Piles of salt in the Uyuni Salt Salt Flat, salt desert and the world's largest lithium deposit (Bolivia, 2012).
© Vladimir Melnik – Fotolia
The aim of the proposals submitted to the Government on 10 January 2022 by Philippe Varin, former Chairman of France Industrie and of the PSA Group, is to secure the supply of strategic metals in France to support the energy transition and re-industrialisation: BRGM was closely involved in the preparation of this report.
Mineral resources: a key issue for the energy transition
A critical decarbonisation issue is that new industrial sectors such as electric mobility and renewable energies are big consumers of critical raw materials. Securing their supply is therefore a strategic issue for France if it is to enable the energy transition and preserve its own industrial and economic sovereignty.
In this context, the Varin report, submitted to Barbara Pompili, Minister for Ecological Transition, and Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister Delegate for Industry, has focused for the moment on battery metals (nickel, cobalt, lithium, graphite) and permanent magnets (rare earths), with three strategic objectives:
- assessing with industrial companies the resource security level as regards metal supplies,
- spelling-out their needs,
- recommending ways for private and public actors to improve the resilience of production chains to variations in the availability of critical metals.
Launching of a critical metals observatory, led by BRGM
One of the decisions taken by the Government following the submission of the Varin report was to create an observatory for critical metals at BRGM. Set up in close collaboration with the Strategic Committee for the Mining and Metallurgy Sector, it will harness the corresponding resources of industrial companies and government departments to provide the public authorities and French industry with a high-level strategic watch on the entire mineral value chain (from the mine to finished products, including recycling) in order to anticipate future supply channels and thus strengthen the resilience of French industrial sectors.
The Government has also identified the following strategic measures to be taken:
- The launching of a national call for projects targeting critical metals: the France 2030 investment plan will mobilise one billion euros (500 million euros of State aid and 500 million euros of equity capital) to strengthen the resilience of France’s industrial fabric regarding metal supply chains.
- In a joint public/private approach, the undertaking of preparatory work for the constitution of an investment fund in strategic metals for the energy transition.
- Appointment of an inter-ministerial delegate for securing the supply of strategic metals by coordinating the actions of government departments that are implementing the decisions taken, with the close involvement of industry.
- Development, as part of the acceleration strategy concerning batteries and under the joint supervision of the CEA and the CNRS, of a technological roadmap combining industrial and public research on metals for the next generations of batteries.
- Integration of the concept of “responsible mining” into a certifiable standard or label, in line with the battery regulation currently under discussion at the European level.
BRGM, a key player in securing the supply of strategic mineral resources
Faced with increasing pressure on mineral resources, BRGM, the French geological survey, is working to enable responsible and sustainable supply for national industrial sectors and to promote the development of a circular economy of resources.
It is one of the few French public bodies capable of covering the main stages of the mineral materials value chain, from the identification of deposits (mines and quarries) and the study of the conditions under which they are exploited, to the recycling of industrial waste or products at the end of their life cycle (urban mines), with a global vision from an economic and environmental point of view (mineral intelligence, life cycle analysis, monitoring of material flows, etc.). This strategic intelligence activity, also known as mineral intelligence, is used by the French public authorities and industrial companies to help them better anticipate future needs and supplies and prevent possible disruptions. It will play an important role in the framework of the new observatory.
Furthermore, through its research, carried out on behalf of the French government and industrialists in the sector, BRGM supports the development of a mining and extraction industry that is sustainable because it preserves resources through recycling, and that is responsible because it respects the environment and local populations.