On 5 September 2023, SUMEX joined forces with two other EU-funded projects, CIRAN and Re-sourcing, to co-organise the high-level panel discussion “Balancing minerals extraction and nature protection: The implications of the EU Critical Raw Materials Act for Europe’s energy transition” during the World Resources Forum 2023 which garnered significant interest, with a participation of over 220 persons.

The European Commission’s Critical Raw Materials Act proposal provided a timely backdrop for the event. With the Act sparking greater attention on securing raw material supply sustainably, the session created an impactful platform to highlight SUMEX objectives and outputs. The event aimed to establish a dialogue with different stakeholders on how to reach a balanced approach between the need for mineral raw materials and nature protection. The session allowed to highlight SUMEX project outputs as tools at the service of industry, permitting authorities and policy makers when it comes to striving for nature protection in the extractive sector.

In this context, the SUMEX toolkit, encompassing both a Massive Open Online Course and a Knowledge Repository, has been actively promoted as a compilation of best practice guidelines in this field. In addition, the SUMEX Sustainability Framework has been introduced during the keynote speech of SUMEX coordinator Michael Tost as a roadmap allowing actors in the extractive industries to progressively advance from initial legal compliance requirements to an enhanced sustainability vision. Furthermore, all participants have been invited to join the SUMEX Community of Practice, which aims to offer a virtual forum for ongoing discussions around sustainable extractive practices during and beyond the project’s funding period.

The recording of the session is available via the SUMEX YouTube channel:

The main takeaways from the session can be summarised as follows:

  1. Creating a level playing field throughout the entire raw materials value chain: The workshop underscored the importance of striking a balance between environmental protection goals and ensuring domestic access to and transformation of mineral raw materials in Europe. This equilibrium promotes fair competition across the entire value chain.
  2. Addressing the loss of public trust in the mining industry: Recognising the erosion of public trust in the mining industry, the session emphasised the imperative of transparency, open access to information, and active stakeholder engagement throughout the mine permitting, extraction, and closure processes.
  3. Improving communication with local communities and policymakers: Stressing the significance of improving communication with local communities and policymakers, particularly by better distinguishing between the stages of exploration and extraction to address concerns more precisely.
  4. Enhancing the trackability and traceability of mineral raw materials: Ensuring the traceability of mineral raw materials throughout the production cycle and curbing illegal resource movements were identified as key challenges that need to be effectively addressed.
  5. Taking into consideration energy consumption challenges: The workshop acknowledged the need for affordable access to renewable energy sources across the entire value chain to reduce carbon emissions and promote European production.
  6. Moving towards a circular economy: The transition towards a circular economy featured prominently, with an emphasis on policy-level actions to promote the use of secondary raw materials through recycling.
  7. Questioning growth paradigms: The session prompted reflection on the necessity of mineral extraction, aligning it with sufficiency considerations and integrating these aspects into circular economy policies.

We would like to thank our panelists and speakers:

– Thomas Spoormans, Permanent Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations Office

– Dumitru Fornea, European Economic and Social Committee / NTUC MERIDIAN Romania

– Linn Andersson, Boliden

– José Miguel Martins, Portuguese Mining Authority

– Julian Hilton, EGRM of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Moderator: Katharina Gugerell, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU)

Keynote speaker: Michael Tost, Montanuniversität Leoben