Euromines President highlights role of EU mining during Bulgarian presidency to the EU

Euromines President Mark Rachovides participated in the fifth European Mining Business Forum in Sofia, Bulgaria on 18 May. At this event, which Euromines helped organise, high-level decision makers from across Europe discussed the future of the mining industry in the context of the increasing demand for resource independence of the European Union.

During an interview with Bulgarian newspaper 24 Chasa (24 Hours), he spoke about the critical role of mining in European industry, European mining’s role on the global stage as well as Europe as a leader in innovation, technological development and sustainability.

The interview, translated to English from Bulgarian, can be found below.

Mark Rachovides, Euromines President:
I live next to a sand quarry and my water is clean

Mark Rachovides has been reelected president of Euromines three times. The organisation covers 100% of all mining companies in the EU. He has graduated from Oxford University, has been a banker, has worked for 12 years in EBRD and for 25 years has been in the mining industry. 

Without mining, there is no European industry

Today, Sofia is hosting the fifth European Mining Business Forum. It is the highest discussion forum of the future of the mining industry in the context of the increasing demand for resource independence of the European Union. The key organiser of the event is the Bulgarian Mining and Geology Chamber. Other organisers include the Bulgarian Ministry of Energy, the European Association of Mining Industries, Metal Ores & Industrial Minerals (Euromines), Sciences and Techniques Union of Mining, Geology and Metallurgy, the Mining and Geology University, Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIB) and the UN Global Compact Network in Bulgaria.

Mr. Mark Rachovides, please tell us about your background. Who are you?  
I was born on a Tuesday, and as I am half Greek, that is very unlucky. But I don’t think I’ve been unlucky in my career. After studying at Oxford in the UK, I went into banking, and I was lucky enough to spend eleven years with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. I’ve been involved with the mining industry for about 25 years. But I am above all a European. I have two passports.

Two? Why? 
I have a British passport and a Cypriot passport. My mother was from Spain and my father was from Greece. So I have relationships with four countries.  I married a Greek. We have three children who are more Greek than me.

Whose president are you? Can you please tell us about Euromines in numbers?
I am the first person who’s been elected three times as president of Euromines, which either means they like me or they saw I am so heavy they can’t get me out the door. I think they seem to think I am doing a good job. Euromines is the association of the mining industry for all of Europe. We represent a 100% of the extractives companies – about 200 companies.

So does Europe still have any mineral resources? 
The nice thing is that we not only need the old minerals and metals but we need the new ones as well. Europe is not only good at mining. What we are really good at is people. What I mean is that all of the great inventions, all of the great technological advances, all of the engineering techniques – they have all come from Europe. The director of an Australian mining company complained they were not inventing anything because we had already done it.

As we are becoming smarter, the world is getting smarter, aren’t we going to less minerals?
When electricity started to become widely distributed in the early 20th century, a lot of people said that electricity won’t last, there wasn’t enough copper in the world. Technologies change however and we found more copper. We think we know what we can use today. We know what we used yesterday. We hope we know what we are going to use tomorrow.

What would we need tomorrow?
If we look at the industries that excite people today – electric vehicles, renewable energy – all of these require the old minerals and metals to build them. We can’t have solar energy without copper, aluminium, zinc and many others. We are not going to build electric batteries without lithium, cobalt but also copper, steel. We need huge amounts of these materials to provide for the new energy, means of transport.

What will be discussed at the 5th European Mining forum that is part of the Bulgarian EU presidency? 
Europe has a lot of strengths when we work together. European institutions don’t need to force people to change their behaviour or get better. What the conference will show is that the way forward is working together, sharing knowledge and standards.

Legislation is one of the topics to be discussed. Why? 
Our job is to allow for the single market to work well. One of the problems we see elsewhere in Europe is that different ministries don’t talk to each other.

What would you like to change?
For Bulgaria, the main issues have to do with the use of land. All governments have a strategy of how the land is used. It has to also include the natural resources. To give you an example, a mining company is fully permitted and the state grants a concession. And then someone puts a telecommunications tower right in the middle because another ministry approved it. We need a better understanding of the importance of the mining industry.

Can Europe secure its raw materials?
We need to secure minerals for the continent. I hope the conference will shed light on this. What we require are trade agreements such as the one with Canada, for example. They produce things we need and Europe can provide expert knowledge to Canada.

Your attitude is not protectionist then?
Not at all. I support free trade but Europe is not allowed to compete fairly. There are companies from other continents that are supported, funded by the state. In the mining industry, we are very good at health and safety, environmental protection, remuneration. We don’t allow children to even visit mines, let alone work there.

Are you as good in environmental protection?  
We have recycling at every mine site – we recycle water, plastics, and metals.  Our industry is environmentally responsible. Yes, we could be more efficient in extraction and environmental protection, but I see no future without primary production. The world population is growing, economic activity is growing. 60% of all metals and minerals are mined and consumed in Asia. The population of the world is predominantly in Asia. They no longer want bicycles, they want electric vehicles.

Are you concerned with China as a competitor?
China is a vast consumer and producer of raw materials. Economically however, it behaves in a completely different way. It’s securing assets around the world, building plants and are particularly successful as a country. Are we then allowed to compete fairly? I would say, no. We should realise that resources are fundamental and that we need to invest in mining and in efficient ways of production to be competitive.

Is this the expected outcome of the forum?
I think the outcome should be very simple. When we get everything we know and everything we want to know in one place, we can build a future not only for our industry but for all industries. Without the producers of raw materials there could be no European industry. We have the technology, we have the resources, we have the ability and we have the technological expertise to go forward.

What are the things you argue about?
In Europe, we have competing interests. We are dealing with big issues such as decarbonisation. We accept that the coal industry needs to be phased out, we have the climate change agreements.

It is a very sensitive topic in Bulgaria since 40% of our electricity comes from coal.
It’s easy if you’re sitting in an eco-friendly house in a European capital and not so easy in regions of Europe that rely on coal. We have to manage our CO2 emissions; we have to be honest and admit this is a process and not a guillotine. If we removed all the coal power in Europe, would we have the capacity to address the need of energy?

Is it possible to achieve mining industry and environmental balance?
There are a lot of places in Europe where industry works together with the local community. Environment belongs to everyone. There are so many good examples of cooperation. I live next to a sand quarry. My water is clean, they don’t use chemicals, the company is responsible, they clean the streets every day, they have good relationships with the neighbours. And my children like it.

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