Reliable Investment Key to EU-Kazakh Mineral Cooperation

In early April, the EU launched a new initiative, the Minerals Security Partnership Forum, intended to serve as a platform for cooperation between suppliers and consumers of critical raw materials. Kazakhstan’s inclusion among the key partners of the forum underscores the growing importance of the partnership between Brussels and Astana in the critical mineral space. To reach the full potential of European and Kazakh collaboration, reliability and predictability from both sides is key.

The strategic significance of critical raw materials such as lithium, uranium, copper, and rare earth elements has grown rapidly in recent years, owing to their indispensable role in facilitating the green transition. Projections indicate that the demand for these materials will continue to surge in the forthcoming decades. To achieve global net-zero emissions by 2050, the world will need six times more mineral inputs by 2040 compared to current levels. As the competition for these minerals intensifies and concerns about supply chain security grow, efforts to secure stable and diversified sources become increasingly important. In this context, the partnership between the EU and Kazakhstan emerges as a key driver of economic security and prosperity for both parties.

In my capacity as Kazakhstan’s Minister for Industry and Construction, I strongly believe that critical raw materials will play an indispensable role in propelling our country’s industrial development, economic growth and transition to more renewable sources of energy. As a leading producer of these resources – including half of the critical minerals vital to the EU economy – Kazakhstan holds a pivotal role in driving essential climate action initiatives in Brussels and beyond. As Minister, I am fully dedicated to realising and maximising this potential for the benefit of our nation and our partners around the world.

For the EU, cooperation with Kazakhstan offers several strategic advantages. Firstly, it helps to mitigate the EU’s dependence on a limited number of resource-rich countries for critical raw materials, reducing the risk of supply disruptions. Secondly, by diversifying its sources of supply, the EU can strengthen its strategic autonomy and resilience in the face of geopolitical uncertainties. Moreover, collaboration with Kazakhstan opens avenues for investment and technological exchange, fostering economic growth and innovation in both regions.

For Kazakhstan, the EU represents a valuable partner on multiple fronts. The EU’s ability to invest in Kazakh industries not only fuels economic growth but also bolsters the development of the infrastructure necessary for the extraction and processing of these materials. Moreover, specialised technological expertise possessed by many European companies can significantly enhance the efficiency and sustainability of Kazakhstan’s raw material extraction processes. Most importantly, the EU has the potential to serve as a reliable and substantial market for these critical raw materials.

Beyond economic benefits, the partnership between the EU and Kazakhstan holds potential for advancing shared objectives in sustainability, climate action, and responsible resource management. By working together, the EU and Kazakhstan can promote environmentally sound practices in the extraction, processing, and recycling of critical raw materials, contributing to global efforts to combat climate change and preserve environments for future generations.

The EU and Kazakhstan have already made significant strides in enhancing cooperation. In 2022, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Brussels and Astana, focusing on strengthening collaboration in sustainable raw materials, batteries, and renewable hydrogen value chains. This encompasses joint efforts among industrial stakeholders to identify and execute mutually beneficial investment projects. Moreover, the roadmap outlines plans for intensified cooperation in geological exploration, research, innovation and capacity building. These discussions have continued since then, including in a high-level event in March, which convened around 60 high-ranking EU officials and key representatives from the European business community to explore opportunities for Kazakh-European cooperation in the key areas outlined in the MoU.

To fully unlock the potential of their partnership in critical raw materials, the EU and Kazakhstan should prioritise predictable and reliable investments in sustainable development and collaborative projects. This includes strengthening supply chains, conducting fresh geological surveys, and fostering joint scientific research. With a focus on sustainable extraction and processing, along with skills development and technological innovation, both parties can drive the green transition effectively.

In embracing this vision of mutual prosperity and environmental stewardship, the EU and Kazakhstan can lead by example in the global transition towards a sustainable future. By nurturing their strategic partnership and fostering innovation, they can pave the way for a world where critical raw materials are responsibly sourced, technological advancements flourish, and borders become bridges to shared progress.

[Photo by Paul Alain Hunt via Unsplash]

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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