The importance of minerals: guaranteeing jobs, growth and essential products
On 25 September, the European Minerals Day 2015 – a biannual pan-European Quarry Open Day initiative – was officially launched at the Cimalux quarry site, uniquely located at the cross border in Luxembourg and France. Under the auspices of the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union, this event welcomed over 70 stakeholders from local, national and European level. With interventions by high level speakers, including Minister Dan Kersch, Luxembourgish Minister of Interior, Mr Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director General (DG Environment) from the European Commission, and Claude Turmes, Member of the European Parliament, the event focused on the importance of minerals to Europe and its citizens.
As a local product, minerals have much to contribute to Europe in terms of growth and jobs, as well as the essential products which citizens use in their everyday lives. At the same time, the industry takes its responsibility seriously in terms minimizing its environmental impact, increasing its resource efficiency and protecting its workers.
How this is done in practice, was demonstrated at quarry open days and events all over Europe. Tens of thousands of citizens explored the world of minerals at more than 200 events during the pan-European quarry open doors – 25 countries in total, both in Europe and beyond. The minerals companies and their partnering organisations demonstrated how the industry operates according to the principles of sustainable development. The Cimalux site in Rumelange – which was hosting the European Launch Event – was a good example of this. The quarry’s rehabilitation is done in favour of biodiversity, at manufacturing level, the company aims to be as resource efficient as possible, and it continues to invest in new technologies in order to reduce its energy needs and supports innovation. Cimalux contributes to the economic diversity in Luxembourg and plays a key role in the regional economic development.
Speaking on behalf of the eight European Minerals Day partners, Koen Coppenholle, illustrated the link between the valuable minerals and raw materials which the industry extracts and the final products which are essential to our everyday lives. Using the example of the cement and concrete sector, he portrayed the entire life cycle of the industry, starting at quarry level with the extraction of valuable raw materials, primarily the limestone which is needed to produce cement. The cement is then used to bind together aggregates such as sand and gravel (another extracted raw material) in the production of concrete an essential product for society, providing the roads on which we travel, the schools in which we are educated and the buildings in which we live. Of course, houses are made of much more than concrete, demonstrating how essential minerals really are. For example, over 80% of all interior surfaces in European housing contain gypsum based products. Salt is essential for the production of pvc in windows. Different metals are used in piping, door handles, toasters and televisions. And industrial minerals can be found from the ceramics in the bathroom and kitchen, to the glass in the windows, paint and tiles and solar panels on the roof.
The majority of our quarries, mines and manufacturing plants represented under the umbrella of the European Minerals Day are currently located in Europe. They form an integral part of a European value chain, with 70% of EU manufacturing depending on the minerals, metals and raw materials mined. The sector provides direct employment to around 1 million people across 30,000 active mines, quarries and plants. Its annual turnover is more than €150 billion. All of this demonstrates that the European minerals sector clearly plays an essential role in Europe’s growth and jobs agenda.