European Geological Surveys cooperating on Raw Materials

EurGeol Gerard A. Stanley PGeo


Abstract

The Geological Surveys of Europe under their umbrella organisation EuroGeoSurveys (or EGS) have being cooperating in addressing the challenges facing Europe with respect to raw materials.  Since the publication of the Raw Materials Initiative by the European Commission in 2008 and the inclusion of Societal Challenge 5 (Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials) in the European Union’s programme for research and innovation to create new growth and jobs in Europe (Horizon2020), EGS has participated in a number of projects which aim to address the European Union Raw Materials Knowledge Base (EURMKB).  The main projects in which EGS has been involved include Minerals4EU (Minerals Intelligence Network for Europe), ProSUM (Prospecting Secondary raw materials in the Urban mine and Mining wastes) and now MICA (Mineral Intelligence Capacity Analysis).  This article will summarise the work and achievements of these important projects and the international cooperation which facilitated their realisation.


Introduction

During the early part of this century the European Union (EU) and its industry faced challenges in the sourcing of raw materials, which are an essential building block for the EU’s growth and competitiveness.  Sectors depending on access to raw materials, such as the construction, chemicals, automotive, aerospace, machinery, equipment, and renewable energy industries, have a combined added value in excess of €1,000 billion and provide employment for some 30 million people across Europe.

The European Commission responded by developing ‘The raw materials initiative (RMI) — meeting our critical needs for growth and jobs in Europe’ as a Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council (EC, 2008).  This forms the basis of European Strategy on Raw Materials.  The strategy covers all raw materials used by European industry except materials from agricultural production and materials used as fuel.  In addition, a Commission expert group — the Raw Materials Supply Group (RMSG), with representatives from EU countries, European Economic Area countries, EU candidate countries, and organisations representing stakeholders – industry, research and civil society – advises the Commission and oversees the implementation of the RMI.

The Commission also regularly publishes a list of critical raw materials (CRM) for the EU which are deemed to be important to European industry and threatened by supply considerations.  The most recent iteration of this was published in 2014 and included 20 raw materials.  The next iteration of the CRM list is due to be published in 2017.

European Innovation Platform on Raw Materials

An overarching initiative to meeting the challenges which Europe faces is the inclusion of the stakeholders in a sector to address the challenges which it faces.  This is achieved through the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) Scheme.  EIPs operate across the whole research and innovation chain, bringing together all relevant stakeholders at EU, national and regional levels in order to:

  1. foster research and development efforts;
  2. coordinate investment in demonstration and pilot activities;
  3. anticipate and accelerate any necessary regulation and standard development; and
  4. facilitate the rapid commercialisation of innovations or developments.

The European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials (EIP-RM) is a stakeholder platform that brings together representatives from industry, public services, academia and NGOs.  Its mission is to provide high-level guidance to the European Commission, Member States and private sector on innovative approaches to the challenges related to raw materials.

The EIP-RM played a key role in the development of Europe’s response to the challenges faced by the raw materials sector by developing its Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) (EIP-RM, 2013).  This plan identified specific objectives and targets as well as priority areas and actions.  The SIP included 95 concrete actions organised into 7 Priority Areas and 24 Action Areas (Table 1).


Table 1: Summary of the Strategic Implementation Plan of the European Innovation Platform on Raw Materials: Pillars, Priority Areas, Action Areas and Number of Actions.

