It’s not critical: but it is essential
Lead is not on the EU’s critical raw materials list. And there’s a reason for that. As a raw material, high quality lead – used in everything from batteries to undersea cables – is plentifully available, thanks to efficient recycling and primary production in Europe.
Availability meets current demand, and there are no concerns over questionable supply from far corners of the earth.
The EU has published legislation – the Critical Raw Materials Act – because demand for some strategic materials “relies on imports, often from quasi-monopolistic third country suppliers.”
Not so for lead. It’s an essential raw material that underpins a whole range of vital products and applications, all of which are economically significant and important for the transition to a low carbon economy.
The green transition relies on plentiful supplies of batteries – many of which are lead batteries – used in lorries and cars from hybrids, to electric vehicles – where lead auxiliary batteries provide the all-important safety functions. Supply of energy from offshore wind farms and other sustainable energy sources also relies on lead, such as internally lead-sheathed undersea cables.
And it is a sustainability success story. Lead is infinitely recyclable. All lead batteries made and collected in Europe are fully recycled and the raw materials recovered are re-used to make new batteries.
And the EU’s interconnected non-ferrous metals industry relies on lead to recycle efficiently other metals, including many that are on the EU’s critical list – because lead acts as an enabler in metallurgical recycling processes.
It often goes unrecognised that lead production operates one of the best examples available in the EU of a circular economy in action. A situation that already ensures a stable and secure supply.
It is this amazing success story that means lead won’t be found on the EU’s critical materials list. Not critical, but definitely essential and it is a key raw material supporting the climate and digital transition.
By Dr Steve Binks, Regulatory Affairs Director, ILA