Serbian Belkalhan calcite & graphite mining developer invites JV partners for joint critical raw materials exploitation
Serbian based mining exploration company Belkalhan confirms calcite and graphite large deposits and unique quality as new European resource base for industry. Belkalhan announced that it has confirmed its deposits footprint after a positive step up drill exploration within its key prospect in South Serbia.
Belkalhan Serbia announced it has confirmed its calcite and graphite mine potentials for further investments with future Joint Venture partner. With prospect location advantages and confirmed unique quality of raw material and its quantity, Belkalhan calcite and graphite mine could become a major source for European industry critical raw materials supply.
Intersected Deposits of Calcite as calcium carbonate resource has 99,99% purity and 98% whitenesses in the deposit line of 15m thickness and 125m height, the length of 720m of confirmed deposit which indicates extremely rare deposit quantity and quality which makes it a unique world resource.
The limestone cover also has 98,5% purity and 94% whiteness which makes it an ideal resource for number of industrial technology production processes. With its premium quality and whiteness the calcite & limestone reserves are perfect for pharmaceutical, chemical and food industry among others.
Confirmed deposits of calcite as carbonate source are 5.550 million tons, with additional exploitation surface area potential.
During our exploration drilling we located the graphite deposit line of 300m length and with various depth of deposited quantities. Preliminary results indicate on the high quality and pureness. Additional 4 million tons are being expected to be confirmed in ongoing field exploration. New drills results are being expected and expectations are high for graphite quality and reserves.
Potential JV partnership and investment will enable Belkalhan to integrate downstream into the manufacturing of calcite and graphite products for a number of high-growth markets including lithium ion batteries/EVs, fuel cells, graphene and nanomaterials, thermal management in consumer electronics, smart building products and fire retardants. Calcite deposits with unique European quality makes the mine one of the most attractive in Europe.
More informations on project potentials at belkalhan.eu
Serbia, Dundee Precious Metals assessed that a lot still needs to be done before it can be determined whether the opening of the mine at the “Čoka Rakita” site is possible
The Canadian mining company, which discovered the gold deposit near Žagubica, Dundee Precious Metals (DPM) assessed that a lot still needs to be done before it can be determined whether the opening of the mine at the “Čoka Rakita” site is possible and in what time frame, the Insider reported.
It is added that the results obtained during the research so far are encouraging.
DPM has been in Serbia since 2004, and apart from Žagubica, it also explores gold and related metals in the municipalities of Kuršumlija, Medvedja, Gornji Milanovac, Brus, Petrovac na Mlavi, Kučevo and Bor.
The company stated that they currently have approvals to work on 10 exploration areas, but also that during this year they will focus their exploration activities in Serbia on the “Čoka Rakita” site, which gave excellent preliminary results. However, they add that despite the encouraging results of preliminary research near Žagubica, it is still too early to conclude whether the opening of the mine is possible.
– Opening a mine is a complex and long-term process that lasts for years, during which the company needs to take a series of steps before confirming the final findings and deciding whether there will be a mine or not. During the entire process, the DPM takes care to timely inform all interested parties and the public in Serbia and the world about the findings and all important steps of the process, operating in accordance with Serbian and Canadian laws and best international practice – stated the DPM.
It is emphasized that the opening of the mine would have multiple benefits for Serbia and the local community because, they claim, the project would contribute to the development of the Žagubica region.
– In Serbia, as is the case in many other countries in the world, mineral wealth belongs to the state, and private companies are allowed to obtain mining permits and to exploit the ore. The state, on the other hand, has economic benefits through mineral rent, public revenues, increased economic activity and jobs – the company stated.
Serbia changed the law more than two decades ago and allowed private companies to carry out geological research, and the DPM stated that it operates fully in accordance with the licenses and permits of the Government of Serbia.
– Also, as a Canadian company, DPM has a legal obligation to respect Canadian standards at the international level, which are among the highest in the world in all aspects, including environmental protection – said DPM.
Europe, Can mining ever be green?
As France prepares to dig for lithium in its own backyard, part of the EU’s broader push to create strategic reserves of key raw materials needed for the green transition, activists worry about the environmental impact of mining
Lithium, Gallium, Magnesium, Indium, Niobium. Although these rare metals and minerals appear to belong to the same family, not all were created equal, at least in the eyes of industry.
