Robin Roels works in the field of resource justice and extractivism at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). He is the coordinator of the Critical Raw Materials Coalition.
What does the change you are trying to achieve look like? Why is the EU important?
With the Critical Raw Materials Coalition we advocate for systemic change and a green transition without destructive mining practices in the EU and in third countries.
Critical raw materials are deemed essential for renewable energy, digitalisation, aerospace and defence. The growing demand for these minerals is driving the expansion of mining and other industries giving rise to serious environmental and social concerns.
To strengthen the EU’s supply of essential minerals, the Commission has proposed a Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA). The proposal aims to speed up the development of mining projects and processing industries within the EU as well as strategic partnerships with resource rich countries outside Europe. We fear this will lead to a lowering of environmental and social safeguards. The Critical Raw Materials Coalition is working hard to prevent this.
Which challenges are you facing?
First, the speed at which these new policies are moving forward. Second, a number of external factors including the current geopolitical context and the EU's dependency on third countries for its supply of critical minerals. Third, the fact that pro-industry politicians have a strong dominance on the file.
As a result, important issues are not adequately considered: impacts on the environment, adequate impact assessments, community involvement, the rights of indigenous people, the circular economy… We need to decrease the demand for these raw materials in different sectors to depend less on mining and to address the environmental and biodiversity crisis, which are well on their way to becoming as urgent as the climate crisis.
One tip you want to share with other public interest advocates?
Look at the bigger picture and pick your battles wisely. Sometimes things are out of our control, but you can still celebrate small victories. I learned during the training that you will lose battles but in the end you can still win the war. On the Critical Raw Materials Act, there are still many opportunities for change and we should keep fighting.