Dialogue and practice: Sustainable Raw Materials for Europe

In 2008 the EU defined a stable and sustainable supply of resources as the target in its Raw Materials Initiative and since then has reinforced this as a pillar of its foreign policy. Based on this target, the heart of EU raw materials policy was the promotion of a global resource market without international trade restrictions. Alongside this, the EU is initiating dialogues about raw materials with numerous resource-rich countries and regions with the aim of establishing cooperation and partnerships. The Raw Materials Initiative has also set a target of promoting sustainable mining in the partner countries, with better social standards and improved environmental performance. However, the details are yet to be finalised.

A sustainable raw materials policy: Solving the problems of the future

It is important, therefore, to develop practical approaches for the future: how can the supply of raw materials for Europe be secured sustainably? How can raw materials be mined sustainably from a social and environmental perspective? And how can the European Union work successfully with other countries at international level to achieve this? These issues are the focus of the STRADE three-year research project, which is being funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme.

Seven partners are collaborating on the STRADE project: Oeko-Institut (Germany), SNL Financial (UK), Projekt-Consult GmbH (Germany), Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP) at the University of Dundee (Scotland), DMT Kai Batla (South Africa), GEORANGE (Sweden) and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (South Africa).

Strategic Dialogue on Sustainable Raw Materials for Europe (STRADE)

The aim of the STRADE research project is to develop practical recommendations, based on robust scientific assessment, for a future long-term raw materials strategy for Europe. The project team are working to this end with partners from resource-rich countries such as South Africa, Chile and Brazil. They hold stakeholder workshops to exchange experiences of raw materials extraction and policy, so that their knowledge can help in devising a European resource strategy that takes sufficient account of the interests of the resource-rich countries as well. Also on the agenda are the competitiveness of European mining and the safeguarding of the European raw materials industry.

STRADE aims to help to develop approaches for achieving these targets. The research group is also focusing on dialogue with the resource-producing countries and on critical analyses and policy recommendations for EU raw materials policy.

Environmental and socioeconomic challenges

Initial studies and policy papers analyse the environmental and socioeconomic challenges arising in international raw materials extraction. Where the environment is concerned, this might be the risk of dams bursting, with catastrophic consequences for nearby ecosystems, or contamination of water bodies. In socioeconomic terms it is not just a matter of local social problems such as forced resettlement or safe working conditions, but also of the major task of designing the mining projects through dialogue between companies, authorities and local residents in such a way that momentum for economic development is generated. The next stage is to examine the many voluntary initiatives and policy instruments as a way of tackling these challenges. By the end of 2018 the numerous workshops should produce recommendations on how the EU can successfully formulate a sustainable raw materials policy.

In the recommendations to the European Commission it will not only be a question of preventing the negative impacts of mining by meeting statutory requirements and prescribed standards. This aspect is of course crucial and will be addressed by the forthcoming EU legislation on conflict minerals, for example. However, it is equally important to create genuine partnerships that do not merely serve Europe’s need for supply security and for a clear conscience. Therefore, STRADE will also elicit recommendations on how the EU can, based on a collaborative approach support the resource-producing countries in gaining additional long-term benefits from mining activities, for instance in the form of socioeconomic development.