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A new chance for Romania’s mining industry? What does EU wants to do?

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A new chance for Romania’s mining industry? What does EU wants to do?

Forumul Economic Regional Moldova 2024 – Vatra Dornei, 4–6 iulie

The European Union is in the midst of a historic energy transition, aiming to gradually reduce its dependence on rare materials from other countries, especially China. Romania is one of the countries in which the European Union has the highest hopes.

A select group of 34 critical raw materials, including 17 considered strategic, are at the center of this transition. Among these are lithium, cobalt, and nickel used in electric vehicles, boron for wind turbines, magnesium for industries such as aerospace, automotive, or defense, and graphite, essential for electric mobility.

The European Union faces a high dependence on imports of critical raw materials, similar to its previous dependence on Russian gas, but intends to change this. In this sense, each member state, including Romania, must explore its own resources. Modern mapping and digitization technologies offer extensive possibilities for identifying resources in the soil. Member states are expected to come up with updated exploration programs by 2025, and the data will be made public to attract investors.

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In Romania, there are indications of the existence of critical raw material resources, including quartz sands, graphite, boron minerals, and phosphorites. However, the large investments required for exploration and exploitation, as well as the loss of relevant know-how and technology, hinder the development of these resources. Proposals from the Ministry of Economy include the establishment of a national base for resource assessment.

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List of ores that can be extracted from Romania:

  • Bismuth: Can be exploited in Baia de Arieș (Alba), Baia Sprie, Brusturi, Nistru, Rodna, Băiuț, and Valea Blaznei. Its salts are used in medicine and cosmetics, as a substitute for lead in alloys.
  • Germanium is found in all three mining areas in the Apuseni Mountains: Baia de Arieș – 12 grams/ton, Zlatna – 33 grams/ton, Bucium – 12 grams/ton, Barza – 13 grams per ton, and Roșia Montană – 16 grams/ton. Metallic germanium is used as a semiconductor in transistors, as well as in other electronic devices. Current uses of germanium include its incorporation into fiber optic systems and solar cells. Germanium compounds are used as catalysts and in nanofibers.
  • Tin (Tarnița, Bocșa, Valea Morii – Barza, and Nistru),
  • Beryllium (Teregova – Caraș-Severin),
  • Lithium (Lotru Mountains),
  • Vanadium (Pădurea Craiului Mountains),
  • Cobalt (Bălan, Fundu Moldovei, Bocșa, Moldova Nouă), essential for batteries
  • Gallium (Bălan, Rodna, Săcărâmb),
  • Magnesium (Budureasa – Bihor)
  • “Rare earths” (Glogoca, Grădiștea de Munte, Ogaba, Clejnești, etc.). These rare metals are used in various industries such as aerospace, aviation, electronics, medical equipment, solar batteries, semiconductor technology, automation, and electronics, the steel and metallurgical industry, in alloy industry, refractory materials, and polymers. The main beneficiaries are large Western companies operating in the mentioned fields.
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In a broader European context, the Commission proposes actions to ensure the EU’s access to a secure, diversified, and sustainable supply of critical raw materials. These raw materials are essential for the zero-emission industry, digital industry, aerospace, and defense. The EU relies heavily on imports, which could jeopardize its climate and digital objectives. Thus, the proposals include setting clear priorities for action, creating secure supply chains within the EU, ensuring the capacity to mitigate supply risks, and investing in research, innovation, and skills.

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The proposed measures will require discussions and approval from the European Parliament and the EU Council but reflect the Union’s efforts to ensure its independence and resilience in the face of global changes and import dependence.

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