The European Commission has listed 30 of them it deems strategic for the future of its ambitious green and digital transitions, but for whose supply Europe has become reliant on foreign countries over the years.
Called “critical raw materials” (CRMs), they fall under the European Union’s strategic autonomy agenda. The Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine served to highlight the EU’s dependencies on other nations for natural resources and reminded the bloc which states were in its corner, and which were not.
After concluding that China plays an outsized role in supplying the Europeans with these materials essential to electric car batteries, windmills and solar panels, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a new strategy in her State of the Union address, in September 2022: the EU will seek to diversify its trading partners through new agreements. It was also announced that, in early 2023, the Commission will present a regulation on CRMs to create strategic reserves of those materials on European soil.
Geologists have located critical raw materials across the continent. Finland, Sweden, Spain and Portugal, where deposits have been spotted, are eager to dig into the earth. Will the Europeans go back to the mines? Some countries, such as those in Scandinavia, have a long and ongoing tradition of mining, while others closed their last coal mines decades ago.
In any case, the issue worries environmental activists. The word “eco-mining” is on everyone’s lips in Brussels as well as in the Member States, and the concept should ostensibly help overcome obstacles to opening new mines.
In its consultation last October and November, the European Commission identified a lack of investment to create an EU supply and noted that permit procedures were long and complex. Opening a mine can take up to 15 years, between the exploration process to the extraction itself. Moreover, these projects are highly scrutinised, and the legislation in individual Member States remains demanding when it comes to exploiting their natural resources.
The consultation also pointed out the environmental risk. “We have to define our standards regarding responsible mining,” MEP Hildegard Bentele, the EPP rapporteur for the resolution adopted on CRMs by the European deputies in 2021, tells The Parliament. “Because a mine is always an intervention into nature. We should not be blurry about it.” Rather than “green” or “sustainable”, Bentele hopes for “responsible” mines: the impact on the environment will never be zero, but it is necessary to do everything in our power to minimise it.
The idea that a mine can be “responsible” is put forward by the French authorities and the companies which have recently announced lithium projects in several parts of the country. France, where mines are still taboo, has high ambitions for the production of this new “white gold” necessary for the batteries of future electric cars.
A boom in demand is expected after the ban on fossil fuel cars comes into force in 2035. In the Massif Central, in the centre of France, the French company Imerys has announced a vein capable of producing 34,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year, which translates into 700,000 batteries for future electric cars. It plans to start extracting in 2028.
In the Rhine basin, between France and Germany, several projects aim to extract lithium using geothermal technologies: hot salty water is pumped to the surface, from which operators extract the precious metal before reinjecting the water into the earth. The Australian company Vulcan Energy hopes to produce 50,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide annually starting in 2027. In the same area, some French companies have also successfully passed their first tests of lithium extraction from geothermal brines.
The zone could supply up to 30 per cent of Europe’s lithium needs. Not bad, considering Thierry Breton, the EU’s Commissioner for the Internal Market, has set the ambitious target of being “almost self-sufficient in lithium for our batteries by 2025”. But what is going to be the environmental impact of those mines?
Thierry Breton, the EU’s Commissioner for the Internal Market, has set the ambitious target of being “almost self-sufficient in lithium for our batteries by 2025”
In the Massif Central, even if the mine is underground, the industrial operator will still have to pump water to be able to work. And if it uses hydro-metallurgical separation techniques to extract lithium, large quantities of water will be required. The enterprise promises to recycle water, but with scant details on how often and how much.
At the Franco-German border, geothermal technologies also raise eyebrows among the locals. People are afraid of seismic tremors caused by the stress generated underground. Others wonder whether they may be affected by the high level of radioactivity concentrated a few kilometres away underneath their feet.
Even employing so-called “clean” technologies, the new mines don’t convince everyone. Judith Pigneur, an engineer from the French association négaWatt, has observed these new technologies carefully and as well as an outsider can, given that each company is still relatively hush-hush about its extraction process.
“In absolute terms, the environmental impact of CRMs’ exploitation will only increase because deposits will become less and less good and their contents will decrease [in number],” she explains. As a result, companies will have to dig deeper or be more aggressive in the extraction process.
