The importance of the extractive industry for growth in the EU

Part of the program of the Hellenic Presidency and fully endorsed by the Greek Ministry of Environment and Climate Change this conference aimed at discussing issues such as the definition of the critical economic importance of raw materials to the EU, combined with the high risks associated with their supply.

The conference provided a platform to discuss the development of the second pillar of the Raw Materials Initiative with the sector’s most relevant partners. One of the main axes of the conference was the implementation of EU regulations, the fact that the mining regions have to come up with manageable and competitive and environmentally, socially and economically sustainable solutions. The need for information exchange at European and regional level, the need for closer interaction between companies and regional actors to find solutions for sustainable growth in the regions is very apparent. A different implementation issue discussed was that of the results of the ad hoc working group on exchange of best practices (RMI) on land use planning and permitting procedures. The results of this study include many recommendations on policy and legal framework, information framework between national Geological Surveys, national sustainable mineral policies, land use policy and codes of practice. Many of these issues will be addressed again in the commitments tabled in the context of the EIP on Raw Materials.

As far as the welcome key note speeches are concerned, we would like to provide you with some important highlights/points. First, Prof. Maniatis, Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, concerning the whole conference and its relevance with the Greek presidency, as a whole, stated: 

“This is a very timely Initiative that comes at a moment in which the access to raw materials, guaranteed and undistorted, has become an increasingly important factor for EU industry competitiveness. The Greek Presidency, having established as its priority the fight against the current economic crisis and the search for a new, coordinated EU Industrial Policy, gladly endorses this Conference. Our aim will be that we, together, go forward in the implementation of RMI. One of the basic pillars of this Initiative is to ensure the sustainable production of raw material, coming from European ore deposits. Access to the land sites for the mining industries, in an adequate legal, environmental and economic framework, needs a common effort in the streamlining of the administrative conditions and the benchmarking of better practices to guarantee a sustainable economic development.

I hope therefore, that will be able to make the best of this opportunity, to advance together, in a matter of the utmost importance, for the European Industries”.

In accordance to his current statements about the Greek National Minerals Policy, announced on 29th February 2012, he made the following specifications/specializations:

  • An imminent assignment of project on Special Land- Use Planning concerning mineral raw materials;
  • A reconstruction of  the Greek Institute for Geological Survey;
  • Re-estimation of the status and the potential of Public Mining Areas;
  • Adoption of a new Law for Exploration and Exploitation of Quarry products, Marbles and Industrial Minerals by the Greek Parliament.
  • Establishment of a consulting body with the participation of all the stakeholders, including GMEA, for matters and affairs for the development and utilization of national mineral wealth and total/full inclusion of the national mineral wealth in regional land-use planning blue prints.

Madame Commissioner Damanaki’s speech on behalf of the European Commission, raised the importance of the extractive industry to EU growth and their growing demand. She highlighted the way seabed-mining and underwater extraction could help ensuring higher security and a more sustainable of supply for Europe. She highlighted the importance of the involvement of Greek enterprises in the Innovation Partnership since it is a shared responsibility in the EU.

The President of Euromines, Mr. Rachovides focused on the continued development of the second pillar of the Raw Materials Initiative. He mentioned that there remain a large number of valuable raw material deposits in Europe. Their sustainable exploitation could increase Europe’s supply of mineral resources, help to ease the need for imports from third countries that may apply lower environmental, corporate and social standards, foster the growth of Europe’s Regions as well as provide raw materials that are crucial for the competitiveness of several industries and the development of green technologies.

Mr. Androulakis on behalf of IMA-Europe also had a very interesting approach about critical raw materials. He considers that CRMs provide multiple solutions during the technical innovation process which needs to be an integral part of the European economy and that they could enhance products’ properties. He also raised the issue of the Innovation Partnership and corresponding initiatives in research and innovation. He talked about the raw materials commitment, the industrial minerals road map and the integrative process of the sustainability pillars. He also focused on more resource efficient consumption along the value chain, the importance of recycling and reuse in applications. He finally stated that the EU needed reliable access to minerals and for this aim we should raise awareness and increase cross-functional and cross-sectorial cooperation and alignments.

The first round of the parallel sessions of the conference concerned critical raw materials. Mr. Mattia Pellegrini, Head of Unit in EC DG Enterprise, presented a new list of CRMs. He also made an assessment of components in relation to their economic importance and the relevant supply risks.

