skills in mining.
Europe also needs investment funds and effective metals diplomacy. Led by BRGM in conjunction with French mining operators, the Critical Metals Observatory, which the State has just decided to set up, will be an essential tool. This is a unique opportunity to put all BRGM data to work.
What about the locations and regulations?
P.V.: Processing adds substantial value. For batteries, an ecosystem similar to the gigafactories is proposed in Dunkerque. Magnets could be recycled in Lacq, which would meet 20% of requirements. But in addition to industrial platforms, we need roadmaps for R&D, knowledge and skills.
BRGM will be involved in drawing them up and monitoring them, and will thus contribute to our increased competence in battery chemistry and magnet metallurgy. Finally, regulation is a big issue. The European Union is introducing a battery regulation and a CO2 footprint passport, and is working on responsible mining.
For the latter, a reference framework must be established. BRGM, a specialist in responsible mining, will provide invaluable advice and assessments.
I have full confidence in the BRGM management team to take on these essential roles.