At the European Parliament, the Greens are wrestling with the dilemma of how to ensure the green transition, which requires critical raw materials, while protecting the planet’s remaining resources. There must be some limits to mining in Europe, explains German MEP Henrike Hahn, shadow rapporteur for the European Parliament resolution in 2021: “Obviously, a protected area in Europe, like Natura 2000 [a network of protected areas], are off-limits for mining industries.”
And the recycling of CRMs must be developed and promoted by future EU regulation, with the objective of creating a market of secondary raw materials.
Of the many CRMs, lithium holds a special place. The projected need for batteries will be so huge that many people are uneasy about our ability to maintain stocks. Even those advocating for a reduced consumption of CRMs across the board agree on the importance of lithium. For them, the only hope is to be able to reduce demand in small, incremental ways, with the understanding that it will, in any case, remain high. “Are we going to use lithium for SUVs or for small cars?” wonders Pigneur, the engineer.
Creating reserves of critical raw materials with new mines in Europe will not be enough to meet tomorrow’s needs, no matter the geopolitical and economic urgency, and even with new extra-European trading partners. The CRMs will also have to give way to the 3Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, Parliament Magazine writes.
European mining eyes uncertain future
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced Europe to look at weaning itself off Russian dominance in its mining industry.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provided Europe with the opportunity to conduct a much needed re-appraisal of its raw materials supply chain and its vulnerabilities, the EU has been forced to take a similar look at the parlous state of its own metals mining industry.
There is widespread agreement that if Europe is to have any chance of achieving its clean energy goals, renewable energy is an obvious prerequisite. However, this requires metals such as lithium, a metal in which Europe remains far from self sufficient. Recognising this urgency, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in her September 14 state of the union address announced a new European Critical Raw Materials Act.
“Never before has this parliament debated the state of our union with war raging on European soil,” she began. “Lithium and rare earths will soon be more important than oil and gas. Our demand for rare earths alone will increase fivefold by 2030. We must avoid becoming dependent again, as we did with oil and gas,” she continued.
The act will update the 30 raw materials that the EU has already classified as critical, and could provide a framework for a new balance of power in European mining, if the continent can overcome challenges to expanding its internal mineral production.
Setting targets for European metals
Commenting on the address, Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for the internal market, said that the EU Critical Raw Materials Act will help by: focusing on strategic applications including setting the criteria for identifying raw materials relevant for transition and defence needs; creating a true European network of raw materials agencies to anticipate risks; and building and strengthening a more resilient supply chain.
“For example, a target could be set that at least 30% of the EU’s demand for refined lithium should originate from the EU by 2030, or to recover at least 20% of the rare earth elements present in relevant waste streams by 2030,” Breton said.
Demand for all battery materials is skyrocketing with demand for graphite and rare earths predicted to jump 14 and five times respectively by 2030. This is expected to create enormous supply problems. Indeed, so dire is Europe’s raw materials plight that Bernd Schäfer, CEO and managing director of EIT Raw Materials told Euractiv, “With the recent energy crisis, it’s become difficult to prioritise. This is because ALL critical raw materials are becoming super critical now.”
But observers caution that serious hurdles stand in the way of the EU achieving an adequate level of raw materials self sufficiency. At a think tank held last year organised by Ghent University, Prof Dr Jonathan Holslag, a lecturer on international politics at the Free University Brussels warned that there is a huge gulf between China’s economic nationalism and determination to control the global raw materials supply chain and the EU’s lukewarm attitude to supporting its own raw materials industry.
“China does not consider its basic industries as backward,” said Holslag. He noted that despite 16 years of EU policies on mining and the mineral supply chain in place, production volumes in Europe, “have decreased and mining in the EU is currently almost absent.” In September a joint Franco-German paper, supported by Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Greece, Portugal, Finland, Belgium and Romania, called for greater financing for raw material production within the bloc.
The role of recycling
One aspect of the Commission’s critical raw materials plan that might hold more promise, according to Julie Klinger, a geologist, is recycling. Interviewed in Politico Klinger said that while the EU may need to open new mines, this should only be a “distant third choice behind reprocessing waste and behind recycling.” Earlier this year, the European Parliament voted to impose mandatory recycled content targets for the lithium, cobalt, nickel and lead in lithium-ion batteries.
A number of recycling ventures are now underway. The EU-funded Susmagpro project that is running to November 2023 is looking to kick start the recycling of rare-earth magnets. These magnets are applied in electronics, wind turbines, electric car motors and others.
