IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Mineral Resource Governance in the 21st Century and a sustainable European Union


  • Patrice Christmann



Minerals and metals are ingredients necessary for the production of multiple goods and services that are essential to contemporary societies, feeding frequently complex global supply chains. The development of the modern, material-intensive lifestyles has led to a formidable acceleration of their production, particularly since the middle of the 20th century. Despite all the progress that can and needs to be done towards a circular, resource-efficient global economy, several important trends including: demographic growth (United Nations 2019), the rapid development of the global middle class (Kharas 2017), growing urbanisation (United Nations 2018) and the transition towards a low-carbon global economy (Hund et al. 2020) point towards a continued, exponential growth of the global demand and production of minerals and metals (Christmann 2017; Elshkaki et al. 2018; Halada et al. 2008; Hund et al. 2020; Schipper et al. 2018). Despite the efforts made by some producers and some authorities to strengthen the already important contribution of the minerals and metals industry to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the production of minerals and metals has negative impacts both on the global and on local ecosystems. It already contributes to 16% of global CO2 emissions (OECD 2019) and it generates about 50 bn t solid waste per year, 25 times the estimated annual amount of urban waste (Franks et al. 2021). This waste is composed of mostly barren rock fragments, essentially overburden that needed to be stripped to access the ore, and of fine-grained ore processing tailings. The latter, if containing sulphides such as pyrite and residual minerals containing elements such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, selenium or tellurium, can become highly problematic for the well-being of future generations. The production of minerals and metals also can be a source of conflicts and of social disruption. Failure to globally and sustainably manage the production of minerals and metals, in a transparent and multilateral framework providing a stable, foreseeable and level playing field for investors and for trade, could limit the capacity of the industry to reply to future demand and lead to potentially disastrous global conflicts. Depending on the practices of individual producers, on the quality of national and/or regional regulatory frameworks and on the effectiveness of their implementation, a same mineral or metal can be produced under very differing environmental and social conditions. Despite progress on sustainability performance reporting and of transparency of some parts of the industry, end-users of minerals and metals do not know how the minerals and metals they use have been produced and they hardly can choose among various supply sources, although from a sustainability perspective there are great differences among the practices of individual producers. The development of an international governance framework to support the development of transparency and verifiable corporate accountability, to foster research and innovation to reduce the negative impacts of the industry and to provide incentives rewarding pro-sustainability action, is called for. Support to document and disseminate best practice and best available technologies as well as to strengthen the global institutional capacities to manage this very complex and vital industry is needed. This could be an important role for a future International Minerals and Metals Agency. So far, only the exploration and mining of deep-sea mineral deposits located in international zones of the oceans are internationally regulated under the UN Convention On the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS), with a specific International Agency in charge of its implementation and of the provision of scientific and technical guidance: the International Seabed Authority (Kingston, Jamaica), created in 1994. The European Union could and should play an important role in these developments as it is an important global end-user of minerals and metals mostly produced outside its borders. The EU’s environmental footprint outside its borders is very high and growing. According to EUROSTAT trade data, EU imports of goods from beyond its borders doubled in value from 2002 to 2018, with China’s share having grown by over 460% over this period, representing 19% of the total imports of goods. China is the world largest greenhouse gas emitter. EU’s very strong point is its long history of successful research and innovation, dating back to the Renaissance (15th Century BCE). Its very large and highly qualified human resources in science and innovation much benefits from progressive European-scale structuration and integration of mineral- and metal-related research and innovation thanks to the European Union raw material–related policies developed since 2008 (European Commission 2008) under the EU Raw Materials Initiative (see p. 20 ff.). The EIT Raw Materials, launched in 2015, is the world largest organised and funded mineral- and metal-related innovation network, linking over 120 partners from academia, industry and research organisations (EIT Raw Materials, 2021). But, despite these positive developments, it so far lacks the legal basis to develop its own mineral resource policy and its own homogeneous regulatory framework. It nevertheless can act in different areas that are linked to the development of a global, minerals and metals industry based on sustainable development principles through its capacity to act as European Union in domains such as development cooperation, energy, environment, higher education, research and innovation, as well as trade. It will require long-term vision and political leadership to develop and implement a sustainable EU raw materials policy that would also act as a catalyst for the development of much needed global minerals and metals governance. The publication by the European Commission, in September 2020, of its Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, part of the European Raw Materials Initiative launched in 2008, could be an important step to address the issues outlined in this paper.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrice Christmann, 2021. "Mineral Resource Governance in the 21st Century and a sustainable European Union," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 34(2), pages 187-208, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:minecn:v:34:y:2021:i:2:d:10.1007_s13563-021-00265-4
    DOI: 10.1007/s13563-021-00265-4

