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Accepted Contribution:

Fears of exhaustion, dreams of resilience: the EU’s critical raw materials act and the Cínovec lithium deposit  
Anastasia Kubrak (Critical Media Lab Basel) Johannes Bruder (Critical Media Lab Basel)

Short abstract:

Our paper elaborates on efforts to ‘onshore’ lithium mining in central Europe in the context of the EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act. Based on snippets from the CRMA and ethnographic vignettes, we discuss how abstract ideas of resilience are taking shape in regions considered ripe for transformation.

Long abstract:

Announced shortly after the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) manifested new policies that seek to “onshore” (Riofrancos 2023) the mining of strategic metals. The CRMA was conceived to increase the resilience of vulnerable supply chains and marginalize the Union’s reliance on single suppliers of critical minerals; at the same time, it mediates fantasies of an abundant supply of energy and wealth.

Lithium is a central element of the anticipated, twin green and digital transition and therefore sits at the heart of onshoring efforts. Cínovec, on the border of the Czech Republic and Germany is a prospective extraction site where lithium comes with a peculiar promise of a transformation. The exploitation of Europe’s biggest hard-rock lithium deposit is imagined to remediate the pains of a region exhausted by previous mining operations, reminiscent of the early medical uses of lithium for the treatment of mental exhaustion. While a consortium of European funds and multinational companies keeps making strategic investments in exploration and generates ‘resource affect’ (Weszkalnys 2019), the prospective mine meets resistance from the communities wary of the environmental effects of extractive processes.

Reading between the lines of the CRMA and through personal ethnographic vignettes from Northern Bohemia, this contribution discusses how lithium gets coopted within the imaginary of sustainable development, thus mediating hopes and uncertainties that the politics of resilience bring about.

Combined Format Open Panel P040
Zeitenwende et al. - Infrastructures as media of transformation
  Session 1 Tuesday 16 July, 2024, -