“The aim of the project is to develop a recycling supply chain for rare earth magnets in the EU and to demonstrate these new materials on a pilot scale within a range of application sectors,” said the European Commission. “The EU imports far more neodymium-iron-boron magnets than it manufactures.”
Considering that the EU imports less than 1,000 tonnes of such magnets a year, and up to three times that volume are currently available for recycling, the reuse of these batteries presents a significant opportunity.
Acceptance versus apathy
But while EU governments largely accept the need for greater raw materials self sufficiency, within the European population at large there is substantial apathy, if not downright hostility, towards the metals resource industry. Serbia, the Czech Republic, Spain and Portugal host world class lithium deposits, but there is considerable opposition to their development.
In Spain, local residents are battling to defeat Infinity Lithium’s proposed lithium mine in the Valdeflores Valley. Campaigning under the banner of the citizen group ‘Save the Mountain’ they have resisted the company’s plans and taken Infinity to court. This is despite an amended proposal for an underground, rather than open pit mine.
Also in the region, Lithium Iberia has proposed another large lithium mine, known as Las Navas. But it too, has faced steep opposition from locals on the grounds that it is an area traditionally dedicated to common pastures for ranchers and cork harvesting.
Similar opposition is on display to the EU’s most notable deposit of heavy rare earth metals zirconium, hafnium and niobium in Sweden. Three years ago, Canadian company Leading Edge Materials presented a plan to the Swedish Mining Inspectorate for an open cast pit development of the Norra Kärr rare earth element deposit located in Jönköping County. Mark Saxon, interim company CEO stated, “Norra Kärr is a strategic project that has a unique ability to dramatically reduce European reliance on China for critical raw materials.”
However, the company’s plan was vigorously opposed by environmental campaigners at the time. They now appear to have had some success when a subsequent ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden ruled that a Natura 2000 permit was required, prior to the evaluation of the mining lease. Natura 2000 is a network of nature protection areas in the territory of the EU. The project is now in limbo and the company is carrying out maintenance activities to protect its tenure over the project. With the mining lease application valid until August 2026, the dispute could continue for a number of years.
The opposition by local activists to mining projects is creating something of a dilemma for the EU’s goal of increasing its raw materials self sufficiency. A similar dilemma is being faced by the energy industry. The lesson that is having to be hard learned by that industry is there is quite often a ‘disconnect’ between the need for more renewable energy and opposition at the local level to the building of any new wind and solar farms.
How the metals mining sector squares this sort of circle is uncertain. But if European industry is to wean itself off Russian and Chinese metals then a solution needs to be found, and quickly, Mining Technology writes.
Mining companies have no intention of leaving Serbia and there will be more and more of them
Mining companies have no intention of leaving Serbia and there will be more and more of them, and justice and laws are not on the side of citizens who fight for human rights and environmental protection, lawyer Sreten Đorđević said today.
At the conference “Availability of environmental (in)justice in Serbia” in Belgrade, Đorđević pointed out that mining companies will not leave Serbia “at any cost”, neither because of financial losses nor the revocation of permits.
“We should not be fooled that mining companies engaged in any type of exploitation or applied geological research will leave Serbia within the existing legal framework. I think there will be more and more of them,” Djordjevic said.
Speaking about the boron and lithium mining plans in the Valjevo basin, Đorđević, the legal representative of the citizens’ movement “March from Kolubare”, recalled that the rights to applied geological research of boron and lithium in the area of Valjevo North were taken away from the company Euro Lithium Balkan.
However, the same company announced a few days ago that it wants to engage in applied geological research on the geothermal potential of the Valjevo area in the same area.
“I think it’s actually a simulation of the desire to explore geothermal potential, behind which could be the company’s desire to stay in that research area by any means, with some new solution, and not allow another company to enter its place,” he said. Djordjevic.
Although the company Euro Lithium Balkan has been operating with huge losses for several years, which amounted to 2.9 million euros in 2021, Đorđević said that the company is incorporating other companies backed by investment funds into its ownership structure.
Namely, in 2021, Euro Lithium Canada concluded a lien agreement with Lithium Royalty Corporation from Canada by pledging 10% of the ownership of Euro Lithium Balkan in the name of that company’s claims.
