Europe increasingly needs responsible mining activities
Finland cannot be a pioneer in the development of green technology while outsourcing the production of vital minerals to third countries outside Europe at the same time, writes Jani Lösönen in our blog.
20. April 2022
Jani Lösönen, Chairman of Finnish Mining Association FinnMin and CEO of Agnico Eagle Finland
Mining is a fundamental enabler of modern society. Today’s lifestyle depends heavily on value chains based on mining products, extending from the production of food and pure water to nearly all the equipment, products and commodities needed in our everyday life.
Global population growth, increasing digitalization, electrification of transportation, and technologies required in the production of renewable energy will inevitably increase the demand for industrial minerals and metals, even though we are, at the same time, making significant systemic changes in order to promote circular economy.
Geopolitical tensions underline the strategic importance of raw materials
Competition for raw materials is intensifying, and a recent increase in geopolitical tensions has underlined the strategic importance of an adequate level of self-sufficiency in raw materials, particularly in terms of supply security. Many critical raw materials are obtained from outside Europe to a large extent, and both the European Commission and the European Parliament have expressed concern about the poor position of the continent in the raw materials race. Also in Finland, the technology industry imports considerable amounts of metal, so the need for a comprehensive raw material strategy is apparent from a purely national perspective alone.
In addition to supply security, running mining operations in Europe is also an act that builds toward sustainability. I find it pretty narrow-minded to think that while we are at the forefront when it comes to renewable energy and low-emission traffic we are, at the same time, ready to outsource the production of minerals that are vital to us to third countries, where legislation and control of the environment, safety and even human rights are not as advanced as in Europe.
Sustainable mining considers different perspectives in a balanced way
We must be able to run sustainable mining operations in Europe and Finland in the future as well. It must be done in a balanced way, considering the aspects of environmental protection, social responsibility and economic sustainability throughout all of the stages of each mine’s life cycle. The regulation that controls the operating environment of the mining industry must also support these objectives.
The primary responsibility for sustainability lies with the operators. The mining sector determinedly promotes sustainability, and one concrete example of this work is the Finnish Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) Standard, developed in cooperation with various stakeholders. The system consists of mutual policies and an evaluation tool to assess the performance of different mines on the basis of a shared set of criteria. The first results verified by an external auditor were published in January of this year.
We need new investments in our country that create jobs, provide tax revenue, and ultimately, enable the welfare society to exist. Mining activities and, more broadly, the entire mineral processing cluster, offer growth potential, and Finland has excellent opportunities to seize it. Success will require an open dialogue between the various stakeholders, and the courage to create the right political and business-specific solutions for the benefit of the industry.
20. April 2022