In the last decade, the importance of mineral resources in Europe has grown and interest for them has increased. The raised need for mineral resources has resulted in their high prices, especially due to fast growing economies of the developing countries. In 2008, the European Commission responded to these trends with the initiative “The raw materials initiative — meeting our critical needs for growth and jobs in Europe “. The following initiatives share a common idea for better management and supply of mineral resources with sustainable supply of mineral resources from domestic, i.e. European, sources in order to avoid dependency on global markets. Slovenia endorses these movements and has mineral deposits available for exploitation. Slovenia also keeps its own supply of mineral resources at least with regard to raw materials for the construction industry and building materials, as well as some energy raw materials. Knowledge and expertise of the employees of the Geological Survey of Slovenia play the key role in the realisation of this strategy.
In spite of its small size, Slovenia has considerable deposits of mineral raw materials. While all metal mines are currently out of operation, the extraction of construction and industrial minerals, such as aggregates, clays, dimension stone, and some energy raw material deposits, i. e. coal and hydrocarbons, remain active.
Staff of our research department Mineral Resources and Environmental Geochemistry performs fundamental and applied geological research in the following fields:
- Geological exploration and evaluation of mineral deposits (dimension stone, gravel and sand, clays, etc.) end energy raw materials (coal, hydrocarbons)
- In a role of Mining Public Service we support the Ministry responsible for mining in the areas of mineral policy, sustainable mineral resource management and spatial planning at a national level
- We are intensely involved in numerous EU projects dealing with mineral resources
- Expert groundwork for sustainable management of mineral resources and spatial planning
- Project documentation (expert reports on reserves, mining research projects, etc.)
- Development and maintenance of databases and maps concerning our field of work
- Scientific and expert publications at home as well as abroad (articles, books, etc.)
Coal in Slovenia
Slovenia is geologically positioned in a region where the Alps meet the Pannonian Basin, Dinarides and Adria Foreland. In this area, except for the Alps, coal was excavated at dozens of sites of various sizes, from small local pits to a number of large collieries in which yearly production yielded tens to hundreds of thousands of tons of coal.
In a wider tectonic and sedimentological sense, the Slovenian coal deposits can be differentiated into paralic (sea-shore) and intermountain (mostly lacustrine-fluvial) coal deposits. The first type usually consists of a number of thin, up to 2.5 m thick coal seams in cyclically interchanging sequences of freshwater and brackish sediments, while the second type usually consists of a small number of seams or even of only one thick coal seam.
Regarding their petrologic composition, the Slovenian coals are mostly humic, only exceptionally sapropelic. According to their lithotype and maceral composition lignites and brown coals are heterogeneous, while hard coals are more homogenous. Both types of coal deposits – paralic and intermountain developed in low-lying topogeneous marshes. Hence, they are mostly moderate to ash-rich and containing mostly 1-3 % sulphur. Numerous coals can be classified as calcium-rich coals, whereas others as Si-Al-K mineralized ones.
Only one coal mine is still in operation today in Slovenia – the Velenje Lignite Mine – with a production of 3.2 Mt in 2015 (whereas it was more than 5 Mt in the 1980s), wholly consumed by the nearby Šoštanj Thermal Power Plant.