Behind the company Lithium Royalty Corporation is the investment fund Waratah Capital Advisors Ltd, which manages assets of about four billion dollars.
“At risk citizens from the Valjevo area should be told that nothing is over.” The interests of the mining sector are so strong that they will want to stay in this area at all costs at the cost of losing permits and constantly operating with losses,” said Đorđević.
According to him, in order for mining companies to leave Serbia, the Law on Mining and Geological Research, the Law on Expropriation and the entire “mining lobby legislative framework that destroys the entire system of regulations in the field of environmental protection and consequently human rights protection” must be changed.
Đorđević mentioned that in Serbia, excluding Vojvodina, there are only three mining inspectors, one for the field of underground water, one for geological research and one for solid rock masses.
He said that citizens are demoralized and disincentivized to fight for their rights, because court proceedings take a long time, costs are huge and unpredictable; In most cases, there is a huge disproportion between the plaintiff and the defendant, and they are increasingly exposed to strategic lawsuits against members of the public (SLAPP lawsuits).
“In all these proceedings where citizens are fighting for the protection of human rights and the protection of the environment, the balance of justice is drastically tilted to the other side, the side of investors, because on that side the state administration factor prevails and that is why there is such a great inequality, as well as in economic powers one side and the other,” Djordjevic said.
He noted that the law does not recognize the possibility of exemption from court costs in proceedings with elements of environmental protection, which, in his opinion, would be justified because it is not about particular personal interests, but about the protection of collective interests.
Djordjević also pointed out that the legal system of Serbia in the area of civil rights has not changed for 50 years, as well as that in the draft of the new Civil Code, no provisions refer to procedures with an element of environmental protection or compensation for damages in that area.
“It seems that the future law makers did not recognize the area of environmental protection rights in the civil-law sense, which is unacceptable because environmental problems increase with geometric progression,” said Đorđević and added that in the meantime laws in the field of mining are being developed to the detriment of citizens’ interests, N1 writes.
The raw truth of Europe’s raw materials
As the world’s eyes were fixed on United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 in Egypt, a more low-key bureaucratic gathering was taking place in Brussels, working on growing the industrial supply chains needed to wean the Continent off the most carbon-intensive fuels for both environmental and national security reasons.
Indeed, European Raw Materials Week has now been imbued with an added sense of purpose and urgency, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and some European Union members’ subsequently unavoidable turn toward coal to get through the winter, has exposed Europe to the harsh realities of energy security.
Being dependent on unreliable and hostile actors elevates the strategic imperative of avoiding new dependencies for the critical materials needed to power the green transition with solar panels, advanced batteries and wind turbines — an opportunity and challenge that arguably constitutes a historic inflection point currently being shaped by several converging trends and events.
For one, due to recent landmark legislation across the Atlantic, the United States will now be devoting hundreds of billions of dollars to sustainable energy initiatives, technologies and supply chains. However, there’s understandable consternation that purchasing tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs) through the new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will advantage countries that share a free trade agreement with the United States — excluding those in the EU.
This is unnecessarily restrictive, and the U.S. should include preference for EU and NATO members — however, it doesn’t mean Europeans shouldn’t play a significant role, and reap significant benefits, from partnering with North America to diversify its supply chains for raw materials.
The EU currently spends tens of billions of euros subsidizing the purchase of EVs, most of which are heavily reliant on sources for mining and processing that are dominated by China. Getting serious about “Made In Europe” means getting serious about these supply chains as well. Europe has significant mineral processing capacity, and this can be expanded to loosen China’s grip on — and possible weaponization of — this crucial phase of the EV battery supply chain.
For example, the EU already ranks second in global processing capacity for nickel, cobalt and manganese, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Meanwhile, with limited mining and processing available domestically, many U.S. automakers are now scrambling for alternate sources for such raw materials, so they can be eligible for the IRA’s tax credit. However, minerals extracted from IRA-compliant countries (North America or U.S. Free Trade Agreement partners) could be processed in ever-growing quantities in Europe, and the resulting EV batteries would still qualify for the tax credit within the U.S.
Additionally, information technology such as blockchain is becoming increasingly available, allowing governments, businesses and consumers to track where materials and components come from — as well as how they’re extracted and processed. Thus, democratic nations could agree to condition market access on shared human rights, labor and environmental requirements, in effect creating a “race to the top,” turning high standards into competitive advantage.
