Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The mining industry scours the region for the most sought-after minerals and metals

The mining industry scours the region for the most sought-after fossils and metals

The survey of raw mineral materials is most demanded by the industry and the technical industry, in the process of transformation to guarantee independence from fossil fuels, in the Region of Murcia tried to meet the needs of the current market. The Ministry of Business, Social Economy and Self-Employment issued last week an exploration permit to the Spanish company, which is sought between the Guadalentin region and part of the Campo de Cartagena and part of the metals and minerals, much sought after by the renewing parties. industry, automobile or military.

The object of this exploration, “Diana” is the search for fossils such as lithium, boron, fluorine, as well as metals of lead, zinc, copper, cobalt, nickel, iron and silver, among the municipalities of Mazarron. Totana, Fuente Alamo and Lorca. An area that includes a total of 39,500 hectares and its mineral deposit is classified as an area, according to institutions such as the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain or the Cehegín Marble Technology Center. A year ago, the Ministry also granted permission to a Spanish firm to search for fluorine, boron and lithium, in addition to various metals, in an area roughly similar to what it is now, including Puerto Lumbreras, Lorca, Águilas and Mazarrón.

Energy innovations and electric vehicles are bringing a “dramatic” increase in mineral consumption

The work that the company will complete for one year, although it may be extended to another twelve months, will consist of cartographic studies, geological maps, preliminary indications of the presence of these minerals and optical inspection on the ground, where. small models (not exceeding 200 P.) can be found that do not require the use of machinery. The ministry emphasizes that the exploration of the area “does not mean any change” or cause damage to areas of environmental protection or heritage. If the search is successful and if the mining company is interested in suppressing those resources, it must request a research permit to analyze the area in more depth and, in this case, request a concession for mining exploitation. A long process that can last between eight and ten years.

Are they lacking in resources?

The task of putting an end to greenhouse gas emissions by putting an end to fossil resources has led the European Union and Spain to test plans and strategies in recent years, such as the supply of raw materials that support the energy and technological transition before the 2000s, deadlines for the completion of industrial and domestic decarbonization. It is not an easy process, because the lack of resources in the continents forces them to depend on supplies from third countries, and the pandemic and the war in Ukraine lead to a global mission where Europe has a lot to lose.

“We are promoting renewable energy and electric vehicles to reduce air pollution. This is a dramatic increase in the consumption of minerals, a very large one, and Europe is concerned that raw materials are lacking in these sectors,” says Emilio Trigueros, professor of Mining Exploitation area of ​​the Polytechnic University of Cartagena. The region of Murcia contributes 2.4% to the value of metal production in Spain (they exist in minerals, salt and marble) compared to 40% in the Baetica, according to the most recent data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

The process between the search for resources and their exploitation can last between eight and ten years.

Nevertheless, Trigueros explains that the parts of the Sacred Murcia do not stand out, since they are present with metals of lead, zinc or iron which “do not contribute much to the energy of the transition”. There are other resources “that are more interesting such as copper, lithium, graphite, nickel or cobalt because of the high demand” for car batteries, fuel cells, microchips, robots, drones, 3D printers, solar panels or wind turbines. “In the beginning, such mining facilities were not present in the Community, which does not mean that they do not appear. It is possible that this area of ​​authentic exploration could deposit an unusual host.

Industrial rock reigns supreme in the Metals Community

The region of Murcia is home to 240 active quarries, where industrial extraction has a strong presence in the mining industry. Gypsum, marble, or aggregates for building houses or infrastructure stand out among the geological resources provided by the land of the Community. Salt was also much sought after among the miners. “We have a past with a negative sign in our act”, explains Emilio Trigueros, professor of the Polytechnic in Cartagena, “we must bear it”.

The metals of the sierra of Cartagena or the Portmán falls are today the falls that have sunk into the processes of environmental restoration after years of abuse. “The current mining sector is very rough and we are waiting for it to show that mining has changed,” argues the expert. He knows that it will generate controversy to talk about possible new mining operations, or even about those that are active, such as some in the circle, Fortuna and Abanilla, whose activity has been subject to criticism and complaints from neighbors or environmental organizations.

In Santomera there were also long judicial processes for these reasons. “Now there are demands at all levels, means are being sought to compensate for the temporary inconvenience that the mining could cause.” If someone starts, “this cannot be done without the participation of the local population, because the project must have a positive impact” on the economic fabric of the territory. “Mining companies are responsible for supplying citizens with what they need in the form of raw materials, we are not predators of nature,” he defended. Trigueros is a firm defender of the fact that the mining reuse waste from areas like Escombreras can be recycled into a circular economy.

“We seek to achieve greater recycling of mineral resources”

The recycling of raw mineral materials is a great challenge that countries like Spain must face due to the low percentage of reuse of these resources. “Recycling will only be able to contribute between 10 and 20% of the energy needs in 2050,” says Emilio Trigueros, from the UPCT Department of Mining and Engineering.

In this context, the Long-Term Decarbonization Strategy 2050 of the Spanish Government establishes reuse and recycling as the first option for feed production processes. “And, once that route is exhausted, and whenever it is technically and economically viable, the use of domestic resources” without harming the environment or sending polluting emissions to other regions of the planet.

An exorbitant increase in the consumption of raw materials will make them more expensive

“The mineral resources are very few in the hand. China controls a large part of the estates, not only in its territory, but in the continents of Africa, where it is located. All the regions of the planet will have the necessary materials for these materials”, said the professor at the Cartagena Polytechnic: “we must achieve greater recycling of mineral materials in order to reduce the dependence on third countries”.

The ministry for economic transition shows in its decarbonization plan that “it is necessary to strengthen the role of the extractive industry and transformation in the circular economy” in Spain. Over the next few decades, “industrial planning will be affected by new demand profiles for raw materials that will change significantly”. Neither the lack of availability nor the volatility of these resources should be a problem at the beginning of the next decade.

Emilio Trigueros Tornero, professor at UPCT.

“And the increased demand until 2024 meant that lithium would be used 42 times, for example, to produce batteries for electric cars. The global consumption of graphite would be 25 times more than the current one, 21 times in cobalt, 19 in nickel or seven times in rare earths”, the expert of the individual events. “If we compare the resources needed to build an electric car versus one with a combustion engine, the use of air will be multiplied by 2.5; lithium appears as a new element of which 10 kilos per vehicle would be needed; nickel with 35 kilos, and similarly with cobalt or graphite.

The value of these materials “is increasing because there is a shortage”. “Exorbitant” increases in the consumption of raw materials “will make them more expensive.” This is why reuse is so important, Trigueros defends.

The stones under the private estates are of public interest

Exploration permits such as those authorized by the Community may also be exercised on private land. And it happened that the ownership of the mineral resources that can be found in the subsoil belong to the ownership of the nation and whose management depends on the state.

When a mining company demonstrates that it has located a large deposit of the raw materials it is interested in, it must apply for an exploitation permit. To do this, it must be shown that the results of the arts have had an impact on the ground. The mining industry uses small planes or helicopters to cover an authentic study area, equipped with detectors of the intensity of the Earth’s magnetic field.

The presence of ferromagnetic minerals casts anomalies in these measurements. Once on the ground, other geophysical techniques are used, such as electrical methods. During the research phase, the developers go so far as to fortify the access road and make various places on the ground to know more precisely what is under the area that suits them. Then the company should be in charge, leaving everything as it was.

Nation World News Desk
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