Securing critical raw materials supply is key to the response to ‎COVID-19‎

With almost half of the world under lockdown, the continued supply of certain critical raw materials needed for an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic has become a concern.

The Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and excipients of several drugs, including antibiotics such as Azithromycin or Amoxicillin, incorporate minerals such as chromium, cobalt, copper, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, sodium, nickel and many others.

This is also the case of the four antivirals which are being experimented in many countries as a preventive drug and treatment for COVID-19 under the WHO-led Solidarity Trial.

One example of a raw material widely used in the pharmaceutical industry is phosphate. It is also used in food additives and fertilizers. Phosphate is produced from phosphatic rocks and its primary production facilities are concentrated in a few countries. China and a couple of countries in North Africa and the Middle-East accounted for over 70% of production of phosphate rocks in 2019, and about 80 % of proven reserves.

In situations like the current pandemic with an immediate supply crunch, identifying alternative local or regional sources is key.

The United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) and its expanded version under development, the United Nations Resource Management System (UNRMS), can be used to source critical raw materials from conventional and unconventional sources, either in multi-metal and multi-mineral deposits.

UNFC’s anthropogenic resource specifications can also be used to understand the social and environmental benefits of phosphate resources recovered from sewage sludge, compost and waste water.

UNFC and UNRMS are thus suited to increase options for quickly spreading production options between local, national, regional or global sources.

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