The meta-analysis is a first step towards building a knowledge base for a sustainable extractives sector in Europe. Against this background, the SUMEX project conducts a comprehensive screening of EU industry and policy practices in the extractives sector in order to provide a state-of-the-art review on existing practices identifying potential good practice examples for a sustainable extractives sector. The project team investigates H2020 projects’ outputs, research programmes on EU and national level (e.g. Interreg), as well as selected company approaches and practices. A follow-up meta-analysis describes and structures identified practices along SUMEX predefined criteria (see D3.1 chapter 4), these include relevance for good practice learning or extractive sector mine life-cycle stage. This analysis is the basis for providing a solid knowledge for building an online repository of extractive sector practices relevant for SUMEX target groups.
The methodology outlined in report SUMEX ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK provides a transparent and step-wise approach for identifying and screening (part 1), and structuring data (part 2) on extractive sector practices that are used in the SUMEX project.
Data identification, collection and mapping processes take place during the project’s running time from 2022 to November 2023. The repository and its data will be kept on the SUMEX website, but there is no plan for further updates beyond the duration of the project. The data collection and processing has been conducted according to Guidelines on FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) Data Management in HORIZON 2020 projects. The Project Coordinator Montanuniversität Leoben and Work Package Leader Vienna University of Economics and Business will take measures to preserve repository raw data beyond the duration of the project.
The data identification, collection, processing and technical implementation of the repository was a mutual effort by project partners coordinated under Work Package Leader Vienna University of Economics and Business, Institute for Managing Sustainability. Against this background, we highly appreciate the support and feedback provided by SUMEX project partners and Advisory Board Members. Several partners were responsible for individual tasks and repository development steps:
From the perspective of the SUMEX sustainability aspects and Leverage Point (LP) framework mapping, there is a need to have basic information about extractive sector practices in order to clearly discern which sustainability aspects or LPs are addressed. The guiding questions and examples below should be considered when drafting text or selecting text elements from practice level data items. Sometimes, these guiding questions are not distinctively addressed in the short description, but are intertwined and found in the same text elements, which is fine for the short description.
The pursuit of sustainability in extractive industries and the balancing of environmental, economic and social sustainability aspects unavoidably introduces tensions and trade-offs, as already discussed in the report D1.2 SD Criteria – SUMEX Sustainability Framework. Within the SUMEX project, the sustainability framework will be used as criteria to identify and contextualise good practice examples within European Union policies and projects along SUMEX’s five focus areas (i.e. socio-economic and environmental impact assessment, land use planning, health and safety, reporting, and permitting). SUMEX suggests the following Sustainable Development priorities for the extractive industry in Europe. These should be seen as future-oriented and, to some extent, still aspirational, going beyond current legal requirements, which are the baseline.
For the European extractive industry, the SUMEX Sustainability Framework acts as a roadmap towards sustainability. In addition, it includes evaluative criteria that stakeholders can use to assess the sustainability of projects, extractive operations or mineral raw material products.Open in a new window
Approaches, such as the Leverage Points (LP), are conceptual models to best understand what are ways to introduce system change with varying degrees of impact (i.e. ranging from “shallow” or incremental changes, with only minor leverage on changing a system in the form of higher LPs, to “deep”or transformative and disruptive changes represented by lower LPs). Therefore, the SUMEX project utilises the LP Model to map extractive sector practices according to their potential for system change towards sustainability. For more information on the application of the LP Model in the SUMEX project, please see this report.
Leverage points are points in the respective system at which even small changes can lead to significant change; hence they are referring to systems’ change processes, in which a system is reorganising (e.g. towards sustainability) and enters a new state. Previous work has identified two specific processes in which LPs are emerging: (i) regime shifts, which are large-scale changes in structure and function of entire systems; and (ii) transformations, such as sustainability transformations, which are fundamental reorganisations of a system. Such change processes involve technologies, rules and structural change, attitudes, values and behaviour or knowledge- and information flows.
