Circular Economy and Environmental Protection: Active Challenges for the Minerals Raw Materials sector
Circular Economy, as a tool that will assist raw materials industry to respond to the challenge of climate change and achieve the goal of sustainable development while protecting the environment, was the focus of the 5th Greek RawMaterials Community Dialogue organized by EIT RawMaterials Hub: Regional Center Greece on December 8 and 9 ,2020. The online event was held with great success and brought together distinguished Greek and European representatives of the knowledge triangle that had in-depth exchange of views while interacting with the audience.
Dealing with, at least 100 billion tonnes of gas and waste emissions each year, corresponding to approximately 40 kg per person, the shift towards the circular model of economy seems to be an one-way street. The European Union has taken a brave step to address this challenge by making CE a key priority for the environmental, but not limited to, long term policies.
Circular Economy is now becoming an integral part of innovation and development, as stressed by Professor Ioannis Paspaliaris, Director of RCGREECE at the event launch, giving
the floor for the opening speeches to Ms. Anna Michelle Asimakopoulou, Member of the European Parliament and Mr Krzysztof Kubacki, Director of the EIT RawMaterials Innovation
Hub CLC East.
The “Green” Development of the raw materials industry, with investments in smart mining and management, the development of new, sustainable products and cooperation with the market and society, is an active challenge for the future of the raw materials industry. Mattia Pellegrini, Head of the European Commission’s Waste and Secondary Materials Management Unit (ENV.B.3) underlined that CE is not merely listed among the eight pillars of the EU’s “Green Deal” but it is emerging as the No. 1 priority. As he said, it is the first time that an environmental issue ever has been at the top of the Union’s policy priorities. It defines Europe’s environment as well its industrial model of the future, which is why the EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy was presented together with the New Industrial Strategy (March 2020) setting out respective goals and priorities.
The Secretary General of Natural Environment and Water, Mr Konstantinos Aravossis announced that the Hellenic Operational Plan 2021-2025 for the Circular Economy will boot
the circular transformation of the Greek industrial ecosystem, stressing out the key role of EIT RawMaterials and RCGREECE towards this direction. In the same frame, the Secretary General for Energy & Mineral Resources Mrs Alexandra Sdoukou announced a number of state initiatives, encouraging the role of RCGREECE in the Greek Raw Materials Community.
Industry is planning the future.
How the raw materials industry is planning to address the future environmental challenges and especially to the need to adopt the circular model of economy?
As Mark Rachovides, President of Euromines, mentioned, “Europe has a unique combination of factors that enable a Green Deal: Democracy, human resources, infrastructure, know-how. In the future we will try to export new products instead of lignite “.
In overall, institutional and industrial representatives agreed that SMEs will become the backbone that will support the adaptation of the RM Sector to circular model. European Union acknowledges this and encourages the creation of a Cluster in the field of mining, with added value in terms of technological transformation, know-how and resources exchange and, above all, access to new investments, centrally and regionally driven.
The “Management & Characterization of Mining Waste” technical workshop was dedicated to an issue of high importance that is also an integral part of the planning of existent and future mining activities. Environmental impact assessment and the use of waste as resource to produce secondary materials, are indicators that can clearly create economies of scale.
In this context, Hellas Gold SA presented good practices in the field of mining in Greece, with emphasis on the ambitious and successful model of waste management in Kassandra,
Halkidiki, which resulted in reducing the environmental footprint of the Company’s mining activity in Olympiada, Stratoni and Skouries.
Finally, common ground for all representatives was that the role of Education is extremely important in the successful implementation of the Circular Economy model, whether it
concerns entities directly involved in the industry or students, professionals or even consumers.