Minerals Research Initiative
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Minerals Research Initiative
Gerry Stanley
Head of Minerals Programme, GSI

The European Commission (EC or Commission) funds basic research through its Framework Programme – currently we are in the seventh round of this programme and it is popularly known as FP7. European industry relies for a large part on imported raw materials and in recent years there has been a large demand (and consequently high prices) for a wide range of commodities, especially minerals. The demand has come largely from developing countries, especially China. The EC has sought to address possible supply issues by publishing a document known as the Raw Materials Initiative. In this document the Commission seeks to address the possible shortages of raw materials through three actions:

  1. Locating indigenous resources.
  2. Increased efficiencies in the use of raw materials (using less), substitution (using other materials in place of others) and recycling; and
  3. Building alliances with third countries with known or significant mineral potential.

In order to support the Raw Material Initiative, the current round of FP7 funding is inviting proposals which will provide "Breakthrough Solutions for Mineral Extraction and Processing in Extreme Environments". The Commission defines ‘extreme environments’ as deep, Arctic or marine. Ireland has a rich mining history and is one of Europe’s leading producers of a number of metals, for example zinc, lead and silver. Like the rest of Europe it is considered that most, if not all, of the easy to find mineral deposits (near the surface) have been found and that the potential for additional deposits now lies at depth. Ireland is therefore well placed to submit a proposal for this research.

In an initiative by the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) a joint meeting of industry, academia, consultants and the GSI as well as the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland was held at GSI offices in Beggars Bush on 28 June 2012. Over 30 persons attended the meeting. The meeting discussed the upcoming call from the EC for proposals as well as considering a number of ideas for mineral exploration technologies that might be included. At the end of the meeting it was agreed that it would be desirable to submit a research proposal under the Call. In order to expedite the process of identifying technologies for research and development a small committee was set up. The membership of the committee comprises:

  • Dr. John Ashton (Boliden Tara Mines);
  • Prof. Alan Jones (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies);
  • Prof. Balz Kamber (Trinity College Dublin);
  • Dr. Patrick Redmond (Teck);
  • Gerry Stanley (Geological Survey of Ireland); and
  • Prof. John Walsh (University College Dublin).

Gerry Stanley will continue to coordinate the work of the committee.

Proposals have to be submitted in October of this year and the committee will liaise with interested parties. If you have any suggestions on what exploration technologies or strategies might be included in the research proposal you are welcome to forward them to Gerry at gerry.stanley@gsi.ie