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Mining is essential for climate change

The mining equipment industry in Germany anticipates a decline in sales for 2020 of around 10 to 15 %. However, the industry is optimistic about the future because only state-of-the-art mining technology will be able to ensure the raw materials required for climate protection and digitisation.

The importance of the mining industry in this context and also the machine manufacturers is also highlighted by the Chairman of VDMA Mining, Michael Schulte Strathaus, during the web annual press conference 2020 at the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in the city of Essen/Germany. Due to the pandemic nobody was able to predict at this time how 2021 will go but Schulte Strathaus feels certain that incoming orders and sales will develop positively in the future. “We make sure that raw materials can be mined and processed. The mining equipment is becoming increasingly environmentally friendly and making a contribution to climate change, e. g., with alternative drives and lower energy consumption in the mines”, he confirmed.

Production and sales developed very well in 2018 and 2019 for the mining companies in Germany, contrary to expectation new business and therefore incoming orders fell sharply at the end of 2019. There were also trade conflicts, the crisis in the Middle East and Brexit, which overpowered the economic concerns at the end of 2019. At that time if the industry was expecting restrained development with stagnating sales at most, the corona pandemic also put the mining industry under pressure.

In the course of 2020, shaped by the pandemic, the companies managed to once again close the disrupted supply chains and organise production in a Covid-19-compliant manner. Communication with customers abroad was mostly changed to web-based processes. At the end of the summer the industry sent very different signals of almost unmodified sales plans and expectations to a decline in sales of 30 % or more. On the whole, the industry anticipates a decline in sales for 2020 of around 10 to 15 %. Sales will therefore stabilise between 4 and 4.5 bn €.

Some of the biggest export markets include EU countries, the USA, Russia and China. Australia surprised this year and managed to take second place among the individual markets, ahead of China and Russia. With exports of 96 %, the manufacturers in Germany are dependent on international business (Figure 1).

Fig. 1. Main export markets for German mining technology (as a percent of total exports). // Bild 1. Hauptexportmärkte für deutsche Bergbautechnik (in Prozent der Gesamtexporte). Source/Quelle: VDMA

Within the EU mining production has remained stable over the last 20 years. In the summer the EU Commission announced that it wanted to secure Europe’s supply with critical raw materials. For this purpose, the procurement of raw materials in the EU will be intensified.

In the USA Schulte Strathaus believes mining is on the verge of radical changes. “With Joe Biden the country will commit to climate neutrality and large shares of the announced funds of around 2,000 bn US$ can be channelled to the development of clean energy technologies. This brings opportunities for our mining equipment manufacturers in Germany. However, they must make more of an effort to exploit new markets or expand existing sales territories”, says the Chairman.

Following a very successful year in 2019 with exports of around 97 M €, supplies to Australia fell in the first eight months of this year to 68.8 M €. Schulte Strathaus is confident that Australian customers will once again have more interest in mining technology from Germany from 2021 as the reluctance in the development of new supplier relationships can clearly be traced back to the current corona crisis.

Russia is currently a very difficult market due to the sanctions, the political disagreements and the weak ruble. Travel restrictions and the uncertainty that supplies from Germany could be stopped at any time make the business relationships too risky for Russian companies.

In China coal mining is far ahead of the Chinese mining industry. While the country recovers from the corona pandemic, the mining sector achieved sales of around 309 bn € and profits of approximately 30 bn € in the first eight months of 2020. The manufacturers from Germany could not benefit from this. Up to August exports had only reached a value of 67.7 M €, which represents a decline of 45 %. Nevertheless, Schulte Strathaus envisages good opportunities for positive development because China focuses on digitisation and unmanned operation in the mines. This is where mining technology from Germany can be particularly helpful.

Apart from all technology, for the manufacturers of mining equipment the focus is increasingly on the social benefits. “With our machines we guarantee a climate-friendly and secure supply with high-tech raw materials because without this there is no climate change”, confirmed Schulte Strathaus. (VDMA/Si.)