Pillar Priority Area Action Area No. Of actions
TECHNOLOGY I.A.  Research and innovation coordination I.1. Improving research and innovation coordination 4
I.B.  Technologies for primary and secondary raw material production I.2. Exploration 2
I.3. Innovative extraction of raw materials 5
I.4. Processing and refining of raw materials 3
I.5. Recycling of raw materials from products, buildings and infrastructure 3
I.C.  Substitution of raw materials I.6. Materials for green energy technologies 4
I.7. Materials for electronic devices 2
I.8. Materials under extreme conditions 2
I.9. Applications using materials in large quantities 2
NON-TECHNOLOGY II.A.  Improving Europe’s raw materials framework conditions II.1. Minerals policy framework 12
Ii.2. Access to minerals potential in the EU 7
II.3. Public awareness, acceptance and trust 4
II.B.  Improving Europe’s waste management framework conditions and excellence II.4. Product design for optimised use of (critical) raw materials and increased quality recycling 3
II.5. Optimised waste flows for increased recycling 4
II.6. Prevention of illegal waste shipments 2
II.7. Optimised material recovery 2
II.C.  Knowledge, skills and raw materials flows II.8. EU raw materials knowledge base 6
II.9. Possible EIT knowledge and innovation community 3
II.10. Optimised raw material flows along value chains 3
INTERNATIONAL III.  International cooperation III.1. Technology 6
III.2. Global raw materials governance and dialogues 5
III.3. Health, safety and environment 1
III.4. Skills, education and knowledge 4
III.5. Investment activities 6

Within the Non-technology pillar of the SIP, Priority Area IIC lists three Action Areas, of which Priority Area II.10 EU raw materials knowledge base (EURMKB) is the most pertinent to the present discussion.  In summary, these actions envisage the development of a minerals database and infrastructure for Europe to include:

  1. Structured data from databases; and
  2. Non-structured data (reports, theses, articles, statistics, maps, images, video and other materials).

All of these actions are amenable to international cooperation between the various stakeholders, including Geological Surveys.  Especially relevant to European Geological Surveys, however, is the collection and collation, homogenisation and amalgamation of data and then the dissemination of information on Europe’s geology and mineral deposits.

Raw Materials in Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 (H2020) is one of the European Union’s funding mechanisms supporting research and innovation and follows on from the Framework Programmes.  Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness.

In order to reflect the policy priorities and address the major concerns expressed by European citizens, H2020 has adopted a challenge-based approach which brings together resources and knowledge across different fields, technologies and disciplines, including social sciences and the humanities.  Seven ‘Societal Challenges’ (SC) have been identified by the Commission, including SC5 – Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials.  SC5 aims to tap the full potential of primary and secondary raw materials along the entire raw materials value chain and to boost the innovation capacity of the EU raw materials sector.  It focuses on non-energy and non-agricultural raw materials used in industry (metallic minerals, industrial minerals, construction materials, wood and natural rubber).

EuroGeoSurveys

EuroGeoSurveys (EGS) is the representative organisation of the Geological Surveys of Europe.  It comprises 34 national Geological Surveys working across the continent of Europe.  Its mission is:

To provide public Earth science knowledge to support the EU’s competitiveness, social well-being, environmental management and international commitments.

EGS pursues activities that lie exclusively in the public interest or in the interest of public administration, that will benefit from the combined and coordinated expertise of its members and that are in the direct interest of the European Union and/or of the European Free Trade Association.

The EGS vision is to establish a common European Geological Knowledge Base and to provide a Geological Service for Europe.  The EGS vision corresponds with the aims of the SIP of the EIP-RM – research and innovation, knowledge sharing and international cooperation – which makes EGS an eminently suitable organisation for contributing to the realisation of the SIP.

EGS carries out its work through the operation of eight Expert Groups, one of which is the Mineral Resources Expert Group (MREG).  The MREG competes on an equal basis with other organisations responding to Calls from the EU, such as those of the Framework and H2020 Programmes.  EGS may submit proposals to Calls either as an entire EGS community with individual surveys as partners or third parties, or as individual surveys as part of consortia, depending on the subject matter of the call.  Typically, where a Call is for the compilation of data or information on a Europe-wide basis where individual surveys have national data, EGS will compete on the Call as a European-wide consortium.

EuroGeoSurveys and its constituent members have been successful in obtaining funding to deliver several EU- funded projects in the raw materials sector.  In this article I will cover three of these projects, namely Minerals4EU, ProSUM and MICA.

