Our Innovation Community is currently solving cross value chain challenges of raw materials at global level

Raw materials have been, are and will continue to be the bedrock of the global economy. There is a complex value chain here, starting with the exploration, mining, processing and production of raw materials, all the way through to their being sold to consumers. ‘There are human and automated processes, developed and developing countries, and a variety of tolerances working together here in the face of a whole host of ethical, environmental and social considerations,’ says Dr Andreas Klossek, COO of EIT RawMaterials.

The decision makers within industrial enterprises are obliged to verify the origins of the raw materials used for their products far more stringently. These days, the issue of sustainability can have a major influence on people’s decisions to buy products. Governments and communities are setting legal parameters. NGOs are taking a critical look at the countries of origin and at the supply chain as a whole. The modern-day consumer gives consideration to product origins and environmental aspects not only when it comes to food, but also increasingly with regard to clothing, electrical goods and the entire area of mobility. This is prompting companies to take a stance and to review their ethical, environmental and sustainable footprint.

Standards which are not standard

In the past, this was left to the individual market players to address themselves – each and every exploration or mining company, every mineral processor, every shipping company, every manufacturer or service provider had to monitor their own internal or external standards. And they had to do so in a range of areas such as corruption, environmental impacts, labour conditions, child labour, social issues and corporate governance. The result which has evolved over time is an inefficient, inconsistent and fragmented landscape of raw material certification standards in which sustainability is defined differently from country to country, from mineral to mineral and from organisation to organisation.

This hampers transparency within the supply chain and the verifiability of the parameters at a time when sustainability is evolving from being a cost factor to being an investment that is crucial to success. This was the starting point for the CERA innovation project.

CERA: the guarantee of origin for raw materials

EIT RawMaterials was initiated and is funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union. It is the world’s largest innovation ecosystem in the raw materials sector with over 350 partners coming from the industry, universities and research institutions. Partners of EIT RawMaterials are active across the entire value chain from exploration and mining to mineral processing, substitution recycling and the circular economy.

‘In terms of tonnage, around three quarters of all imports to the European Union are raw materials, the majority of which come from developing countries. We in Europe and in Germany therefore bear a particular responsibility for the conditions under which raw materials are mined,’ says Dr Klossek.

‘It’s all about observing standards, verifying the legality of mining and safeguarding investments, and about operational reliability and environmental impacts. A first step was taken in this regard with the adoption of the EU Regulation on conflict resources (Regulation [EU] 2017/821 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2017),’ he adds.

According to Dr Klossek, a great deal more will be achieved with CERA: ‘It will be possible for the origins of raw materials to be unequivocally proven with the aid of a standardised analytical and comprehensive certification system which guarantees the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the exploration, mining, processing, trading and production of all mineral raw materials. Guarantees based on audit processes which can be scrutinised externally and covering the entire value chain – much like “well to wheel” considerations for the environmental footprints of fuels, we need a “mine to product” consideration of raw materials.’

Innovate, incubate, accelerate

EIT RawMaterials is co-financing the development of the CERA standard and is supporting the introduction of the network to the mining community and to all other raw material-related sectors. It is also assuming three important roles:

‘As an innovator, we are actively supporting technological developments that will help us achieve our goals, such as “fingerprinting” based on the analysis of trace elements and the use of blockchain software to verifiably track trade and transport routes,’ explains Dr Klossek.

‘As an incubator, we are ensuring that such technologies make it to market maturity. We promote young companies, offer networking between researchers and businesses, and see to it that innovations are embraced sooner. Because it is a lot easier for us as a large network to achieve what an individual company, university or research institution is perhaps not able to,’ he adds.

‘As an accelerator, we are identifying promising areas and are accelerating implementation within these areas, for example by means of targeted training and professional development in, say, mining.’

DMT as an initiator and the CERA partners

One of the CERA partners is one of its initiators DMT, which has close to 300 years of experience in the area of raw materials. Another is TÜV NORD CERT, which has great expertise regarding the existing certification and auditing systems. In turn, these two companies collaborate with the mining university Montanuniversität Leoben in Austria, the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Leiden University in the Netherlands and the independent non-profit research centre RISE SICS in Sweden, as well as with companies such as LTU Business AB, likewise based in Sweden.

The partners on the Advisory Board such as Fairphone and Volkswagen AG are, of course, just as important, as they ultimately represent the customer side of raw materials trading.

‘Basically any company is welcome to join us as a partner when we establish the CERA Association – the more companies that get involved, the sooner we will achieve the necessary market penetration and therefore also the desired level of transparency. Because only if we provide reliable information can the consumer make informed decisions regarding their manufacturer or product preferences. CERA will make this possible in Europe for the first time,’ emphasises Andreas Klossek, representing all of the CERA project founders.

All the latest information can be found at www.cera4in1.org.

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