One of reasons for this heightened supply risk is that most of the materials need to be imported from outside of the European Union. Supply risk may also be accentuated by the low substitutability and low recycling rates of the raw material itself.
The striving for discovery and development of deposits of these critical metals within the European Union is of utmost importance in the path towards the decarbonisation of the EU energy sector. These critical raw materials for European Union are the six rare earth elements: dysprosium (Dy), europium (Eu), terbium (Tb), yttrium (Y), praseodymium (Pr) and neodymium (Nd); seven elements: gallium (Ga), tellurium (Te), rhenium (Re), hafnium (Hf), germanium (Ge), platinum (Pt), indium (In) and the mineral graphite.
Fig. 1 Criticality ratings of shortlisted raw materials with their associated technology (European Commission report, 2013)
Increasing the primary supply of the critical metals is important to mitigating supply-chain bottlenecks. There is a growing demand for base and critical metals – for infrastructure in emerging markets and minor metals in electronics and clean technologies. Thus new demand is likely to continue to drive commodities markets for many years.
The investors must quickly to react to the need for and potential profit of new exploration and development projects. The EU is encouraging the development of new mines and refineries in Europe, in particular for heavy rare earth elements, tellurium and gallium. However opportunities are not limited purely to new mining projects. Existing reserves, old mines and tailings, offer significant potential.
Bulgaria ranks among the top three member states of the European Union, producing Cu and Au ores, which ores are known to host a large number of accessory minerals carrying the critical metals.