Collectively, the EU and North America make up close to 45 percent of global GDP, which provides enormous leverage. Other nations must either comply with these standards — thus, raising their costs and limiting their price advantages — or be excluded. Given today’s supply chain imbalances, the early stage of that transition won’t be easy. But if the world’s technologically advanced democracies have the will, and stick together through the preliminary turbulence, the means do exist.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted as much in her State of the Union address earlier this year, observing that with “like-minded partners,” Europe can ensure labor and environmental standards outside its borders as well. We have models of collaboration to build upon for this — such as the former Trilateral discussions (including the EU, U.S., Japan — and now Canada and Australia as well), which address what “responsible” mining and permitting really look like.
Finally, the fallout from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has also laid bare the risks of jettisoning incumbent sources of energy too early in the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. Even the most climate-friendly power generation systems will require tremendous amounts of energy — principally electricity. And in this capacity, the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and Norway have vast natural resources to help end the EU’s dependence on Russia, even as we recognize this isn’t a sustainable solution.
These priorities are all consistent with recent European policy initiatives, from REPowerEU — a plan to rapidly reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels — to the Critical Raw Materials Act. They require widening the aperture of our thinking and collaborating on a comprehensive approach to deliver on the EU’s Green Deal and strategic autonomy
President von der Leyen led her address by calling Russia’s aggression “a war on our energy,” as part of a broader assault on Europe’s economy, values and future. And getting our energy response right will require a shared transatlantic approach to critical raw materials, which addresses today’s requirements as part of — and not in conflict with — a prosperous, carbon-neutral future, Politico writes.
Serbia is an important source of rare minerals
Today, mining is an important factor in economic activity and growth in Serbia, and at the beginning of this year, this branch of industry contributed 2.6% to GDP in the first quarter and 2.3% in the second quarter, said the Minister of Mining and Energy, Dubravka Đedović. during the address at the conference “Mineral resources of Serbia, sustainable growth through responsible mining”, according to the Government’s website.
Also, as she added, mining records a higher growth rate than industrial production, because from January to July this year, compared to the same period in 2021, industrial production increased by 2.7%, while mining grew by more than 30%, which is the result of increased investments, especially in exploitation and processing in the copper mine.
According to her, 27,000 people were employed in the mining sector in 2021, of which 8,500 were employed in metal mines, with a tendency to increase that number.
As stated, “currently, geological research is carried out in Serbia on 178 exploration fields, of which 120 are fields of metallic raw materials, among others, copper, gold, lead, zinc, silver, two exploration fields of energy raw materials, and 56 fields where they are researching non-metallic raw materials”, Đedović specified.
Serbia is rich in mineral resources, primarily copper, gold, silver, lead, zinc, borates and lithium, she stressed and added that in the era of modern technologies, mineral resources are “the basis of the development of modern society” and “a necessary prerequisite for the existence of modern civilization”.
Mining activity in the context of the country’s energy independence and further economic growth is not a matter of choice, but an inevitability. The state’s task is to, together with mining, use the wealth we have in a rational, responsible and sustainable way, respecting nature and taking care of the communities it has an impact on, the minister said, according to the official website of the Government, eKapija writes.
Armenia’s journey towards responsible mining
Mining raises many issues for communities. What minerals are being developed? Where are the mines? Who owns these mines? What kinds of ore are produced? In what form and to which countries are they exported? Armenia’s accession to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) helped bring the answer to these kinds of questions and more public and transparent, the World Bank said in an article entitled “Armenia’s Journey Towards Responsible Mining”.
As in many countries, mining can be a sensitive topic in Armenia, the article says. It notes that civil society follows mining developments closely to demand better protection of the environment.
The World Bank says that the Armenian government hoped to improve the management of natural resources by making it more transparent, accountable, and participatory. It grew interested in the EITI and, in 2015, announced its intention to join. “Within a year, Armenia met all the preconditions for joining the EITI, and its membership application was approved in 2017”, it says.
The WB says that the country’s legislation did not ensure full transparency and accountability from the sector. The National Assembly made legislative changes to require the publication of large amounts of financial information, such as tax payment data by companies as well as data on extraction and exports, charitable activities, and socio-economic support projects in communities — reporting this information annually became legally required. This information is reflected in the EITI annual national reports.
