H2020 projects gather in Brussels to network about the social acceptance in the European Raw Materials Sector

 

On 5 June 2018, the European Commission’s Executive Agency for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (EASME) hosted a workshop about the “Social Acceptance in the European Raw Materials Sector” in Brussels. The aim of this event was to gather participants of Horizon2020 funded projects active in the raw materials sector to share best practices and enhance networking relating to social acceptance and trust for mining activities. As Arnoldas Milukas, Head of Unit B2 at EASME, stated in his welcoming words, “communication is a key step to build trust and meet society’s demands”.

Milan Grohol, Policy Officer at the European Commission’s DG Grow, underlined this by emphasising the crucial importance of mineral raw materials while moving Europe towards a low-carbon and circular economy, strengthening simultaneously Europe’s production and value chains. Along these lines, he highlighted the recently published action plan for batteries where the European Commission has identified EU sources for the raw materials needed to produce batteries. Milan Grohol stated that upcoming calls for projects systematically will include an awareness raising component since “public awareness, acceptance and trust are crucial for production in the EU” and it is paramount to show why raw materials are important for society.

Key note speaker Masuma Farooki who is Director of MineHutte and active in the STRADE project, evoked the “dirty” historical legacy of mining in Europe and emphasised that people often are not aware of the link between mining and its every-day end-products like mobile phones. In her speech Masuma Farooki called for a change in the way industry and decision makers communicate with people and called out for the European Union as a neutral voice in this matter.

During the following sessions around 30 ongoing or past projects and their approaches to improve the social acceptance towards mining activities were presented, either orally or through posters.

The European Federation of Geologists is active in five of these projects: VAMOS, INFACT, INTRAW, FORAM and INTERMIN. EFG Executive Director Isabel Fernández presented the findings of the recently closed INTRAW project which analysed best practices in the field of mineral raw materials at international level and especially taking into consideration five reference countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, South Africa and the USA. She especially highlighted the example of Canada where the public outreach initiative Mining Matters informs educators and students from the basic to the secondary level about the importance of mining. According to their estimates, Mining Matters has reached 650,000 teachers, students and members of the public since its launch in 1994, making education one of the main keys for the support of Canada’s society to mining.

   

The workshop was closed by Marcin Sadowski, Head of the Raw Materials Sector at EASME, who emphasized the workshop’s objective to offer a broad framework for discussions about social acceptance of mining and to enhance impact through networking. Wrapping up the workshop’s main outcomes, he underlined two essential points mentioned throughout the presentations and which should be taken into consideration while establishing dialogue at local level: Firstly, mining is, in most cases, a temporary activity which comes and goes whereas people stay. Secondly, mining is currently experiencing major changes in terms of automatization and new technologies which will reduce the environmental impact of exploration and exploitation activities. Both aspects require an adaptation of communication strategies with stakeholders at local level. Marcin Sadowski closed the workshop announcing follow-up activities that will encourage further networking between the H2020 funded projects.

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