Figure 5: Leverage Points Perspective adapted to the subsystem of the extractive industries. (SOURCE: SUMEX D1.2)
Advantages for taking a leverage points perspective are:
The Leverage Points approach has been used as an analytical lens in different policy sectors, such as food, food waste and food security, energy systems and environmental management. Thus, the approach appears feasible for various policy sectors to assess and evaluate different measures and interventions regarding their potential to improve or transform a system towards sustainability. The assessment of different interventions through the lens of Leverage Points allows the identification of the mix of different measures including ‘deep’ LPs, such as measures that target resource justice or the (re-)distribution of benefits and burdens; the assessment of alignment and coordination of LPs on the policy and operations level; and the appraisal of chains of LPs: while some interventions might alleviate impacts from the extractive industry and focus on sustainable management of extractives, they might also be paving the way for more profound and systemic transitions.
Transparently sharing the methods and results from impact assessments investigating the socio-economic as well as the environmental effects of mineral extraction is fundamental to concluding an impact assessment. Through such transparency, an impact assessment can contribute toward stronger social and societal responsibility by revealing the impacts on human rights and cultural heritage and by rating anti-discrimination practices. Encouraging these socio-economic and environmental impact assessments can assist in economic transformations as part of the EU’s Green Deal. In particular, the analyses from such assessments can substantiate the value given to certain natural or social capital. This value is useful for planning at an extraction site, also after the site is closed. Impact assessments, in particular where risks are identified, enlighten risk management and preparations for emergencies.
As extraction projects are planned, the land-use intended for areas surrounding the mine or quarry and, after closure, at the site itself impacts the economic potential and the environmental sustainability in the area. Including land-use planning in all stages of mineral extraction projects can promote the value of the natural and social capital. As part of the plans, it is important to have a clear understanding of how benefits could and should be shared. This can include aspects relating to environmental sustainability, for example by promoting awareness of the need to care for water sources. Managing land use must aim at only allowing positive impacts on the ecosystem and biodiversity.
Mineral extraction can impact human health and safety through all extraction stages, affecting workers as well as inhabitants near a site. As part of an economic transformation, considerations for health and safety indicate that natural and social capital are valued. In particular, protecting human rights and diverse cultural heritages boosts the health of impacted populations and reduces risks to their physical wellbeing. Encouraging environmental stability through e.g. watershed-based water stewardship allows people to have access to clean water for their daily needs and agriculture. Overall, health and safety regulations are one of the key instruments to ensure social and societal responsibility.
The collection and reporting of data are critical to monitoring and setting tangible targets for improvement. By looking at different sectors on the EU level like batteries or packaging waste many lessons can be learned. Since the introduction of collection targets for portable batteries in 2012 (increased targets from 2016) the collection rates in the EU increased significantly. Similarly recycling targets for packaging waste streams such as plastic or paper waste can only be monitored because constantly improving statistics are collected. Similarly, the extractive sector could benefit from more data collection and monitoring. Improvement needs to be measured against something, therefore collecting as much information as possible can ensure a meaningful monitoring. Sharing official statistics about extraction activities and their impacts can support accountability by helping to identify, monitor and mitigate potential economic, social, and environmental risks. This not only ensures learning and monitoring, but also opens dialogue between stakeholders and the extraction industry and allows grievance mechanisms to be put into place. Transparency also supports trust building between the producing company, residents and civil society.
All areas belonging to ‘Transforming the economy’ have a stronger link to setting up permitting processes and integrating policies. Large scale transformations like a Green Economy existing within Planetary Boundaries or the definition of the extractive’s role in closing biological and technological cycles need to be addressed on a policy level. Therefore, the focus area should address rather macro than micro-scale sustainability aspects. Permitting procedures of course need to consider social and environmental aspects prior to the authorisation of a new mine. Firstly, information needs to be shared transparently to ensure prior and informed consent of affected communities. From an environmental standpoint, water related impacts and consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem services need to be considered.