According to the article, in 2019, Armenia took on responsibilities beyond the scope of mandatory requirements, which ensured even greater transparency.
“Armenia made remarkable achievements in its implementation of the Standard. At the 2019 EITI Global Conference in Paris, Armenia received the EITI Chair’s Award for implementing the Standard in an innovative and resolute manner, as well as for effective multi-stakeholder governance”, the article says.
“I have personally followed the process with great interest. Armenia has achieved remarkable progress. Out of the 54 countries, Armenia is among the nine that have received the highest possible assessment, and it has only been three and a half years since Armenia began implementing the EITI; in that regard, its accomplishments are really commendable”, Mark Robinson – Director of the EITI International Secretariat, said.
For civil society representatives and journalists, the new requirement to disclose the beneficial owners of metal extracting companies was a unique opportunity, the WB said. In Armenia, it had often been quite difficult to obtain information regarding beneficial ownership, it added.
“Armenia`s success story is ongoing and there is still more that can be done. Future reforms are going to be geared at mitigating environmental impact. The Government is continuing to develop a strategy for the sector by engaging all interested parties”, Armenpress writes.
Armenia’s environmental crimes committed in Azerbaijani lands are said to cause $285 billion in damages
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev vowed to start legal proceedings at international courts to demand compensation for the damage and ecological terror committed by Armenians in the once occupied Azerbaijani territories.
The announcement was made at a video meeting with the newly appointed special representative of the Azerbaijani president in the Zangilan district.
The president outlined deforestation, illegal exploitation of gold reserves, and contamination of rivers as one of the ultimate examples of the environmental terror conducted by Armenians.
“Fifty to sixty thousand hectares of forest have been completely destroyed. We observed this via satellite. A process of deliberate deforestation was underway, especially in Kalbajar, Lachin, Zangilan and Gubadli districts. This, in fact, is savagery and looting,” President Aliyev was quoted as saying by his official website.
According to him, the world’s second-largest sycamore forest in Zangilan suffered seriously from deliberate deforestation and arson, which were also observed in the Kalbajar and Lachin districts even after the war in 2020. Moreover, the Okhchu River and the Vejnali gold deposit in Zangilan were also subjected to large-scale ecological terror and illegal exploitation.
“The illegal exploitation of the Vejnali gold deposit by foreigners, including foreigners of Armenian origin, will cost them dearly. We know the names of those people. We will expose them to the world and they will compensate us. They will definitely pay compensation for the damage,” President Aliyev said.
“We have now started all the legal procedures … Not a single crime will go unanswered. First, we are calculating all the damage, the process of passportization of all our cities and villages is underway. Video and photos of each building or the ruins of that building are being taken. This is proof, and we intend to appeal to international courts. Preparations are underway.”
According to the preliminary estimates, the amount of material damage caused by Armenians to Azerbaijan’s infrastructure, resources, and citizens totals $818 billion. The environmental crimes caused $285 billion in damages.
The Azerbaijani authorities have repeatedly voiced the unprecedented systematic deforestation activities in the Karabakh region, calling for an international investigation into the issue.
Meanwhile, five gold deposits and other natural resources of Azerbaijan in the once occupied territories have been intensively looted by the local Armenian companies and those invited from overseas. Companies such as Vallex Group, First Dynasty Mines, Base Metals, Lydian International, GeoProMining, Vedanta Group, and the Armenian-descent businessmen and entrepreneurs had been involved in illegal mining operations in the Azerbaijani lands. The Franck Muller luxury watch manufacturer company owned by a Swiss tycoon of Armenian origin, Vartan Sirmakes, used gold from the Soyudlu and the Vejnali deposits of Azerbaijan in the production of Frank Muller watches. Sirmakes has reportedly exploited gold worth $302 million.
The contamination of the Okhchu river, one of the eleven rivers of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh region, which is home to more than 30 percent of the country’s overall drinking water reserves, has also been a great concern for the Azerbaijani authorities over the years.
