In times of increasing information density, breathtaking acceleration and international pressure to innovate, rapid access to information and business contacts can provide decisive competitive advantages. Especially when it comes to brokering partnerships and cooperation opportunities or negotiating supply contracts, direct access to contacts and networks is an important success factor.
This is precisely where the German Mining Network (GMN), which was launched in 2016, comes in (Figure 1). Its partners, offerings and operating principles are explained in this article. The network offers German companies in Germany and abroad fast and uncomplicated access to information, partners and business contacts in relevant commodity markets. As an international network in the field of international markets for non-energy mineral raw materials, it contributes significantly to cross-border knowledge and contact management and to the targeted support of German companies in the raw materials sector. Since its establishment, these functions have allowed the GMN to become an important component of the German government’s ancillary measures to support German companies in securing raw material supplies and promoting export business, as stated in the German raw materials strategy. (1)
This is also important because the physical supply of raw materials in Germany is primarily the responsibility of private-sector companies. However, many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which continue to form the backbone of the German economy, do not have sufficient in-house capacity to conduct risk analyses, explore alternative sources of supply or establish contacts with alternative raw material suppliers. The GMN therefore supports, especially SMEs that are active in raw material purchasing, also through the offers of its partners. This also makes an important contribution to securing Germany as an important industry location.
Mining technology and expertise made in Germany also have an excellent reputation worldwide. However, the industry is not only 95 % dependent on the export business (2), it is also characterized by a large number of small and medium-sized companies, for which the development of a new market remains a barrier, despite the potential that exists in many places. Due to their respective structures, the partners of the GMN are able to support German companies via their local competence centers in entering the market, finding business partners and identifying tenders and projects. The added value lies primarily in the network partners’ direct network of contacts in the target markets and the local industry knowledge of the respective competence centers. Both enable the fast and specific communication of inquiries or solutions as well as the finding of local partners. In addition, business delegations (physical or online) and market exploration missions to relevant raw material regions are offered on a regular basis by the competence centers, often in close cooperation with VDMA Mining.
With the realignment and expanded objectives of the network at the start of the second funding period in 2021, the focus for the next few years will also be on establishing innovation partnerships. In doing so, the network is responding to new developments in the design of innovation processes by international mining companies. These companies have recognized that the increasing complexity of technological challenges can only be solved in cooperation with competent and innovative partners. Innovation networks have therefore emerged in several countries, in which development processes are outsourced from individual companies to network structures using open innovation principles. Here, companies, start-ups, suppliers and technology companies, as well as research institutions, are brought together in various formats to accelerate innovation processes. (3) Elsewhere, there are initiatives by global mining groups to intensify and specifically promote cooperation with the corporate ecosystem of technology and equipment suppliers and startups. (4, 5, 6) This opens up new opportunities for involvement by German companies, which have so far only participated to a small extent in these networks or taken part in corresponding tenders, so-called hackathons, or have so far been little involved in these emerging ecosystems. This is especially true for companies that only operate out of Germany and do not have a local representative or branch.
In order to raise awareness of these developments among German companies and also to support new forms of cooperation in Germany to promote innovation, the involvement of leading research institutions is essential. For this reason, the Institute for Advanced Mining Technologies (AMT) at RWTH Aachen University has taken on the coordination of the network as a German partner since 2021, together with AHK Chile as the international partner.
At the same time, in the course of this reorientation, the GMN is also taking up content-related topics, such as due diligence in supply chains or aspects of sustainability in the context of the circular economy and post-mining, and is offering in-depth information in these subject areas in the form of free online seminars. Here, too, it is important to involve research partners who bring in-depth expertise and technical competence to the network. With this extended objective and the comprehensive competence in raw materials through the pooling of market and technical competence of the partners, it takes on a complementary role to the already existing landscape of players in the German mining and raw materials sector and contributes to the further internationalization and the forward orientation of the industry. This is more topical and important today than ever before, not least against the background of structural change and the existing lignite mining phase-out in Germany.
The network partners
At the international level, the central nodes of the primarily virtually organized network are the eight competence centers for mining and mineral resources, which have been gradually established since 2012 as dedicated units at chambers of commerce abroad (AHK). The competence centers were initiated by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Action (BMWK) as part of the raw materials strategy and serve to support German commodity buyers and mining suppliers in important foreign markets. Today, competence centers exist at AHKs in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Ghana (western Africa), Peru and South Africa (southern Africa). However, AHKs without a competence center are also involved in the activities on a topic-specific basis or can draw on the structures that have been created (Figure 2).
On the German side, the network bundles the knowledge of central associations and organizations with competence in the field of mineral raw materials along the entire value chain. These include:
- the German Mineral Resources Agency (DERA) at the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) as a center of expertise for the raw materials industry and a central information and consulting platform on mineral and energy raw materials for the German economy;
- Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) with a contribution to knowledge management in the network based on current economic analyses from over 120 countries;
- the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) as the umbrella organization of the Chambers of Industry and Commerce in Germany and the Chambers of Industry and Commerce abroad with a supporting role and flanking support for the network’s activities;
- the AMT of RWTH Aachen University since 2021 as coordinator of the network together with the Competence Center of AHK Chile and since 2020 as the first scientific institution core partner of the GMN.