Overall, the analysis clearly shows that in each focus area and at each developmental stage of an extractive project, a different set of sustainability aspects needs to be considered. Bearing in mind that there is also a temporal dimension included in the sustainability aspects (see chapter 4), some aspects might be more relevant in the shorter time frame while others will only become relevant in the future.
This describes the operational stage the extraction site is currently in. The five distinct stages in the extractive life-cycle are listed below:Pre-exploration (land-use planning):
A sustainable and integrated view on extractives management requires investigating
pre-exploration including planning process for land use and development at the earliest
activities, prior to the start of the individual project development cycle, include
policy development, land use planning and resource mapping. In order to effectively
sustainable management in the extractives sector in a pre-exploration stage, the
following challenges need to be addressed (Endl et al, 2019): 1) Comprehensive data and
of mineral resources, current and potential land use available for public
in the land use planning process; 2) mechanisms for a transparent and fair assessment of
minerals resource development next to other land use options; 3) integration of two
distinct policy sectors - minerals and land use planning - on a strategic level; and 4)
and land use planning processes and instruments taking into consideration the
of mineral resource deposits.
Against this background, an early stage identification of possible synergies or conflicts enhances the steering capacity for the preparation and implementation of sustainable land use plans that include minerals development.
In the exploration phase, different experts are tasked with analysing the prospective new site in order to identify potential mineral deposits for future exploitation. The main methods used for this task include geophysical measurements and geochemical analysis, as well as geological surface mapping. The aim of this phase is to estimate the size of the mineral reserves, their location and the site-specific characteristics within the deposit, as well as the most suitable methods of exploitation. This data helps to calculate the expected duration and yield of the exploitation stage.Pre-exploitation / development:
The specific actions taken in this stage will vary according to the specific mineral to be extracted at the site. Generally, this stage will take longer than the previous stages, as it covers the building of the necessary infrastructure for the operations to commence and run smoothly, conduct environmental and sustainability impact assessments, stakeholder engagement and participatory planning processes. Crucial infrastructure includes roads to, from and within the extraction site, the specific processing facilities (e.g. smelting plants, rock crushing plants, screens, etc.), environmental management systems, waste management facilities, as well as housing for workers and on-site offices for administrative work.Exploitation and progressive rehabilitation:
The exploitation phase consists of two main stages: extraction, and processing. In the extraction phase, the raw material is extracted from the ground. This is followed by the processing phase, where the extracted material is crushed or washed and screened by particle size. During exploitation, the operator undertakes measures to rehabilitate areas of the extraction site which have been exploited. Areas which are left untouched for at least one year could be considered to become zones of temporary nature, in accordance with the legal provision in place. For certain materials, i.e. metalliferous minerals, a third stage is required; smelting, in which the extracted ore is smelted to extract the desired metals.Post-exploitation phase /rehabilitation:
Once an extraction site is fully exploited it will be shut down by the operators, meaning that all activities will be halted and equipment and the workforce will be removed from the site. This includes the disposal of waste, repurposing or demolishing of infrastructure, such as buildings, and the cleaning of the site. After this, the operators need to engage in remediation efforts, such as ensuring that local ecosystems can return to an agreed post closure state or land use capability, including the removal or safeguarding of potentially hazardous remnants of the operation. In a final step, companies need to continuously monitor the decommissioned extraction site to ensure that the remediation efforts have been effective and, if necessary, take further actions to mitigate negative legacies of the operation and ideally enable a productive post extractive land use.
