Greek Minerals Industry and Sustainability

[By Tzeferis Petros]

Greece is one of the EU countries that possess substantial mineral wealth, consisting of a variety of minerals and ores with a large industrial and economic interest.

The Greek Mining/Metallurgical Industry (GMMI) constitutes an important sector of the economic activity of our country as it supplies essential raw materials for primary industries and various downstream users. GMMI still contributes 3-5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with the inclusion of interrelated enterprises such as quarrying, cement, concrete, processing and production of intermediate and final products.

Moreover, approximately 20 thousand people are employed in the sector (in mines, quarries, and the two basic extractive metallurgies of the country) and more than 80 thousand are employed in jobs dependent upon or associated with it.

The recent economic crisis has impacted the GMMI. In years 2012-2013 the sector continued the same downward trend that emerged in previous years, following the significant decline in demand and prices of raw materials in the steel, construction, cement, and concrete industries. The recession boosted by volatility in the international markets for raw materials, reduction in international metal prices and increasing energy prices across the EU.

However, in contrast to the shrinking domestic market, the tendency was to strengthen the export sector with regards to products placed on the international market (industrial minerals, aluminum, nickel, mixed sulphide Pb-Zn ores, magnesium compounds etc.), where the demand and prices soon rallied largely to pre-crisis levels.

For 2011-2012, prospects for recovery appeared in the industry internationally because of the escalating rise in demand for raw materials. In 2013, the same trend continued with the export sector producing satisfactory results, while the downturn in the domestic sector deepened widely.

Sustainable Development (SD)

However, in the years of economic recession, the challenges for sustainable management, safety and environmental protection not only remain but also constitute the most pressing needs of this era – deeply influencing the development of the mining industry, its traditional character for many centuries and finally its very existence.

Greece’s mining and mineral industry is engaged in the debate of Sustainable Development (SD) and should respond to the challenges for enhancing sustainability.

In the period 2007-2013, efforts have been made to promote responsible stewardship of natural resources and the environment including remediation of past damage, minimize waste and environmental impacts and protect critical natural capital. Also, the mining companies have been encouraged to use eco-efficient and sustainable products, improve recycling and avoid the use of dangerous chemicals.

In the social era, the H&S of workers is a major challenge to Greek mining companies.Leading companies have implemented or are currently implementing standards for employee safety, including occupational safety training, protective gear, and health care. All companies showed a strong commitment to workplace safety including contractorsand indirectly employed personnel. Despite this improvement in H&S performance during the past decade, results show that the fatality rate remains relatively high, not higher though than the EU average.

Results from the list of key performance sustainability indicators (kept annually by the Greek Mining Enterprises Association (GMEA)) demonstrate the significant strides the raw materials industry has made in regards to sustainability. It is also clear that there is still a need for improvement in environmental performance and good practice has far to go before it spreads to all parts of the mining industry, especially for the small-scale mining.

Πλήρες άρθρο

Παραγωγές και Δείκτες Βιωσιμότητας (SDI's) της Ελληνικής Εξορυκτικής Βιομηχανίας


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