The unique qualities of industrial minerals have made them a key ingredient in human life throughout the history of civilization. Without industrial minerals, there would be no glass or ceramics, for instance. Today, industrial minerals still play a vital and valuable part in human well-being, providing raw materials for products which can meet the needs and developments of new technology. To meet society’s needs in the future, access to these essential raw materials must be preserved. It is a fact that extractive activities are dependent on geology and where the mineral deposits are geographically located. This constraint has encouraged industrial minerals producers to develop an early awareness of the possible impacts of their activities, notably on local communities and their environment.
In the last two decades, IMA-Europe’s work programme has given high priority to health and safety, environmental protection and innovation issues. In order to take the sector forward in a sustainable way, IMA-Europe’s members work actively towards continuous improvement in economic, environmental and social performance. They have laid down their commitments in the IMA-Europe Sustainable development Charter, formalizing the sector’s values and operating principles. At European level, these are reflected through a series of ambitious projects and initiatives. To highlight these projects and initiatives, a report was published in 2018 on the direct contribution of industrial minerals sector in the implementation of the SDGs. The report covers around 190 industry sustainability related initiatives/projects wich deliver on all the SDGs in industrial minerals operations in Europe, America, Asia Pacific and Africa.
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The functionalities and properties of minerals make them very versatile materials which are essential to many industries and thereby crucial for Europe’s economy as a whole. The industrial minerals sector is proactive in researching innovative solutions to meet the needs of society today and tomorrow:
- Industrial minerals producers develop, often in close collaboration with downstream industries, innovative applications that prolong the lives of products by improving their functionalities, quality and energy efficiency;
- Industrial minerals are at the forefront of innovation and play an essential role in many high-tech applications;
- Industrial minerals are crucial for the development of modern environmentally friendly technologies such as electric cars, photovoltaic solar cells and wind turbines.
The European minerals sector is one of the most regulated sectors when it comes to the environment. Permitting procedures are often very long and tedious, and include legal obligations such as Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), restoration plans and financial guarantees. Despite this, the European minerals sector prides itself on representing some of the world’s best environmental practices: producers apply specific control measures and safeguards to minimize the environmental impact of their operations. They invest in technically advanced equipment and best-in-class technologies. They seek to cause minimum disturbance to the surrounding communities by limiting the visual impact of their activities and keeping noise, dust and vibrations below the limit values. The protection and preservation of the environment is taken into account before, during and after extraction. At many sites, biodiversity, resource use or waste management, for example, underpin the decision-making process.
People are at the heart of the extraction business. Traditionally, mining is a long-term business lasting, in some cases, as much as 125 years. People may work for 20 years or more for the same company, and even over several generations. A safe working environment and good community relations are key to a sustainable business environment.
- HEALTH AND SAFETY AT THE WORKPLACE
Fostering a safe and healthy environment is an absolute prerequisite and number one priority for the industrial minerals sector. This is reflected in several initiatives, from research projects and scientific workshops, to agreements and training programmes.
- COMMUNITY RELATIONS
Industrial mineral mining operations need a social license to operate. Good community relations are therefore key.
For a complete overview of IMA-Europe's initiatives related to Sustainability, read our brochure "Industrial Minerals - Together for a Sustainable Future" or click on the links below.