Metalliferous minerals: Metalliferous minerals are minerals or aggregates of minerals from which metal can be extracted. Metals may be present either in their native form (e.g. gold, platinum), but more commonly as oxides, sulphides, sulphates, silicates, etc. They include semi-metallic elements or metalloids (e.g. antimony, arsenic, germanium), which are frequently associated with metals. These minerals are commonly used for steelmaking. (https://ec.europa.eu/assets/jrc/minventory/glossarybc72.html?title=&order=title&sort=desc)
Non-metalliferous minerals: Non-metallic minerals are a special group of chemical elements from which no new product can be generated if they are melted. Non-metallic minerals are, for example, sand, gravel, limestone, clay, and marble. (https://www.statista.com/markets/954/topic/951/nonmetallic-mineral-products/)
Construction minerals (aggregates): Natural aggregates, recycled and manufactured aggregates, clays and gypsum, and building stone are used for a wide range of construction purposes. These uses may be either directly as aggregates (e.g. sand and gravel) or in making cement, lime, concrete, plasterboard, bricks, asphalt mixes for surfacing roads and other building products. Natural aggregates include crushed rock of sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic origin. The construction minerals sector is the largest one among the non-energy extractive industries in terms of tonnage, companies and employees and annual material turnover. (https://ec.europa.eu/assets/jrc/minventoryglossarybc72.htmltitle=&order=title&sort=desc)
Industrial minerals (excluding construction minerals): Industrial minerals, such as baryte, kaolin or salt, are extracted within the EU to supply a wide range of industries. These minerals are not used as fuels or for the production of metals, but they are used for their individual properties in different industrial processes.
Generic: The practice either is not exclusively relevant for specific commodity types or could potentially apply to more than one commodity type.
Below is an overview of the different data items that will be included in the SUMEX knowledge repository. The first set of data items describes the general format. The second set of data items are formats with a relevance for good practice learning. As the project has a strong focus for practitioners to learn from each other, such data items are important for the goals of the project.
Reports/documents: Reports or documents refer to a document about a specific issue, outlining the situation and specific findings in relation to this topic (e.g. a formal document outlining a policy that is issued by the authority behind said policy. A policy document will include all the binding specificities required by the policy in question)
Policy brief: A document summarising government policies to make them more understandable for interested stakeholders. These can be neutral summaries or include suggestions for changes/improvements to policy.
Website: Information is presented on a simple webpage without specification into a massive open online course (MOOC), webinar, video, repository & resource libraries.
Repository & resource liberaries: A collection/database of different resources, e.g. a resource library, can focus on a specific topic or cover a wide range of different topics depending on the target audience of the specific library.
Toolkits: A set of tools (measures/actions) aimed at approaching or to support solving specific problems or issues in a certain context, i.e. a toolkit to successfully implement due diligence in the extractive sector.
Case study: An in-depth elaboration of a specific real-life example used to illustrate the actions, processes, challenges and outcomes of the approach taken in this context, i.e. a case study of the operationalisation of a quarry in Spain by a certain company.
Toolkit: A set of tools (measures/actions) aimed at approaching or to support solving specific problems or issues in a certain context, i.e. a toolkit to successfully implement due diligence in the extractive sector.
Resource library: A collection/database of different resources, e.g. a resource library, can focus on a specific topic or on covering a wide range of different topics depending on the target audience of the specific library.
Guidance document: A document giving broad advice on the implementation of a certain procedure/practice. In the context of the SUMEX project, they are often related to the implementation of certain policies, such as a national/regional mining policy. (https://thelawdictionary.org/guidance-document/)
Handbook or Manual: A set of detailed instructions for the implementation of a certain practice.
Webinar: A seminar or other presentation on a specific topic that takes place on the internet, allowing participants in different locations to see and hear the presenter and engage by asking questions or answering polls. (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/webinar)
MOOC (massive open online course): A free online course that is open to everyone, providing an accessible way to learn about a specific topic/subject.
Mapped Practices either represent solutions for public policy or industry. Accordingly, practices are mapped as: 1) “industry”, 2) “industry & public policy” (representing both angles to public policy as well as industry), and 3) “public policy”.
The sustainability scope refers to the SUMEX sustainability framework for filtering practices. The full list and explanatory text for the three sustainability dimensions (environmental sustainability, social and societal responsibility, transforming the economy) are listed below: