The European Union has said that European manufacturing industry is facing a shortage of raw materials. As a result of rising global demand, prices for many metals have reached record levels and Europe's capacity to provide raw materials is limited.

Many metallic minerals are either geologically not available within the EU or only in relatively small volumes compared with global production, e.g. copper (5%), iron ore (2%), nickel (1.7%), and zinc (8.5%).

A newly completed European Commission working paper gives a comprehensive picture of the current situation of EU industry's access to raw materials in the light of increased demand for minerals from emerging countries, such as Brazil, China and India. The European Union says the global dimension of this problem is being increasingly recognised.

Commission vice president Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: "European industries need predictability in the flow of raw materials and stable prices to remain competitive. We are committed to improve the conditions of access to raw materials, be it within Europe or by creating a level playing field in accessing such materials from abroad."

Among the findings of the working paper are:

• In the case of metallic minerals, Europe's capacity to provide in its own supply through domestic extraction is very limited. As an illustration 177m tonnes of metallic minerals were imported into the EU in 2004 with a total value of EUR10.4bn, compared to the EU's production of some 30m tonnes.

• The EU is either the largest or second largest producer of feldspar, kaolin, magnesite, gypsum and potash.

The question of availability and use of raw materials is currently being analysed by the High Level Group (HLG) on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment which is expected to deliver policy recommendations on 11 June on a coherent approach to the issues identified.

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