18 December 2023 — Recent developments underscore the importance of projects such as GR4FITE3, aiming at establishing sustainable European end-to-end supply chains.
In an unexpected move to safeguard national security, starting from December 1, China mandates export permits for specific graphite products. With the increasing demand for electric vehicles prompting automakers to seek graphite supplies beyond its borders, this decision appears to be geared towards allowing China to control critical mineral supplies. As the world’s primary graphite producer and exporter, China refines over 90% of global graphite into the material that is used in EV battery anodes. Notably, the country’s shift to synthetic graphite production has accounted for 70% of output since 2021 (as reported by Reuters).
In light of Chinese exports restrictions, the GR4FITE3 project’s work is strategically relevant as it addresses key challenges in the global graphite supply chain. This recent international development, in fact, underscores the importance of mineral supply chain security, prompting questions about potential short-term repercussions. With the EU Critical Minerals law likely to take effect in early 2024, negotiators have added synthetic graphite to the list of strategic raw materials, reflecting China’s export controls (natural graphite was already on the list, as described in the Council’s PR).
The GR4FITE3 project focuses on establishing a sustainable European end-to-end supply chain, timely in reducing dependence on Chinese graphite. GR4FITE3 recovers natural crystalline flake graphite from Europe’s largest natural graphite resource (Zavalievsky Graphite LCC, a consortium partner). This will mitigate potential disruptions from export restrictions and make the EU less reliant on other markets for battery production.
Moreover, GR4FITE3 incorporates innovative, continuous, and low-energy input upgrading processes for mined ore, enhancing graphite production efficiency and aligning with sustainability goals. This addresses concerns about the ecological footprint of battery production, crucial as demand rises for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. The project’s novel silicon-based composites, made from natural and recycled graphite materials, showcase an innovative approach to the material development, incorporating recycling and reducing dependence on natural resources.
The project will diversify the supply chain, support environmental sustainability, promote innovation and strategically invest in critical mineral, all with the aim of contributing to a more secure, resilient and greener future for lithium-ion battery production in Europe.
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