Brussels, 04 October 2010
New guidelines to reconcile mining and biodiversity policy
The European Commission has today published new guidelines to clarify rules for extractive industries in protected natural areas. As demand for precious raw materials grows, access to land available for mineral extraction in the EU is becoming ever more important. Some minerals are found on land within Natura 2000, the EU's network of protected natural areas, and the new guidelines explain the procedures to be followed in such cases. The economic implications are high. The industry in question has a turnover of around €49 billion and provides employment for more than a quarter of a million citizens. Natura 2000 is a crucial tool in the fight against biodiversity loss, and it does not exclude human activities. On the contrary it is a flexible scheme that allows mining and quarrying provided they are sustainable in all respects, and are carried out without compromising the integrity of the network.
In a joint statement, European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship and Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment said: “These new guidelines will give Member States and industry clarity regarding the undertaking of non–energy extractive activities in accordance with Natura 2000 requirements. There is no change of legislation or policy, but merely guidance on existing law. Our central aim is to meet the needs of industry, while avoiding adverse effects on wildlife and nature. The guidelines ensure the proper implementation of the EU ‘Habitats’ and ‘Birds’ Directives."
Strategic planning is key
The guidelines published today relate to Non-Energy Extractive Industry and the potential impacts of extraction activities on nature and biodiversity. They examine how these can best be minimised or avoided altogether, and highlight the importance of strategic planning, the appropriate assessment of new developments, and the need for adequate mitigation measures. The guidelines contain many examples of best practice, and show how some extraction projects are ultimately beneficial to biodiversity, as they can provide highly quality ecological niches.
Mineral resources are spread unevenly across the EU, as they reflect geology rather than political frontiers. As extraction can only take place where deposits are commercially viable, some plans and projects come into conflict with competing land uses and broader societal interests, including Natura 2000 sites.
The Non-Energy Extractive Industry provides many of the essential raw materials used by Europe’s manufacturing and construction industries. In 2007 the sector had a turnover of around €49 billion and provided employment for some 287,000 people. Its economic importance is even greater in view of the added value of larger, downstream sectors whose businesses are dependant upon a steady supply of raw materials.
Natura 2000 is the centrepiece of EU nature and biodiversity policy. It is an EU-wide ecological network of nearly 26.000 sites in the 27 EU countries, established under the 1992 Habitats Directive and covering almost 18% of the EU’s land area. The aim of the network is to assure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded. Whereas the network will certainly include nature reserves, most of the land is likely to continue to be privately-owned and the emphasis will be on ensuring that future management is sustainable, both ecologically and economically.
Habitats Directive and Guidance on Non-Energy Extractive Industry (NEEI) and Natura 2000
Raw materials policy
IP/10/752 Report forecasts shortages of 14 critical mineral raw materials