Securing the supply of natural resources in Germany is primarily the responsibility of the companies. The task of the public natural resources policy is to support companies with suitable and reliable framework conditions in creating a secure social, economic and ecological basis for the procurement of the natural resources they need. This is particularly necessary when fair competitive conditions in the international market of natural resources are affected.
As part of its strategy for the procurement of natural resources, the German government has already made necessary adjustments in 2020 . With a total of 17 measures, the German government has replaced the first natural resources strategy from 2010. The strategy identifies the three main pillars Germany relies on in the procurement of natural resources: domestic primary resources, secondary resources from recycling and imported resources. Each of these pillars is of utmost importance to ensure a secure supply of natural resources in the long term.
The “Strategy Paper of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK): Ways to a Sustainable and Resilient Supply of Natural Resources” published in January 2023 supplements the existing strategy for the procurement of natural resources with current focal points of the realigned natural resources policy. These include a close integration of the circular economy and the natural resources strategy, the diversification of the supply chains used to procure natural resources, and the safeguarding of a fair market framework by means of high ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) standards and international cooperation .
There are established structures of cooperation for the extraction of domestic natural resources and the safeguarding of geological data referring to natural resources in Germany. The State Geological Services (SGD) of the Federal States collect the geological and economic data required for securing natural resources, publish geological maps indicating the places where natural resources can be found as well as sectoral planning maps and prepare concepts to secure natural resources. To this end they are in close contact with the BGR. Furthermore, the BGR participates in various European projects and committees (e.g. GeoERA ) and cooperates with European geological services. In this way, the authorities as a whole make an important contribution to securing the supply of natural resources in Germany.
Domestic extraction of natural resources continues to need a reliable legal framework. The German government intends to modernise the existing one. To this end, the Federal Mining Act is to be amended in this legislative period. The German government intends to make the extraction of natural resources more ecological and, at the same time, facilitate the extraction of domestic natural resources .
Compliance with the highest environmental and social standards can contribute to the acceptance of extraction. Appropriate and constructive stakeholder participation is particularly important in the extractive sector, as its activities are associated with significant impacts on society, the economy and the environment. Therefore, from German government believes that constant, constructive dialogue with the population is essential. As part of its natural resources strategy, the German government is working to increase awareness and social understanding of the importance of the extraction of domestic resources. The domestic extractive industry is already implementing numerous measures to promote an informed, critical discussion, including through the teaching of knowledge in schools, active, early communication and public participation in new projects, and voluntary commitments to transparent disclosure of data along the entire value chain . Offering extracurricular learning sites for environmental education, e.g. in certified geoparks and geotopes , can also contribute to the understanding of domestic natural resources extraction.
Furthermore, the implementation of largely closed natural resources cycles and thus the increased use of secondary resources from recycling can increase the resilience of the supply in resources. To promote the circular economy, existing barriers must be identified and removed. A comprehensive dialogue process to be carried out for two years by the “Dialogue Platform for Recycled Resources” at DERA commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWK), the necessary fields of action for important industrial resources (metals and industrial minerals) are to be identified . This dialogue process will promote the transformation of the procurement of natural resources towards a circular economy that reduces a need for primary resources. With its Circular Economy Action Plan, the EU Commission is pursuing the goal of doubling the use of recycled materials by 2030. Together with the shift to less material-intensive manufacturing processes and products, this can achieve greater resilience in the natural resources sector.
In view of geopolitical developments and the aforementioned challenges in the import of natural resources, the German government also sees the need to work with companies in the medium and long-term to increase diversification in the supply chains of critical and strategic resources . The diversification of the supply chains used for the procurement of natural resources is particularly necessary if there are only very few suppliers or if there is no market on the supply side (see section II). This applies both to the mining and extraction of natural resources and to the further processing of natural resources.
In order to better assess potential risks in connection with the prices of natural resources and supply chains, it is necessary to create a sound and up-to-date knowledge base on how the demand for natural resources might or will probably evolve to cover the needs of new technologies that heavily rely on critical natural resources. DERA (a department of the BGR) continuously carries out analyses and evaluations of the international markets for mineral, fossil energy, and (more recently) recycled resources, so that it is able to offer a comprehensive range of information and advice for the companies, policymakers and society as a whole. Part of the DERA monitoring is the project “Natural Resources for Future Technologies” including the report bearing the same title, which is regularly updated every five years. The report “Natural Resources for Future Technologies 2021”, prepared by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI and the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration (IZM) on behalf of DERA, estimates the needs for natural resources for 33 future technologies for the year 2040. Drivers for the selected technologies are megatrends such as decarbonisation and digitalisation . DERA’s Price Monitor informs the public monthly about current price developments .
In addition, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) is working to expand cooperation with international partners in the natural resources sector. This cooperation is intended to promote the diversification of international sources of natural resources and expand cooperation with those countries and regions that share the same values as the German government . This involves both bilateral cooperation in the field of natural resources (with Chile, Australia and Canada, for example) and multilateral formats such as the Minerals Security Partnership (with the US, Japan, Canada, Australia, Korea, France, Norway, Finland, Sweden and the European Commission).
The diversification of procurement contributes to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals and must be achieved in compliance with high sustainability standards. The German Government expects all German companies with international operations, regardless of their size, to fulfil their responsibility to respect human rights along their value chains in the field of procurement of natural resources . The benchmarks for this corporate due diligence requirement are the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights , the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises . There are also OECD guidelines with concrete recommendations in the area of human rights due diligence that have been drafted specifically for minerals from conflict and high-risk areas as well as for the participation of stakeholders.
The obligations under the German Act on Corporate Due Diligence in Supply Chains (LkSG), which have been in force since 1 January 2023, are in principle also applicable to the import of natural resources. This also applies to German subsidiaries of foreign companies. The implementation of the Act is controlled by the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) .
In a total of eight countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Ghana, Peru, South Africa), competence centres for mining and natural resources have been established at the respective chambers of commerce abroad. They advise companies and conduct local dialogues with government agencies and multipliers in the respective mining and natural resources sector to raise awareness of the requirements for sustainability standards along the entire supply chain.