The main issue was that Europe, in order to produce its own critical raw materials, required better geological information to be provided by the geological surveys in a single harmonised database. For this reason, the prerequisite for Europe was to intensify and ramp up its efforts in the area of research. The EU should offer incentives for research and legislation determining permitting procedure should be reasonably flexible in order to reinforce exploitation. This is a very important requirement that is missing nowadays. Mr. Tsoukatos, Director for Development of Grecian Magnesite, referred to the inclusion of magnesite products in the “critical” category, expressing the view of the sector that such classifications can be snapshots in time and that under no circumstances should such listings create new policy measures that would turn out to be additional burdens for the EU producers.

Mr. Philippe Gothier (APG Services and Development), in his presentation “Minerals & Metals, an Innovative & Resource Efficient value chain”, talked about the minerals and metals industry, the various sizes and activities of the RM sector, the minerals’ and metals’ contribution to society, the industry achievements, the raw materials’ import dependence, the pressures in the EU economy, the political changes and finally the future objectives and actions.

In the same session, Mr. A. Kefalas, the Vice President of the Greek Mining Association (‘GMEA”) , expressed his opinion on the criticality assessment, the reaction of Greece regarding the previous list of critical raw materials, the biggest hurdles to produce CRMs in the EU, the parts of legislation causing major difficulties for developing more CRM mines and finally he communicated his wishes to the policy makers at the EU level.

More specifically, he supported that there was a high overall potential for mining and quarrying in the EU and that the strategic choice was to reduce imported dependency of CRMs. According to his point of view, CRMs are present in Greece, but are still far from being properly fostered. In the inefficiencies of the criticality assessment model he included the aggregation effect of the mega sectors of products assessed, the parameters considered in order to calculate criticality, the use of hard data and indicators. The main challenge was to ensure access to CRMs through land zoning & permitting regulation. Land available for extracting minerals is constantly decreasing thus increasing competition for access to land. One of the major constraints towards effective land use planning, according to his interventions, was the lack of detailed mapping of the location of resources both in Europe and in Greece. The biggest challenge was to move away from legislation that protected the environment in a restrictive manner towards a framework that guided environmental management. A better national legal and regulatory framework was needed, in order to ensure the sustainable development of the extractive industry of CRMs.

In the second session, addressing the work of the ad hoc WG on exchanging best practices speakers and representatives from different Member States exchanged best practices on land use planning and permitting issues. Among the highlights was the importance of the implementation of the announced national policies. It is ultimately the responsibility and the function of Member States to introduce spatial planning which will ensure the access on mineral / ore deposits and the their unimpeded exploitation (second pillar of RMI). The attention was also drawn upon the necessity of communication of information among Member States for implementing best practices of minerals policies. The point of view of GMEA is that there is a need for implementing the announced Greek national minerals policy. It is imperative to pay great attention in special land use planning, in order for Greece not to lose access to their minerals. It is also important to stop the relentless production of additional regulative and restrictive frameworks at EU and Member States level complicating permitting procedures.

In the third session addressing regional development the need to integrate extractive industries to contribute to industrial growth and regional and national wealth was discussed in a broader sense. In this session, Mr. Damoulakis, the mayor of the Island of Milos, talked about the crucial importance balancing development of the whole potential of the island, including tourism and extractive activities. Mr. Van Ermen, executive director from the European Partners for the Environment, instructed about the Covenant 2022 (one of the European Innovation Partnership Raw Materials Commitments) which aims to be a toolkit for implementing sustainable mining and will attempt to provide sustainable mining guidelines.

In the same session, Mr. Faidros, the Chairman of GMEA, talked about Greek mineral raw materials, the manner of investing in the extractive industry today and the prerequisites for an efficient contribution of CRMs in regional development. Finally he noted five examples of regional development in Greece.

Overall the conference came to the conclusion that our future is one where technological advances will lead our industry, where improved policies and regulations will generate growth and will be based on a social consensus for a better future. New EU policy initiatives deserve our participation and support. Innovation, research and resource efficiency are themes at the core of what we do. Access to the land – sites for the mining industries in an adequate legal, environmental and economic framework requires a joint effort in streamlining administrative conditions and benchmarking practices to guarantee a sustainable economic development.

When it comes to the Greek Presidency, having established as its priority the fight against the current economic crisis and the search for a new, coordinated EU industrial policy, gladly endorsed this Conference. The most important aim was that all these aspects would not remain theoretical but would be implemented.

Christos Kavalopoulos
Greek Mining Enterprises Association