08 July 2022

Access to Cobalt in the EU – an Overview of Raw Materials Initiatives

By Sarah Schneider, Policy and Communications Officer, Cobalt Institute

How can we ensure resilient supply chains for raw materials and secure strategic autonomy? That is the pressing question that the European Union is currently trying to answer.

Recent geopolitical developments have placed a renewed focus on the link between the green and digital transition and raw material supply chains, which – if they go wrong – could increase the cost of green technologies or even limit production capacity. The EU has stated that it wants to develop its “strategic autonomy”, to achieve energy independence, and become a “carbon neutral continent” by 2050.

Cobalt is essential for EV batteries that are themselves crucial for the energy transition. It is identified as a critical raw material and is part of the solution to achieving climate neutrality. In 2050 the demand for cobalt is expected to increase up to 350%[1], mainly driven by the uptake of electric mobility. Currently the EU imports most of the refined cobalt needed for batteries from third countries such as China and countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for raw materials[2]. The Commission itself recognizes that to achieve strategic autonomy it will need to increase the amount of cobalt processing in the EU, as well as boosting the amount of cobalt coming from the recycling industry:

‘’By 2030, 30 million electric cars are expected to be on our roads. An equal number of batteries will need to be produced, for which access to raw materials is becoming more critical every day […] Without better access to raw materials, our goals of zero-emission mobility are at risk due to raw material shortages or rising costs” – Commissioner Thierry Breton (Internal Market).

To tackle these insecurities the European Commission reacted with several initiatives:

  • REPowerEU is the plan to fast forward the green transition by quickly substituting fossil fuels through accelerating Europe’s clean energy transition and diversifying supplies. Achieving those objectives will require stable raw materials supply chains, therefore the Commission is preparing a legislative proposal on raw materials.
  • The Strategic Foresight Report focuses on managing the supply of critical materials and commodities, by adopting a “long-term systemic approach”, which looks likely to include new legislation.
  • The Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) with the overall objective to secure a steady supply of critical minerals for its members as the EU and United States.

These are the relevant initiatives for the cobalt industry and its ability to help the EU reach its 2050 goals. Due to geographical reasons, cobalt is mainly sourced in the DRC where 74% of cobalt is mined.[3] Until large amounts of used batteries enter the recycling stream, the EU will need to import the primary cobalt. To support the sourcing of cobalt in the EU, collaboration, partnerships, and investment opportunities are needed with third countries and especially with the DRC.

Moreover, initiatives are necessary to strengthen the supply chain in the EU itself. In 2050, 67% of battery cobalt in the EU could come from recycled sources, but this can only happen if new recycling capacities are being built to match the market demand[4]. The right incentives and legal frameworks need to be established.

With a holistic approach to those and future initiatives the cobalt market can further be improved. Cooperation with all stakeholders is essential to ensure a resilient cobalt supply chain for the zero-emission mobility in the EU and globally.


[1] KU Leuven/ Eurometaux study: Metals for Clean Energy: metals-for-clean-energy.pdf ( In comparison to todays cobalt demand

[2] KU Leuven/ Eurometaux study: Metals for Clean Energy: metals-for-clean-energy.pdf (

[3] Cobalt Institute: Cobalt Market Report 2021: Cobalt Market Report 2021 - Cobalt Institute

[4] KU Leuven/ Eurometaux study: Metals for Clean Energy: metals-for-clean-energy.pdf (

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