The international AGEMERA project, led by the University of Oulu (Finland), will conduct local state-of-art geological and geophysical surveys over a total of 4,700 km2 to map Critical Raw Materials (CRM) resources in six EU countries and one-third country (Zambia). Geosciences Barcelona (GEO3BCN-CSIC) takes part in this Horizon Europe Initiative, which has received funding of 7.5 million euros.
Twenty academic institutions and companies from 11 countries are involved in AGEMERA. Together, they will work for three years to increase awareness of the essentiality of critical raw materials as an enabler of the green and digital transition. The project also aims to identify the potential of critical raw materials in Europe and to promote the introduction of the UNFC (United Nations Framework Classification) and UNRMS (United Nations Resource Management Systems) framework programs for the mineral sector in relation to the production, procurement and management of minerals.
Currently, European production of many critical raw materials is less than 3 per cent of the EU's own needs, which makes the EU highly dependent on imports from China, Russia and third-world countries. Recycling and circular economy can contribute to supply to some extent, but not enough to meet future needs.
"To unlock the European potential of these materials, following the objective of the green and digital transition, requires the use of innovative methods and technologies in mineral exploration. Within this objective, public awareness and acceptance of sustainable mining are also of utmost importance," says Martin Schimmel, researcher at GEO3BCN-CSIC and collaborator in this project.
Within the framework of AGEMERA initiative, Geosciences Barcelona will work in collaboration with LITHICA Company. To do so, they will use three novel non-invasive survey methods based on remote sensing and related data analysis: passive seismic methods, multi-sensing drone system combining magnetic, radiometric and electromagnetic sensing, and muon-based multidetector density detection system.
The project will use data from open-access databases, the data collected from the field by project geoscientists, and various geophysical survey methods to refine and improve the genetic mineral system models of the various deposit types known to contain lithium, cobalt, molybdenum, vanadium, PGMs, niobium, tantalum, bauxite and rare earth elements.
In addition, AGEMERA will introduce the existing guidance for applying UNFC for mineral resources to the partner countries through stakeholders, courses and public events. The project will survey citizens in the project countries, create a CRM educational package targeting schools and universities, publish an online CRM serious game, and organise public events and online news flashes, aiming to reach 5 millions citizens by 2030.
Finally, this European project will create an open-access SoftGIS analysis and database on people's social, cultural, environmental and economic concerns related to mining and mineral exploration. These data enable the creation of potential socio-economic maps to be used in parallel with the potential geological maps, consequently ensuring a basis for socially accepted and sustainable mining.
Kick-off event in Oulu
Martin Schimmel attended the AGEMERA kick-off meeting, which was held in October at the University of Oulu. More than 50 consortium members participated in this event to discuss the sufficiency of critical raw materials.
The GEO3BCN-CSIC researcher exchanged ideas with mining companies about their current needs, problems and upcoming challenges. "We were able to specify the collaborations and the mines where we acquire data and where we will carry out the analysis in collaboration with LITHICA," explains Schimmel.