Creating both obligations and opportunities for Ireland, the EU’s new Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), which comes into effect today, May 23, 2024, aims to mitigate the supply risk of 34 critical and 17 strategic raw materials (CRM and SRM) crucial to the development of technologies powering the world’s green energy and digital transitions. But for Ireland to play its part, more geoscientists are needed here.

These include essential components for solar panels, EV batteries and wind turbines. Many of these materials are available from just one or two countries. Benchmarks set include at least 10% extraction, 25% recycling and 40% processing to be carried out locally within the EU.

The Institute of Geologists of Ireland (IGI), the chartering body for geoscientists in Ireland, has outlined how Ireland can play its part in mining the metals required to secure decarbonisation and deal with the global climate crisis under new legislation to secure a more diverse and sustainable supply of critical raw materials from within Europe in a new factsheet.

Ireland, with its rich geological landscape, historical mining track record, and established permitting and regulatory regimes, emerges as a key member state to help the EU meet its targets.

In practice, the IGI says that this will involve:

  • Opening 10-15 new mines across the EU, including in Ireland;
  • Exploration for new deposits in Ireland, where further potential for zinc deposits exists (not a CRM but used in utility-scale zinc-air batteries and especially critical for offshore wind turbines), and without which the full extent of Ireland’s CRMs will not be known. Exploration should be promoted by de-risking the process for investors, with new research needed to inform investment decision-making;
  • Revisiting closed mines and mine waste facilities in Ireland to investigate and catalogue their potential for CRM, notably Rare Earth Elements (REE), which did not have industrial uses until recently;
  • More local processing facilities, especially if multiple mines of the same type open in Ireland and assuming significant new electricity supply can be secured from offshore wind;
  • Additional recycling and metal recovery from existing facilities in Ireland, with untapped potential for other CRM such as those from electronics;
  • A more streamlined permitting process realised through further collaboration with stakeholders and greater communication with local communities.

Gap in geoscientist pipeline

However, for Ireland to play its part, more geoscientists are needed in the country. The IGI highlights the need for greater emphasis in second and third level education on geology and the role of geoscientists in bringing new life to responsible and ethical mining practices that will help bring about a mining renaissance in the EU for a cleaner, more sustainable future. 

Anecdotally, the IGI reports that much of the current geoscience workforce in mineral exploration and mining are coming close to retirement age. New exploration geologists and geoscientists are not following in their footsteps leading to gaps in the workforce, specifically at management level.

This loss of expertise could set back the CRMA if steps are not taken to promote geoscience to the younger people to ensure a continuous pipeline of expertise to fill those gaps.

Emer Blackwell of the IGI said: “Ireland is ahead of many countries in Europe with a mature and established mining industry, accompanied by comprehensive geological data and developed regulatory systems. Most have had limited mining experience in the last three decades compared to Ireland where mining has evolved since the 1960s.

"It is clear that Ireland can harness this experience to play a significant role in Europe’s quest to secure the future supply of critical raw materials.

"With potential deposits of copper, lithium, baryte, antimony, and arsenic awaiting exploration, Ireland’s role in diversifying the EU’s raw material supply is paramount. Zinc, which Ireland is richly endowed with, does not currently meet the critical threshold for supply risk but remains of significant importance for the energy transition and the Irish economy.

“As the world transitions towards clean energy, everybody understands the changes required at a personal level to bring about this shift. What has been less apparent, is the essential role of mineral exploration, mining, and the work of geoscientists in securing the critical elements needed to power the technologies in this new reality.

"To help people make the link, we’ve developed a new fact sheet on Ireland’s role and responsibilities under this new legislation. We’re publishing it today as an expert resource for everyone from policymakers and public representatives to teachers and students.

“With the CRMA comes greater career prospects for geoscientists. However, this opportunity needs to be matched by greater awareness, prioritisation, and investment in geology as a subject across the Irish education system. The next generation of geologists will be the backbone of sustainable mining practice essential to unlocking Ireland’s mineral exploration and mining potential.” 

New resource

The IGI’s new factsheet is available for download on and is the latest in a series of mineral and mining factsheets published by the organisation’s Mineral Information Working Group comprised of leading industry experts from across the geosciences profession.