For the fourth iteration of EU Raw Materials Week, MIREU co-organised an all-day event alongside the European Commission, European Minerals Day and EUMICON. The overarching subject of the day’s four panels was ‘Raw Materials Meeting Societal Needs’.
Throughout the day, the panellists highlighted the need to address cultural attitudes to mining in Europe, specifically the willingness to buy and use smart phones from other continents but not wanting the mining needed to make such products to manifest in European landscapes or communities. As Susanne Feiel from Montanuniversitaet Leoben articulated, ‘making our dirt somewhere else cannot be a cultural value we stand for’. This was repeated by many panellists, such as MIREU’s Kaisa Turunen who ended the day by encouraging industry specialists to get out and talk to communities, especially children, to ensure that people have a strong understanding of where the technology they use comes from and therefore value the industry that sources it.
Mark Rachovides, President of EUROMINES, encouraged participants to celebrate European mining successes, noting how Europe ‘invents most things that are used in mines’, but that the industry is failing in relation to Social License to Operate (SLO). Issues related to SLO were as varied as the panellists’ perspectives, with Kim Marie Jackson (North Coast Consulting Ltd) and Michel Bonnemaison (E-mines and Variscan mines) discussing how in Cornwall and France there is a cultural amnesia around opening new mines because the last mines in the area closed a generation ago. Zuzanna Łancy (AGH University of Science and Technology), however, expressed that in some Polish communities there is more concern about what happens when a mine closes than what happens when one opens, particularly in regards to jobs. Dominic Roberts, Chief Operating Officer of Mineco, discussed the difficulty of communicating that mines will last 5-10 years and not generations like they used to. A final perspective from County Governor of Lapland, Miki Riipi, revealed how mining is socially acceptable in Lapland but there are tensions with other local businesses and industries about regional priorities.
The thought-provoking day was hugely successful. Thank you if you attended and, if not, the presentations and summaries from the day are available to download from the European Commission’s website.