From Policy to Practice – The Austrian Minerals Strategy

From Policy to Practice

Austria’s industry is – in many areas - heavily dependent on raw materials. As the limitations of access to raw materials become tighter and tighter – on the world-market as well as from domestic sources within the EU - it becomes more and more important to ensure or at least to improve the supply for the Austrian economy.

Even if the minerals supply for a company as such is the task of the industry, the government can provide for a suitable legal framework and according information about e.g. geology. To mention one example, it can care for the recognition of raw material deposits in land-use planning.

In Austria one overarching tool to reach these goals is the Austrian minerals strategy: The Austrian minerals strategy aims to support a sustainable and secure supply of metals, industrial minerals and commodities for Austrian companies. As such it “implements” the Austrian minerals policy.

As the Raw Materials Initiative of the EU, also the Austrian Minerals Strategy is based on three pillars:

  • securing raw materials supply from domestic sources (Austrian Mineral Resources Plan)
  • securing raw materials supply from the world-market (raw material partnerships with non-EU-countries)
  • promoting resource efficiency (Austrian Action Plan on Resource Efficiency)

As mineral deposits are part of the earth’s crust they might be in conflict with other land uses like living, industry, farming etc. The Austrian Minerals Resources Plan, which has been recognized by the EU as “best practice”, aims to identify zones with mineral occurrences worth to be protected due to their quality and quantity. Then existing no-go areas as housing zones etc. as well as conflict-areas as e.g. Natura2000 areas are excluded. The remaining conflict-free areas are handed over to the regional authorities responsible for land use planning to declare them as raw material safeguarding areas in their land use plans. The Austrian Minerals Resources plan, of course, has to be adapted to new developments accordingly. You can find more detailed information on the Austrian Minerals Resources Plan as well as the plan itself at the webpage of the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy under the following link: http://www.en.bmwfw.gv.at/Energy/Seiten/TheAustrianMineralResourcesPlan.....

In addition to the external trade negotiations of the EU also Austria is discussing bilateral trade agreements with countries around the world that do have raw materials occurrences or productions that are of special interest for the Austrian industry. Thus, to support also the raw materials supply from the world market.

Furthermore, concerning resource efficiency the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water management published in 2012 an "Austrian Action Plan on Resource Efficiency". This action plan will also be adapted to new developments in the coming years.
To complement these initiatives and to link the various actors in these areas, the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy invited relevant stakeholders in 2012 to the "Austrian Raw Material Alliance". The Austrian Raw Materials Alliance is a platform for discussions about the improvement of raw materials access according to the 3 pillars mentioned above. Thus, it aims at reducing import dependency and increasing a sustainable and safe supply of raw materials that are important for the Austrian industry. On the one hand concentrating on special topics, the platform started in 2012 discussing strategies for the recovery of critical raw materials from wastes. The recommendations found for research and development as well as for the regulatory framework have to be implemented now. As one result, a research program called "Production of the Future" containing resource-related issues has already been developed.

Last but not least the Austrian Raw Material Alliance is also the Austrian mirror working group of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Raw Materials, where the topics of the EIP are discussed with interested stakeholders.

The Austrian minerals strategy is a work in progress that has to be further developed according to the changing situation of access to resources – nationally and internationally. It has to be understood as a tool to implement the EU’s raw materials strategy adapted to the Austrian economy’s needs.

Roman Stiftner
Fachverband Bergwerke und Stahl – Austrian Mining and Steel Association