The Minerals4EU Project − The first pan-European network on raw materials management

Industry, governments and society want commodities at lower prices; environmentalists want a greener industry; investors want less risk – extracting metal and minerals has never been more challenging. Finding new deposits often involves exploration in remote regions; getting the licences can involve navigating through bureaucracy and corruption, and raising the investment for the project is often near-impossible. The mining industry knows that if it had more, and better, data it could reduce risk, make smarter decisions and get to production faster. But getting good data is not easy. Even if you know where to find it, the data will probably be in a different format for each country, often out-of-date and usually non-digital and so difficult to use.

For many people, Europe is no longer seen as a region for mining as they rush to explore in Africa, Latin America, Asia or even under the seabed. Whilst the attractiveness of Europe for mining is challenged, and what there is is partly heavily regulated, it is not the case that Europe is without mineral resources. The problem is that finding out about them might involve searching for data in any one of the 28 or so national geological surveys, all of which have their own ways of working, dissemination, data formats and language. As in any region, the lack of easily available, reliable geo-data is a disincentive to develop a mining project.

The Minerals4EU project is designed to bring Europe’s minerals related geodata into one, virtual, place through a web portal so that users can more easily get the information they need, directly onto their computer, and free-of-charge. The Minerals4EU project is designed to meet the recommendations of the EU’s Raw Materials Initiative and will develop an EU Mineral intelligence network structure delivering a web portal, a European Minerals Yearbook and a Foresight Study. It will provide data, information and knowledge on mineral resources around Europe linking to the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials, seen by the EU Competitiveness Council as key for the successful implementation of major EU2020 policies.

The project will first establish the EU minerals intelligence network structure, comprising European minerals data providers and stakeholders, and then transform this into a sustainable operational service. Minerals4EU will therefore contribute to and support decision making on the policy and adaptation strategies of the Commission, as well as supporting the security of EU resource and raw materials supply, by developing a network structure with mineral information data and products. The European Minerals Yearbook will combine ten years of production and trade statistics for primary minerals with new datasets for exploration, resources, reserves of primary minerals and available statistics for waste flows from which secondary minerals-based raw materials can be obtained.

Minerals4EU is built around an INSPIRE compatible infrastructure that enables EU geological surveys and other partners to share mineral information and knowledge, and stakeholders to find, view and acquire reasonably standardized and harmonised georesource and related data. It will integrate the best available mining expertise and information based on the knowledge base of member geological surveys and other relevant stakeholders, in support of public policy-making, industry, society, communication and education purposes at European and international levels.

A matter of great concern both to the mining industry and to the European Commission is the long term sustainability of the system. Too many EC supported projects have produced good results but have disappeared once the project funding ended. The Minerals4EU project is, however, tasked with designing its own long term sustainability.

Will it help Europe’s mining industry? It will certainly make it easier to find best-available data, but that does not mean that they will be exactly what the mining industry is looking for in the sense that the geological reports might be old, or the maps at too small a scale to be useful. Public geological data will continue to be a national responsibility of the countries, and some of them do it better than others. But by having easier access to information, the industry will not face such disadvantages that the governmental licensing authorities have greater knowledge; the early stage risks can be reduced and hence the finance providers should be more willing to support an investment case backed up by real data.

From the project web site at www.minerals4eu.eu details will be shown on how to access the data. A preliminary release, open for public use, is expected to go live in January 2015. The project team is receptive to all ideas and suggestions.

Juha Kaija
Project Manager
GTK

Nikolaos Arvanitidis
Scientific Coordinator
EGS-MREG&SGU