Client Alerts

Volterra Fietta partner Robert G Volterra quoted in the Financial Times about international law and lithium mining

Volterra Fietta Client Alert
8 July 2024

The EU Critical Raw Materials Act, effective since 23 May 2024, aims to diversify Europe’s supply of essential minerals needed for green and digital transitions.  It sets targets for the EU to achieve by 2030, including extracting 10% of its annual consumption of critical raw minerals within the EU, producing 40% in the EU, sourcing 25% through recycling, and ensuring no more than 65% of any mineral is imported from a single country.

Despite these ambitious goals, the EU faces challenges due to its currently limited lithium supply.  Europe accounts for just 0.1% of global lithium production, while the majority of refining occurs in China.  Projects like Savannah Resources’ lithium mine in Portugal and Green Lithium’s refinery in the UK are steps towards increasing domestic supply and reducing dependency on external sources.

On 4 June 2024, the Financial Times published an article on this topic, entitled Europe promises sustainable lithium, but production is years away.  Robert G Volterra, partner at Volterra Fietta, was interviewed by the Financial Times about international law related to lithium and rare earth mineral production.  He was quoted, in the article, emphasising the importance of transparency and adherence to human rights in the critical minerals supply chain.  He highlighted that while China has introduced voluntary due diligence guidelines to improve supply chain transparency, ensuring human rights should remain the responsibility of states rather than being outsourced to businesses.  He stressed that critical international law obligations, such as human rights protections, must not be privatised, with states acting as the ultimate protectors and guarantors. This perspective underscores the necessity for robust regulatory frameworks to support the ethical sourcing and processing of critical minerals.

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