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Why are there so many different critical minerals lists?

Updated: 7 days ago

Navigating Critical Minerals list can be very confusing as different countries come up with their own list of what critical minerals mean to their own economies and what they deem as critical in their short-term and long-term futures.


Furthermore these lists are dynamic and can change as countries adjust their critical minerals lists according to evolving geopolitical landscapes or supply and demand shifts. Nonetheless some minerals such as rare earth elements and nickel will feature in most countries' critical minerals lists.


Rare Earths are a regular feature of most critical minerals lists

Here is a snapshot of some critical minerals lists across some countries:


Australia


As of February 2024, the Australian Government considers 31 resource commodities to be critical minerals. These have been selected by assessing Australia’s geological endowment and potential with global technology needs, particularly those of partner countries such as the United States, European Union, India, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom. The full list can be found here


European Union (EU)


The European Union's law to guarantee a supply of minerals crucial for its green and digital transitions and to end its dependence on Chinese supply entered into force in May 2024.


The Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) is designed to ensure Europe is a manufacturing base for electric vehicles, wind turbines and other green goods and reduce its reliance on China for such products and the key minerals they contain.


Under the act, the European Union has identified a list of 34 critical raw materials, which are important for the EU economy and face a risk of disruption. They include base metals aluminium, copper and nickel, along with key battery material lithium and rare earth elements used in permanent magnets for wind turbines or in electric vehicles. The list can be found on page 135 of the final text.


USA


USA determined their final 2023 Critical Materials List which includes critical materials for energy i.e. any non-fuel mineral, element, substance, or material that the USA determines has a high risk of supply chain disruption; and serves an essential function in one or more energy technologies The full list is here.


Canada


Announced in 2021, Canada has a list of 31 critical minerals which were chosen based on the following criteria:


  • Essential to Canada's econmic or national security

  • Required for the national transition to a sustainable low-carbon and digital economy

  • A sustainable and strategic source of critical minerals for Canada's international allies

  • Mineral supply is threatened

  • The minerals has a reasonable likelihood of being produced in Canada


Canada updated the list in June 2024 after conducting consultations with provinces and territories, industry, Indigenous groups, and other interested or affected stakeholders. The new list of 34 minerals retains all 31 minerals from the 2021 list and an additional three minerals, namely high-purity iron, phosphorous and silicon metal. The current list can be found here.


Japan


In Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) names 35 minerals as critical (経済産業省[2023]). In fact, among its 35 critical minerals, Japan has placed particular emphasis on the storage battery applications of materials such as rare earth elements,

lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese. The latest mineral added to the list is Uranium in February 2024. The latest list, not including uranium, can be found here


South Africa


The list was first provided in 2022 in South Africa's Exploration Strategy for the Mining Industry. The Targeted Critical Minerals and Metals List is a list of critical minerals and metals deemed “essential for responding to shift towards the green economy, low carbon energy, and digitisation among others.” Overall, Critical Minerals find use in and are important in three main thematic applications:


  • Critical battery and vehicle metals applications

  • Renewable energy technology e.g. wind and solar

  • Critical hydrogen economy metals applications


The full list, under page 9, can be found here.

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