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Abstract
    Download Restriction: Access to the full text of the articles in this series is restricted.

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. María T. Álvarez-Martínez & Salvador Barrios & Diego d'Andria & Maria Gesualdo & Gaetan Nicodeme & Jonathan Pycroft, 2022. "How large is the corporate tax base erosion and profit shifting? A general equilibrium approach," Economic Systems Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(2), pages 167-198, April.
    2. United Nations, 2016. "The Sustainable Development Goals 2016," Working Papers id:11456, eSocialSciences.
    3. Tercero Espinoza, Luis Alberto & Soulier, Marcel & Haag, Stefan, 2016. "Visualizing global trade flows of copper: An examination of copper contained in international trade flows in 2014," Working Papers "Sustainability and Innovation" S03/2016, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
    4. Magnus Ericsson & Olof Löf, 2019. "Mining’s contribution to national economies between 1996 and 2016," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 32(2), pages 223-250, July.
    5. Stephen Zorn, 2018. "Despite our best intentions: Papua New Guinea’s Ok Tedi mine and the limits of expert advice," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 31(1), pages 13-21, May.
    6. Luis A. Tercero Espinoza & Marcel Soulier, 2016. "An examination of copper contained in international trade flows," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 29(2), pages 47-56, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Yang, Xiao & Anser, Muhammad Khalid & Yusop, Zulkornain & Abbas, Shujaat & Khan, Muhammad Azhar & Zaman, Khalid, 2022. "Volatility in mineral resource pricing causes ecological footprints: A cloud on the horizon," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 77(C).
    2. Patrice Christmann & Gaëtan Lefebvre, 2022. "Trends in global mineral and metal criticality: the need for technological foresight," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 35(3), pages 641-652, December.
    3. Johnson, Eva Liedholm & Ericsson, Magnus & Löf, Anton, 2023. "The mining permitting process in selected developed economies," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 131(C).
    4. Gedam, Vidyadhar V. & Raut, Rakesh D. & Lopes de Sousa Jabbour, Ana Beatriz & Agrawal, Nishant, 2021. "Moving the circular economy forward in the mining industry: Challenges to closed-loop in an emerging economy," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).
    5. Hámor-Vidó, Mária & Hámor, Tamás & Czirok, Lili, 2021. "Underground space, the legal governance of a critical resource in circular economy," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 73(C).
    6. Friedrich-W. Wellmer, 2022. "What we have learned from the past and how we should look forward," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 35(3), pages 765-795, December.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Ecker, Olivier & Hatzenbuehler, Patrick L. & Mahrt, Kristi, 2018. "Transforming agriculture for improving food and nutrition security among Nigerian farm households," NSSP working papers 56, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Claudia Hanson & Sanni Kujala & Peter Waiswa & Tanya Marchant & Joanna Schellenberg, 2017. "Community-based approaches for neonatal survival: Meta-analyses of randomized trial data," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2017-137, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    3. Eugenia Ganea & Valentina Bodrug-Lungu, 2018. "Addressing Inequality in Vocational/ Technical Education by Eliminating Gender Bias," Revista romaneasca pentru educatie multidimensionala - Journal for Multidimensional Education, Editura Lumen, Department of Economics, vol. 10(4), pages 136-155, December.
    4. Gallopín, Gilberto, 2018. "Back to the future," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 318-324.
    5. Pandey, Shanta, 2017. "Persistent nature of child marriage among women even when it is illegal: The case of Nepal," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 242-247.