Minerals4EU

The Minerals4EU project, coordinated by the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) and comprising 32 partners, was funded through FP7 with a European Union contribution of approximately €2 million.  The project ran for two years and was completed in August 2015.  Within the project a web portal, a European Minerals Yearbook and foresight studies were delivered and an EU Minerals Intelligence Network structure was developed.  The Minerals4EU project is built around an INSPIRE compliant infrastructure that enables EU geological surveys and other partners to share mineral deposit data and knowledge, and stakeholders to find, view and acquire standardized and harmonized minerals information.

The results of the study are accessible through the project website – http://www.minerals4eu.eu/index.php# with the results displayed in four distinct areas of the website: Data repository on minerals in Europe; Map viewer; Minerals Yearbook; and the Foresight Studies (Figure 1).  Minerals4EU delivered one of the initial building blocks of the EURMKB, covering primary raw materials in detail as well as some information on secondary raw materials for twelve mineral waste flows and eight commodity case studies for metals in secondary raw materials (aluminium, copper, dysprosium, indium, iron and steel, palladium, platinum, yttrium) – see the ‘data search’ part of the Minerals Yearbook for these reports.  An example of the type of data available for waste flows is given in Figure 2.

A feature of Minerals4EU is the harvesting system.  The harvesting system is an automated system whereby individual geological surveys dedicated Minerals4EU databases are ‘contacted’ every month to supply updated information to the Minerals4EU Knowledge Data Platform.  In this way the system continues to live past the end of the project.  In addition, a permanent body has been set up (incorporated in Belgium) which will oversee the continuation of the minerals intelligence system into the future.


Figure 1:  Minerals4EU  portal  (http://minerals4eu.brgm-rec.fr/) showing the four areas of entry to the EUMKDP – Date search, Map viewer, Minerals Yearbook and Foresight studies.


Figure 2:  An image from the Minerals4EU portal showing waste flows for the United Kingdom for different waste streams.


Prospecting Secondary raw materials from the Urban Mine (ProSUM)

ProSUM is Latin for ‘I am useful’.  The project is funded under H2020, commenced in 2015 and is due to be completed in 2017.  The project is coordinated by the WEEE Forum and comprises 17 partners of whom 5 are individual geological surveys as wells as EGS.  In addition, 12 geological surveys under the umbrella of EGS will contribute data as linked third parties.  The EU is contributing some €3 million to the project.  The urban mine in this context consists of raw materials contained in four waste streams: waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE); end-of-life vehicles (ELVs); spent batteries; and mining wastes.  The project website is http://www.prosumproject.eu/

The objectives of ProSUM are:

  1. To deliver the first Urban Mine Knowledge Data Platform (EU-UMKDP), complementing the EURMKB, whose development began in Minerals4EU (Figure 3). The EU-UMKDP will develop:
    • a dedicated ‘Urban Mine’ database of all available data and information on products and composition, and stocks and flows, including the characterization of related wastes;
    • a primary and secondary raw materials database, accessible through the Minerals4EU Knowledge Data Platform;
    • the basis for improving Europe’s raw material supply, with the ability to accommodate more wastes in future; and
    • a user friendly interface providing access to data and intelligence on mineral resources from extraction to end of life products, with the ability to reference all spatial and non-spatial data.
  2. To provide harmonised data to allow stakeholders to improve the management of these wastes and enhance the resource efficiency of collection, treatment and recycling, thus providing:
    • interoperable data on products and waste in stock, waste flows, the nature of the waste and the materials and elements which they contain; and
    • protocols and methodologies to update the EU-UMKDP and to make future data comparable and interoperable.
  3. To create an Information Network that will:
    • address a wide range of end users, including the recycling industry, producers and producer compliance schemes, and policy makers;
    • allow partners to provide and use data and to create an inventory of waste streams with a high potential to serve as a source of CRMs; and
    • identify how data should be presented and organised for the wide range of stakeholders to ensure it meets their needs.

Figure 3:  The generalised simplified architecture for the ProSUM EU-UMKDP (Figure 2.1 in Technical annex to the ProSUM proposal).