Beyond these core partners, which carry the network operationally and develop it strategically, the network includes a number of other important partner organizations that are integrated into the network through regular structured exchange and enable closer coordination of activities and events. The different perspectives along the value chain result in a fruitful exchange on current topics and trends. At the same time, overarching issues are identified and addressed. These partner organizations include
- VDMA Mining as the central association of mining suppliers;
- the Fachvereinigung Auslandsbergbau (FAB) as a platform for companies with activities in foreign mining;
- the Wirtschaftsvereinigung Metalle (WVM), which unites smelters and metalworking companies under its umbrella;
- the Association of German Metal Traders (VDM) with its trading, recycling and production divisions;
- the Federation of German Industries (BDI);
- the German Association of Materials Management, Purchasing and Logistics (BME), which represents end-user industries that depend on reliable raw material availability at stable prices.
On the research side, the relevant universities and institutes with a mining connection are also represented. In addition to RWTH Aachen, these include TU Clausthal University, TU Bergakademie Freiberg University (TUBAF) and TH Georg Agricola University (THGA) in Bochum.
Broad range of support services for German suppliers and commodity buyers
Thanks to financial support from the BMWK and the commitment of the participating organizations, the GMN has since its inception developed into an important contact point and orientation platform for German companies, as well as for academic and research institutions. The expertise of the players ranges from the extraction of primary raw materials to post-mining, from suppliers to the extraction industry to raw material buyers from the processing industry, and covers the entire value chain of mineral raw materials, encompassing both market and technical expertise and extensive direct industry contacts.
Who are the offerings aimed at?
The network’s offerings are aimed at mining suppliers as well as mining operators and the raw materials processing industry. Raw material traders as well as research institutions and representatives from politics and associations are also part of the target group of the GMN.
The free information and support services for German raw material buyers and mining suppliers have been successively expanded since its foundation in 2016 and cover new important markets and regions through the establishment of further competence centers, especially recently in Western Africa and China, and the integration of the German representative offices in Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
One of the basic information services is the website (www.germanmining.net), which provides links to all partners and establishes direct contacts to the competence centers. It serves as a platform that enables German and also foreign companies and other players to identify a direct contact person at national and international level within a very short time and to contact him or her directly. Furthermore, the event calendar provides information about important industry events in Germany and abroad, thus offering an event overview for the entire network. Due to this central platform function, the site also offers foreign stakeholders easier access to the German raw materials community. This has enabled the network partners to also establish the GMN as a brand in the international market and thus support the positioning and marketing of technology Made in Germany in foreign markets.
This information offering is supplemented by a monthly newsletter and a LinkedIn page (7). The latter informs about upcoming events and other offers of the competence centers and the network partners. The free newsletter (which can be subscribed to via the website) provides information on current developments in foreign markets and current events, but also in particular on calls for tenders, innovation challenges and opportunities to participate in projects. While calls for tenders and innovation challenges are usually advertised publicly, information on opportunities for participation in project proposals and requests for cooperation are brought to the attention of the competence centers through direct contacts and can be made centrally accessible to a large group of recipients via the newsletter.
Two online seminars have already been held in 2021. A first event in April as part of the BMWK Foreign Trade Days served as a launch event for the network’s second funding phase, which began in 2021, with its now expanded scope of objectives. An online seminar in September 2021 addressed the topic of “Digitization and Sustainability in International Mining” and presented the impact of digitization trends on aspects of sustainability to more than 150 participants from around the world. Reports from the field from Canada and Chile rounded out the program. Two more online seminars are planned for 2022, including one on “Post-Mining: Trends in Collaboration, Innovation and Value Creation.” The free events are held in English and are open to all interested parties. Information and registration are available via the network’s website or newsletter.
Additional services for German companies
In addition to the services already mentioned, the competence centers, often in cooperation with DERA and, if necessary, other partners, offer more extensive services and country-specific offers both for raw material buyers, for mining suppliers and for the raw material consuming industry.
With regard to the target group of commodity buyers and commodity consuming industry, the competence centers offer, upon request and in coordination with DERA, quick access to country-specific information regarding specific commodities, deposits, commodity production, availability as well as market developments and market potentials. Country-specific developments and challenges in the raw materials sector can be addressed quickly in this way and can thus secure decisive advantages for the companies involved in the international competition for services and supply contracts and provide information-based security in decision-making.
Overview of Services of the German Mining Network
- Website with overview and links to all participating partner organizations and calendar of events: www.germanmining.net
- LinkedIn page for networking and information on network activities: https://www.linkedin.com/company/german-mining-network/
- Free monthly newsletter with up-to-date information on events, innovation challenges, calls for proposals and cooperation applications, registration via the website.