    6. OGUNNOWO, Fatai Abiodun & Prof. F. A. OKWO & JULIUS, Deborah Nwanne, 2023. "Availability and Utilization of Security Facilities in Federal Tertiary Institutions of Enugu State, Nigeria," International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science, International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS), vol. 7(5), pages 931-941, May.
    7. Paul L. G. Vlek & Asia Khamzina & Hossein Azadi & Anik Bhaduri & Luna Bharati & Ademola Braimoh & Christopher Martius & Terry Sunderland & Fatemeh Taheri, 2017. "Trade-Offs in Multi-Purpose Land Use under Land Degradation," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 9(12), pages 1-19, November.
    8. Victor Kasulo & Rochelle Holm & Mavuto Tembo & Wales Singini & Joshua Mchenga, 2020. "Enhancing sustainable sanitation through capacity building and rural sanitation marketing in Malawi," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 201-215, January.
    9. Fernanda Guedes & Alexandre Szklo & Pedro Rochedo & Frédéric Lantz & Leticia Magalar & Eveline Maria Vásquez Arroyo, 2018. "Climate-Energy-Water Nexus in Brazilian Oil Refineries," Working Papers hal-03188594, HAL.
    10. Alex. B. McBratney & Damien Field & Cristine L.S. Morgan & Jingyi Huang, 2019. "On Soil Capability, Capacity, and Condition," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(12), pages 1-11, June.
    11. Tiantian Zhai, 2021. "Environmental Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Implications to Materialize China’s Green Belt and Road Initiative," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(18), pages 1-14, September.
    12. European Commission, 2018. "Tax Policies in the European Union: 2018 Survey," Taxation Survey 2018, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
    13. Wirapong Chansanam & Chunqiu Li, 2022. "Scientometrics of Poverty Research for Sustainability Development: Trend Analysis of the 1964–2022 Data through Scopus," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(9), pages 1-19, April.
    14. -, 2021. "The 2020 census round: challenges of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development," Población y Desarrollo 46727, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    15. Jónsson, Jón Örvar G. & Davíðsdóttir, Brynhildur & Nikolaidis, Nikolaos P. & Giannakis, Georgios V., 2019. "Tools for Sustainable Soil Management: Soil Ecosystem Services, EROI and Economic Analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 109-119.
    16. Zauresh Atakhanova & Peter Howie, 2020. "Metal intensity of use in the era of global value chains," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 33(1), pages 101-113, July.
    17. Adekoya, Oluwasegun B. & Oliyide, Johnson A. & Tahir, Hammad, 2021. "What do we know about the inflation-hedging property of precious metals in Africa? The case of leading producers of the commodities," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).
    18. Shannon L. Sibbald & Nicole Haggerty, 2019. "Integrating Business and Medical Pedagogy to Accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals," Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, , vol. 13(1), pages 92-101, March.
    19. Rahi Jain & Prashant Narnaware, 2020. "Application of Systems Thinking to Dent Child Malnutrition: A Palghar District, India Case Study," Millennial Asia, , vol. 11(1), pages 79-98, April.
    20. Asiamah, Ebenezer & Oduro-Yeboah, Charlotte & Mboom, Frank Peget & Atter, Amy & Idun-Acquah, Nancy Nelly & Nkansah, Jessica, 2022. "Assessment of the volume of seafood waste generation, utilization and management system from selected seafood processing companies in Ghana: A case study," African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND), African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND), vol. 22(07).


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:minecn:v:34:y:2021:i:2:d:10.1007_s13563-021-00265-4. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Sonal Shukla or Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.