Baku blamed the Armenian authorities for not preventing the pollution of the river, the water of which is not used in Armenia and flows into Azerbaijan’s agriculturally important Araz River. The Okhchu river is said to be used as a “collector” by Armenia’s producers for sending away the industrial wastes from the country’s territory and causing agricultural, environmental, and humanitarian disasters in Azerbaijan. The analysis of the samples taken from the Okhchu river revealed many life-threatening elements in the water, including copper, molybdenum, manganese, iron, zinc, and chromium. According to the examination results, the amount of nickel in the river was seven times, iron four times, and copper-molybdenum two times higher than normal, Caspian News writes.
Relying solely on raw materials sourced within Europe could incentivise the use of cheaper, non-recyclable batteries
Relying solely on raw materials sourced within Europe could incentivise the use of cheaper, non-recyclable batteries, increasing the need to mine virgin materials to power electric vehicles, industry has said.
Rare earth metals, cobalt and nickel, are key components in lithium-ion batteries and are well-suited for reuse, which has given rise to hopes that much of Europe’s demand for these raw materials can be met through recycling rather than mining.
However, until enough end-of-life batteries enter the system to facilitate widescale reuse, it is necessary to continue mining large quantities of virgin materials to meet projected demand.
Under the proposed EU battery regulation, the use of minimum levels of recycled content for cobalt, lead, lithium, and nickel in battery manufacturing will not become mandatory until 2030.
Nickel is primarily sourced from Latin America at present, while around two-thirds of cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But concerns over poor working conditions there and potential supply disruptions have led the European Union to look for raw materials inside Europe in search of greater “strategic autonomy”.
“More than 90% of rare earth magnets are produced in China today,” reads an extract from a recent report by the EU-backed European Raw Materials Alliance.
“This high production concentration in combination with rising global political tensions and a growing Chinese domestic market demand – particularly driven by a growth in electric mobility – results in a high supply risk for these materials from a European perspective,” the alliance warned.
In addition to opening mines within EU countries, EU leaders have sought to strike deals with neighbouring countries such as Ukraine and Western Balkan nations for raw materials sourcing.
Some lawmakers have gone further and called for European automakers to favour battery chemistries that exclusively require raw materials that can be sourced from Europe.
While shifting exclusively to technology that does not require imports may seem like a solution on paper, doing so would harm efforts to create a more circular economy and may require more virgin material extraction, explained Adam McCarthy, President of the Cobalt Institute.
“The thing that makes [cobalt-free cells] attractive to purchasers is the fact that they’re much cheaper. But that also means that it’s not economical for recycling companies to recycle it, because the value of the metals is lower,” he told EURACTIV.
“So, you have this set of trade-offs where it might be helpful [at meeting a certain policy objective] in some ways, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be better from a new sourcing perspective.”
The Nickel Institute said that while there are world-class nickel producers in Europe, nickel sourced from outside of the EU is currently necessary to meet demand.
“Nickel mined within the EU and from sources outside of the EU complement each other. The growing demand within the EU can only be satisfied by ensuring that mine production from the EU and elsewhere go hand in hand,” a spokesperson told EURACTIV.
Green campaigners, for their part, say the status quo is much worse.
“Europe is essentially 95% supply dependent on imports of crude oil,” said Alex Keynes, a clean vehicles expert with green NGO Transport & Environment. “It’s not like the status quo is a better situation [compared to virgin materials for batteries] and for the climate our dependence on oil is obviously a disaster,” he told EURACTIV.
“The key here is for Europe to move away from oil,” he added.
Mark Mistry, senior manager with the Nickel Institute, said the industry welcomes the due diligence requirements, seeing it as “an opportunity for companies to demonstrate that they fulfil the expectations from regulators, their customers, and civil society”.
However, he warned that the deadlines to implement the responsible sourcing requirements contained in the draft law are overly short given the complexity involved.
“We acknowledge concerns that for the EU battery regulation to be a success, it is important that responsible sourcing be implemented shortly after it enters into force. However, the timeframe needs to remain realistic to develop and implement solid, rigorous responsible sourcing frameworks before auditing takes place,” he wrote in a recent op-ed article.
In response, T&E’s Alex Keynes encouraged lawmakers to stick with the current deadlines, arguing that the due diligence requirement only requires proof that a company has started the process.
“You don’t have to show proof of result, you have to show proof of process and effort,” he said.
“European companies are at the forefront of higher social and environmental sustainability practices. A lot of companies are already implementing social supply chain due diligence policies. Many of these companies are already essentially doing a lot of this stuff,” he added.