- Two free online seminars per year on current topics along the value and supply chains of raw materials with a focus on innovation and networking.
- Bundled and targeted response to company inquiries via the network coordinators (AHK Chile and AMT at RWTH Aachen University).
- Further advice and support via the competence centers and other core partners on country-specific information regarding certain raw materials, deposits, raw material production, availability as well as on market developments and market potentials and support for market entry, business expansion as well as the search for business partners and the procurement of tenders and projects in the various target markets.
Voices from the business world
Torsten Hüßon, Managing Director of GTA Maschinensysteme GmbH, Hamminkeln/Germany, participated in an online delegation trip to China in December 2021, e. g., and reports:
“During the online delegation trip to Mining and Raw Materials in December 2021, we were offered a good opportunity for market entry and market experience in China thanks to the German Mining Network and the Competence Center for Mining and Raw Materials in China. GTA Maschinensysteme GmbH not only got the chance to present its solutions for fast roadway heading and roadway support in underground mining to potential clients and partners in China, but also received up-to-date information on strategies in underground mining from the participating academic experts and representatives of industry associations. In addition, some individual business meetings with potential partners were successfully organized. In this process, we were able to exchange our business ideas, build a network and establish cooperation with a partner. Considering this result, the contribution and support of the German Mining Network has a high value for us and we are looking forward to continued good cooperation.”
DMT Group, Essen/Germany, also participated in a market exploration mission to Peru and Chile in 2019, which Jens-Peter Lux, Managing Director of DMT, commented as follows:
“During a 2019 market exploration mission to Lima and Santiago de Chile, the German Mining Network (GMN) actively supported us in meeting important industry contacts locally and in positioning relevant topics. This resulted in an effective and focused agenda that would not have been possible otherwise. The organization of events, such as raw material forums or business days, allow us to publicize and present our own projects, network with potential partners and customers, and gain concise knowledge about local company activities, political framework conditions, and funding opportunities.”
He summarizes the added value created by the cooperation between the DMT Group and the GMN in terms of joint events and event cooperation, as well as in terms of the comprehensive information offered, as follows:
“The GMN was and has been represented several times at the Mining Forum organized by the DMT Group in Berlin. Over the years, political issues in the context of raw material extraction and security of supply have gained in importance. The German Mining Network contributes significantly to this aspect as well as to the increasing internationalization of the event.
Likewise, for the DMT Group, with 30 offices worldwide and projects in more than 150 countries, the platform that the GMN offers with the competence centers is important for keeping abreast of activities, projects, events and trade fairs. Especially in these unusual times, one of the GMN’s objectives – to host online events on globally relevant topics in the context of mining and raw materials – is invaluable.”
With its unique structure, the GMN is already making an invaluable contribution to the implementation of the German government’s raw materials strategy, to supporting German companies and to promoting knowledge management between the key players in the sector. In the coming years, the network will continue to deepen its expertise and contact networks in the target markets and further expand and consolidate its role as a central platform and contact point for raw materials-related information, contacts and events in order to promote international cooperation and create competitive advantages for German industry.
In particular, raising awareness of and establishing links with international innovation networks are playing an increasingly important role here. The high acceptance of online formats for events in the wake of the Corona pandemic has opened up new opportunities for the network in this regard. An expanded range of events, e. g., addresses specific topics from the spectrum of raw material supply chains, innovation networks, project financing and current trends in international mining, and provides contacts to international experts.
For German companies from Germany and abroad, the platform of the GMN also offers the possibility of directing inquiries on the subject of raw material procurement and exports to any network partner and receiving a targeted response, coordinated with other partners, with further mediation or information offers. This centralized processing of inquiries will be further expanded in the coming years.
The network is open to all organizations and companies that wish to take advantage of the information offers and contact the partner organizations directly. The newsletter can be subscribed to free of charge via the website www.germanmining.net and the authors are happy to answer direct inquiries.
Contacts / Kontakte
Contacts / Kontakte
References / Quellenverzeichnis
References / Quellenverzeichnis
(1) Deutsche Rohstoffstrategie 2020: www.bmwk.de/Redaktion/DE/Artikel/Industrie/rohstoffstrategie-bundesregierung.html
(2) VDMA Mining: www.vdma.org/mining
(3) Siehe z. B. Expande in Chile: www.expandemineria.cl; Canada Mining Innovation Council: www.rethinkmining.org; Canadian Center of Excellence in Mining Innovation www.cemi.ca/mica-national-innovation-ecosystem
(4) Codelco’s mining innovation through increased collaborations www.miningdigital.com/smart-mining/codelcos-mining-innovation-through-increased-collaborations
(5) Rio Tinto “Partnering to Innovate” www.riotinto.com/about/innovation/partnering-to-innovate
(6) Anglo American “FutureSmart Mining” www.angloamerican.com/futuresmart/futuresmart-mining