The 4th MINEX Europe Mining & Exploration Forum took place in Bulgaria on 25-27 June 2019 under central theme ‘The Future of Sustainable Mining in the Balkans and Beyond’.
The Forum was organised by Advantix Ltd. with the support from SRK Consulting (UK), ERM, Geotechmin, Ellatzite-Med, The Department for International Trade (DIT), Dundee Precious Metals and Bulgaria Alpha (Mundoro Capital).
Forum website www.minexeurope.com
Over 190 delegates from 130 companies and 26 countries registered for the Forum.
Twenty mining, consulting and technology companies from the Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, The Netherlands, Spain, UK and USA demonstrated their projects at the trade show organised alongside the Forum on 25 and 26 June.
Fifty two speakers from local and international companies operating in the Balkans Region and across Europe presented during the two-day programme.
At the 10 keynote and technical sessions, participants examined the lessons learned from global mining and discuss development of sustainable, efficient and responsible mining in Europe.
Speakers from Dundee Precious Metals, Geotechmin, Ellatzite-Med, Mundoro Capital, Lazarus Mining and Euro Lithium spoke about developing the Tethyan Belt mineral potential.
Business drinks hosted by the British Embassy and the Department for International Department at Sofia History Museum offered opportunities for making contacts and to learn about Bulgaria’s 5,000 years history.
The forum concluded with the Gala dinner at the picturesque “Vodenitzata” restaurant located on the mount hill near Sofia, where over 100 delegates experienced the world-famous Bulgarian hospitality, Balkan dishes and folk culture.
On 27 June 30 international delegates of the Forum visited the state-of-the art copper mining complexes operated by Geotechmin and Assarel-Medet.
Forum Facts and Figures
Bulgarian Mining Industry overview
As one of the newest members of the European Union and 15th largest countries in Europe, the potential for economic growth and possibilities for doing business in Bulgaria are endless. Mining is of great importance for the Bulgarian economy and is among the fastest developing sectors in the recent years.
“Bulgaria is a mining country” (Euromines) – the third largest European producer in gold and copper. Development of Bulgaria’s Industry and Energy sectors is based on local Mining. Mining represents 4-5% of GDP and supports 40% of electricity generation. Bulgaria is one of the top 30 global coal producing countries. Metallic resources represent 25% of output, of which copper is 98%, lead/zinc 2%. Mining provides direct employment to approximately 30,000 people, and through related industries – to about 120,000. Mining is also the sector where Bulgaria is closest to the EU levels of labour productivity. More than 300 companies are active in the sector, working in areas of exploration, extraction and processing and all related to these services. Many of them have adopted good practices for their businesses.
- Green economy is impossible without mining!
- The lack of mineral processing and refining capacity in Europe is a major constraint with political, economic, social and environmental risks.
- Bulgaria and the countries of the Western Tethyan Metallogenic Belt have the potential for discovery of multiple world class deposits.
- There are a significant number of closed mines that could be financially viable with the new technology.
- With the emergence of smart mobile mining, economic development of smaller mines in Europe is also becoming a reality.
- License to operate is considered the top business risk in Bulgarian mining sector.
- Public authorities are too weak or scared to openly support mining due to high anti-mining sentiment at the local communities
- Transition to the 0% carbon economy in Europe is impossible with the development of sustainable mining closer to home.
Mining Prospects and Challenges in the Balkans and Wider Europe
Bulgaria and the countries of the Western Tethyan Metallogenic Belt have the potential for discovery of multiple world class deposits. While the region’s mining potential has yet to be determined, there is a significant number of closed mines that could be financially viable with the new technology. With the emergence of smart mobile mining, economic development of smaller mines is also becoming a reality.
A new industrial revolution is brewing in Europe. Europe is accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Mining is expected to play a central role in redeveloping the continent’s main industries, while also embracing an entirely new approach to resources extraction, centred on people and green technologies. The automotive sector will need greater supplies of lithium, nickel, copper and rare earths as carmakers move away from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. Increasing demand for cheaper and cleaner energy will rely on nuclear power generation in the foreseeable future. Growing urbanisation and infrastructure development requires more metals and industrial materials. Technologies which convert renewable energies like wind, solar and geothermal energy into a useable and transferable form, i.e. electricity, require a significant usage of minerals.
Europe is strongly dependent on mineral raw materials imports and lacks infrastructures for processing those minerals into the chemical compounds required by industries. If Europe wants to maintain its sovereignty in current market conditions and socio-economic circumstances, then the EU members will have to source raw materials by developing mining operations closer to home.
The lack of mineral processing and refining capacity in Europe is a major constraint with political, economic, social and environmental risks. Nowadays, the rare-earth elements used by the technologies in the renewables sector are refined outside Europe, in countries that have lower environmental and social standards. At the same time, in Europe, the developments of lithium extraction projects (and all other extraction projects) are being delayed by social opposition and bureaucratic issues (European Commission 2008; Faure-Schuyer et al. 2018).
Strong anti-mining attitudes in many of the European states contradict the increasing need for new sources of metals and minerals. The environmental impact of mining, labour conditions and relations continue to be gating issues for miners. Disputes and accidents instantly get media attention, and governments are under increased pressure to adopt restrictive policies. Though a ‘magic formula’ is far from being reached, many European countries continue to find ways to work with communities while securing the supply of valuable commodities. Some European states are already approving exploration plans and allowing companies to reopen idled mines, ensuring a continued supply of mineral raw materials to the European economy. Other countries move in the opposite direction by discouraging investors and revoking licences to operate.
When defining economic priorities, governments should not ignore the fact that welfare and economic prosperity are determined by consumption of raw materials. The richer the country, the more metals and materials it needs for building roads, houses, schools, hospitals, electrics cars or mobile phones. The EU urgently needs to define and adopt a raw materials policy capable of ensuring the sustainable extraction of the mineral raw materials that are necessary to meet the goals of the energy transition and the UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Furthermore, holistic perspectives for minimising negative environmental impacts and maximising the potential of mineral deposits need to be supported and disseminated as best practice across Europe.
The European Union, through EIT RawMaterials and other programs, has been supporting the development of new technologies and bringing together mining and metallurgy regions from across Europe to work together on improving conditions for sustainable access to and supply of raw materials.
If the European states want to secure economic independence and prosperity, development of mining industry should be given a central role in the government policies. This would require a standard EU legal framework for land use, permitting, mining and quarrying, restoration and nature conservation. The Member States need advice and support on the establishment of uniform governance procedures that will ensure public participation and the fair distribution of revenues from minerals extraction.
About MINEX Europe Forum
MINEX Europe Forum has been organised since 2015 and is one of the most prestigious and best-regarded mining events in the region. Held every year in a different country, MINEX Europe Forum highlights developments, projects and business opportunities in the mining industry of the host-region and wider Europe and offers an information dissemination and international peer-to-peer knowledge exchange platform.
MINEX Forum website www.minexforum.com