By Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief
Annually, the October edition of E&MJ covers Nordic Mining & Technology. This year, the subject has been divided into two feature articles. The first covers mining activities in the region (Nordic Mining) and the second discusses some of the developments among suppliers in the region (Nordic Technology), who are also interested in exporting their equipment and expertise. The speakers and exhibitors at Euro Mine Expo 2014, which took place during June in Skellefteå, Sweden, offered some interesting insight into both of these areas.
Europe is rich in natural resources, but over time it has become a net-importer of most of the metals and minerals needed to sustain its economy. There is a movement afoot to promote mining within Europe to secure a long-term supply of raw materials. And, competition from developing markets for natural resources and the economic actions against Russia will certainly draw more attention to this need.
While mineral resources have been depleted in central and western Europe, the mining business is very healthy to the north. The miners in this region have been breaking hard rock for centuries. The equipment that has been developed to drill, blast and crush this ore is respected worldwide.
The keynote speaker for Euro Mine Expo was LKAB CEO Lars-Eric Aaro. Oftentimes, business reports for iron ore focus on producers in Australia and Brazil, and overlook progressive companies like LKAB. The largest producer of iron ore pellets, LKAB employs 4,200 people, and women represent 18% of its workforce. Aaro set the tone by saying, “We build wealth by being the most innovative, resource efficient mining company.” He explained that sustainability is the key and described some of the challenges facing the company. To support new projects, the company will have to hire 700 new employees by 2016. These positions will be mostly miners, mechanics and engineers. To attract these professionals, LKAB is now looking at an urban transformation program to build sustainable, creative and livable cities above the Arctic Circle. What makes a city livable? He listed desirable schools, leisure activities for families, good infrastructure and a healthy business climate.
Another common concern among the European mining discussions was the uncertainty about the time required to grant mining and environmental permits for new projects. The individual countries have policies that have some differences and now the European Union (EU) is issuing directives. Reporting in both the Swedish and Finnish media talks about “mining-related pollution,” as if mining is something new to the region, and the words, “mining” and “pollution,” are for some reason synonymous.
Opening her presentation, Päivi Picken, a geochemist for SRK Consulting, asked rhetorically, “Can reindeer and mines coexist?” Picken and her team assist mines in the region with permitting new projects. She specializes in environmental geochemistry and she talked at length about the regional differences and the new EU directives. Picken explained that the short approval periods for permits are now a thing of the past. She also cautioned engineers to be careful with their terminology, especially when dealing with the public. As an example, the term “waste characterization plan” does not conjure positive environmental images. Circling back, Picken explained that reindeer and mines can coexist and they have studied grazing patterns to prove it, not to mention the fact that they have been living and working together for hundreds of years now. Enjoy this edition of E&MJ.
Steve Fiscor, E&MJ Editor-in-Chief