Minerals Intelligence Capacity Analysis (MICA)

The project is funded under H2020, commenced in December 2015 and is due to be completed in January 2018.  The project is coordinated by the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland and comprises 15 partners, of whom 6 are individual geological surveys and EGS.  In addition, 15 geological surveys under the umbrella of EGS will contribute data as linked third parties.  The EU is contributing some €2 million to the project.  The project website is http://mica.eurogeosurveys.org/

The MICA project brings together experts from a wide range of disciplines in order to ensure that Raw Materials Information is collected, collated, stored and made accessible.  The overall aim is to develop a system which is capable of answering mineral raw material queries.  The project will develop the European Union Raw Materials Intelligence Capacity Platform (EU-RMICP) to address this goal.

The project will develop an Expert system based on “fact sheets” and “flow sheets” on topics related to raw materials.  Fact sheets are domain-specific descriptions of methods (or tools), models they are implementing and the data they need (along with their sources), whereas “flow sheets” can be considered to be “recipes” that describe what fact sheets should be used for, as well as how they should be combined and in what sequence to obtain answers to specific/complex questions.  The EU-RMICP will be a stand-alone product that will be plugged into the EU-MKDP (from Minerals4EU).  In this regard, the MICA project will complement Minerals4EU.  The main objectives of MICA are:

  1. identification and definition of stakeholder groups and their Raw Material Intelligence (RMI) needs;
  2. determination of appropriate methods and tools to satisfy stakeholder Raw Material Intelligence needs;
  3. consolidation of relevant data on primary and secondary raw materials;
  4. investigation of (Raw Material Intelligence) options for European mineral policy development;
  5. development of the EU-RMICP integrating information on data and methods/tools with a user interface capable of answering stakeholder questions; and
  6. linking the derived intelligence to the EU-MKDP developed by Minerals4EU.

Domains and concepts will be defined for the major issues related to mineral exploration and development, such as mineral deposits, environmental impact, social impact, land use planning etc.  These will be linked through an ontology (a formal naming and definition of the types, properties, and interrelationships of the entities covering a particular topic – in this case mineral raw materials).

An original feature of the MICA project will be the development of a Dynamic Decision Graph (DDG).  The DDG will be an ontology-based graphical user interface which will be specially developed to answer queries from any user (Figure 4).  Navigating within the DDG will allow the end user to select the concepts of interest; during the selection process concepts not of interest will be removed, leading to a natural selection of fact and flow sheets ranked by relevance.


stanley_figure_4

Figure 4: A generalised view of the Multi-dimensional ontology for the Dynamic Decision Graph (Figure 6 in the MICA Grant Agreement document).


Concluding remarks

In conclusion, this paper has attempted to illustrate the cooperation achieved through the use of EU funds, and specifically FP7 and H2020 funds, which have enable cooperation to take place between national geological surveys and other partners across Europe and beyond.  The results could not have been achieved without international cooperation.  The information contained in the EURMKB could not have been accumulated by a single country on its own.  This knowledge base will be added to in the coming years by the incorporation of data on secondary raw materials, thus extending the knowledge base to the entire value chain, through the international cooperation of partners in the ProSUM project.  Finally, a new way of looking at minerals intelligence is being developed by the collaboration of experts from many countries which will enhance the experience of the user in arriving at solutions to questions in a novel and user friendly manner through the MICA project.  No one organisation or country has a monopoly on expertise related to mineral raw material and it is only through collaboration and teamwork that we will be able to enhance the lives of our citizens.


References

EC (2008).  Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council – the Raw Materials Initiative — Meeting Our Critical Needs for Growth and Jobs in Europe.

EIP-RM (2013).  Strategic Implementation Plan for the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials.  Part I (EIP objectives, targets & methodology; overall strategy) and Part II (Priority Areas, Action Areas and Actions targeting sector-specific stakeholders and practitioners).


This article has been published in European Geologist Journal 42 – International cooperation on raw materials.

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