Our natural reserves of raw materials are finite and some of these vital commodities are only available in limited quantities. As the world’s population continues to grow so too will the demand for these natural resources. Many EU member states, including Germany, have come to rely on supplies of raw materials from other countries. According to Eurostat the European Union now imports about half of all the raw materials it uses. Germany is heavily dependent on imports for its supply of metals and some industrial minerals, while it is completely reliant on imports for all its energy resources.
One way to reduce our consumption of primary raw materials, and in so doing to extend the lifespan of the deposits and contribute to sustainable development, is to use those secondary raw materials that have been produced by way of recycling processes. The recycling reduces the supply risks, these including price fluctuations, product availability and import dependency. This applies especially to the so-called critical raw materials that are needed to produce the technologies that are crucial for achieving the ultimate objective of the energy transition and the ambitious climate-protection targets that have been set. This latest issue of Mining Report Glückauf is therefore devoted to the topic of the “circular economy”, with all the implications that has for the mining industry.
For a start, keeping the nation reliably supplied with mineral raw materials demands an intelligent raw materials policy. This calls for a strategy that takes realistic account of the various options that could be used to ensure raw material supplies and at the same time is able to create the appropriate framework conditions. As far as the financing of Government measures aimed at raw materials security is concerned a discussion is now underway as to whether imposing a levy on resources companies would be compatible with fundamental rights and current financial practice.
Mining is a key industry as far as sustainability is concerned and the challenge it now faces is how to strike a balance between growth, profitability and the incorporation of the concept of sustainability along with the required environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. Such a strategy could, e. g., include multi-use mines that would be compatible with the key objective of the circular economy in that during their life cycle multiple usage would be made of resources such as energy and certain raw materials. In a broader sense geothermal fluids can also be considered as part of the circular economy in that they are a resource for the sustainable generation of power. More recently they have also come under the spotlight for the extraction of raw materials such as lithium.
This time around our ISSA Mining section explores the subject of machine maintenance, while the Post-Mining section takes a look at how areas such as mining legislation and water management are being affected and challenged by the coal phase-out.
With my best regards
Dipl.-Ing. Andreas-Peter Sitte
Chief Editor Mining Report Glückauf, Essen