ÖkoRess II – Further development of policy options for an ecological raw materials policy
October 2015 - February 2019
Commissioned byGerman Environment Agency (UBA)
Öko-Institut e.V. (lead)
Adelphi Consult GmbH
The German government and German industry are increasingly exploring the question of how the supply of raw materials for Germany can be rendered sustainable in the long term. Scientific studies and media articles periodically report about manifold environmental impacts related to mining activities and the processing of raw materials. Examples include dam collapses with dramatic consequences for the environment, as happened at an iron ore mine in Brazil (Samarco mine in Mariana) in November 2015 or in Kolontár (Hungary) in 2010 where a reservoir containing toxic red mud burst. In addition to the impacts of such accidents, there are long-term environmental pressures through mercury and cyanide emissions in gold mining, radioactive pollution in rare earth mining, and the destruction of high-value ecosystems in the development of new mining sites worldwide.
While the global economy will have to rely on the primary extraction of a whole range of abiotic raw materials for the foreseeable future, taking effective measures to make mining sustainable is hampered by the following circumstances:
▸ Many of the raw materials Germany needs are extracted elsewhere – and often outside the EU as well – with the result that many raw material supplies escape governance by German environmental legislation.
▸ Simply the diversity of the raw materials that Germany needs dictates that measures be focused on and primarily applied to streams that are particularly environmentally relevant. Yet, a comprehensive environmental assessment of the mining of abiotic raw materials, which could support a sound prioritization, does not currently exist.
The ÖkoRess II project seeks to contribute to tackling these challenges. It builds on the results of the precursor projects ÖkoRess, UmSoRess and RohPolRess, complements them and feeds their findings into scientific, political and societal debates on this issue.
The project is given expert support by a Project Advisory Group on Environmental Issues of Raw Materials Policy, which was set up at the end of 2013. The group is composed of representatives of federal ministries, authorities, companies, industry associations, research institutions and civil-society groups. This ensures broad integration of expertise and social interests.
The aim of the project is to enrich the debate ongoing in Germany, Europe and internationally on the subject of sustainable resource management by contributing scientific findings on relevant environmental impacts and socioeconomic contexts, and to formulate concrete policy options.
To that end, the methodology for assessment of the ecological availability of raw materials that was developed in the precursor project ÖkoRess will be applied to 51 abiotic raw materials and tested in this way. The results are hoped to allow a first sound prioritization to be made and to introduce to the criticality debate a focus on raw materials that are particularly critical in environmental terms.
Flyer on the project (pdf 422 KB)