Mineral Resources in 2022
We live in a time that sees us facing major changes in our social environment, some of them much anticipated and on the other hand some significantly less anticipated. While in science issues related to climate change were predicted and have been recognized for decades – and as a society we are dealing with them with greater or lesser degrees of success; the problems regarding the supply of raw materials are another matter. Although shortages of raw materials, especially of mineral resources, have been predicted for some time, society lacks awareness of this issue. Recently, we have also been dealing with the problem of supply of energy resources, which is, at present, affecting mainly Europe. The reason for this is the extremely unstable political situation only a short distance away from us.
Science has been warning the society about issues connected with climate change and the supply of mineral resources ever since the first indicators appeared, which was far before the broader public and policymakers understood the scale of the problem and started taking political measures to mitigate the consequences. Once again, we see that the answers to such social challenges can only be based on knowledge. It might seem at first glance that science is not involved in solving topical issues, but the fact is that in crisis situations, when even wider society recognises that action is needed, it is science that plays the crucial role in resolving the problem.
In such circumstances the competence of national and regional geological survey organizations, which are the collectors, interpreters, and custodians of information about everything that lies beneath our feet, has once again become extremely important, even crucial for Europe. Our ideas and recommendations on possible ways of tackling climate, raw materials, and energy challenges were not based on intuition, but are instead based on extensive knowledge and years of research and investigations.
We now see that such complex issues cannot be tackled at the level of individual countries, both in the EU and elsewhere in the world, but only through the effective integration of policymakers, professional organizations, and coherent knowledge and data. Which is also why the joint operation of the European geological survey organizations continues with the establishment of a geological service for Europe – GSEU, following the successful completion of the GeoERA programme. It is a joint operation of the European geological survey organizations, which, at the end of the programme in the field of mineral resources, aims to offer a harmonised, common classificationbased (for example, UNFC) overview of the current state and development potential of Europe’s supply of mineral resources.
An important component of the Geological Service programme for Europe will focus on critical mineral resources and on the reuse and/or the use of secondary raw materials. It is fundamental that in the process of planning and the implementation of the GSEU program, the European Commission, which has approved the program, understands that the program is not static but instead needs to be constantly upgraded with new knowledge and new research. We need to intensify these efforts, not only in Europe, but also in neighbouring countries and on other continents.
More intensive research on a global level is also one of the long-term objectives of the PanAfGeo2 programme, by which European geological survey organizations, including GeoZS, transfer knowledge of these and related topics to the African continent. Fortunately, Eurogeosurveys - the Association of European Geological Surveys is not alone in its efforts to establish the sustainable management of mineral resources. At this point we need to mention the Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) of EIT Raw Materials, which links the mineral resources knowledge triangle (research – education – innovation) and which devotes part of its activity to researching the possibilities of exploration and exploitation of raw materials in harsh, hardtoaccess environments. One example of just such a project is UNEXUP, which is also described in this bulletin.
Most of us were surprised by the political crisis in Eastern Europe and, consequently, the energy raw material supply crisis. However, we are not surprised by the fact that our focus should be directed on obtaining a better understanding of alternatives to the current traditional concept of energy supply.
The geosciences, too, have answers ranging from the knowledge about the use and further potential of geothermal energy, which is also described in this bulletin, to a thorough knowledge of traditional local energy resources, which we are currently abandoning. If we are planning to close and preserve these traditional energy resource facilities properly, so that we could reopen them in the future if the need arose, we can only do so successfully by resorting to and applying our comprehensive knowledge. Society needs to be aware that the answers which science provides don’t come instantaneously. They are the result of long-term investments in science and research, which need to be well established long before crises arise, and the broader public comes to recognize them as a serious problem.
Ljubljana, September 2022
dr. Miloš Bavec
Geological Survey of Slovenia