On 18th June 2020 from 11:00 to 13:00, DIM ESEE project consortium held an online Industry-academia workshop via GoToMeeting platform. Initially, the workshop was supposed to be held in Sofia, Bulgaria in May, but due to Covid-19 related circumstances, we had to organize it online. Recruitment of workshop participants was conducted via project partners’ promotional channels as well as DIM ESEE’s LinkedIn. Industry-academia workhop gathered 25 participants in total, among which 14 representatives of 11 companies: Omya GmbH – Austria, Termit d.d. – Slovenia, Industrial Minerals Association Europe (IMA-Europe) – Belgium, Slovenská banská, spol. s r. o. – Slovakia, Mramor Riolit–B, JSC. – Bulgaria, Dundee Precious Metals – Bulgaria, Fiery Chrysantemum Ltd. – Bulgaria, Oikon Ltd. – Croatia, Colas Mineral d.o.o. – Croatia, Fassa d.o.o. – Croatia, Institute for Technology of Nuclear and other Mineral Raw Materials – ITNMS – Serbia.

Part 1: Programme presentation and discussion with feedback from the participants

The basis for the workshop was questionnaire campaign that was held from May to June, where 53 European companies from raw materials sector gave their feedback on the topics of this year’s school – Drilling and blasting, Mechanization, Mineral characterization and Techniques – and related lectures and keywords for each of the topic. These results and additional suggestions from respondees were presented to workshop participants, after which they entered their own suggestions on each topic via Mentimeter platform, in form of 3 keywords. This way, industrial inputs on DIM ESEE school topics were collected in real time and project consortium obtained valuable feedback on this year’s school programme, that would be used to improve certain lectures.

Part 2. : Discussion on ESEE raw materials sector needs and opportunities

Afterwards, a very interesting discussion took place. Two days prior to the Industry workshop, participants were asked to give their opinions regarding Raw materials sector needs and opportunities in ESEE region, divided into several parts (Education, Knowledge transfer, Innovation, Financial support and Legislation). Based on their responses, main needs/challenges and solutions/opportunities for each category have been identified and grouped in the Powerpoint presentation (attached below). First, UNIZG-RGNF coordinator presented key points of each category and then the discussion commenced. We highlighted some main insights and opinions that came up during the discussion for each category.

1. Education
Main points of discussion: Social licence to operate / Lifelong learning / Internship
Conclusions from the discussion:

  • Students finishing their studies at universities have strong basic knowledge, but they don’t have entrepreneurial view and practical approach to the research. There are several practical examples addressing preparation of students for the labor market: 1) companies develop their own academies with special courses training students who are finishing universities to learn about the needs of the company, 2) companies are helping develop or adapt curricula at the universities that’s better suited to the needs of the market, 3) students in their last year of study get the opportunity to do practical work in a company and this way they connect to the market. Education gained at universities is very valuable, but it’s also very important to link it with market demands.
  • The knowledge of students about economics of mining is poor and they are not well versed in human resources, while this profession often requires working closely with people.
  • In order to gain social licence to operate, we have to actively participate in stakeholders’ live, invest either time or money. For opening at new locations, you should start with local politicians or other authority figures in these places. Sometimes local people don’t understand that it is impossible to employ hundred local people at the site, because the process is highly automatized. Listen to their needs and try to see how you can get involved, because the picture the villagers have of us miners depends on our role and effort to participate in local community life.
  • Social licence to operate in mineral sector is like marriage contract. Before you even start your activities on a certain site, you have to know who you’re dealing with, if you have the match with that place. It’s important to build trust and communication from start. You should be the first to inform local community of your plans (e.g. that you are investigating or assessing potential to develop a mine here).
  • Don’t bring your engineer with you, but someone who speaks the language of the people – someone who can translate the technical message, explain the size of the mine or operation in simple language. If people don’t understand the information, they cannot make their choice and they tend to reject your proposal.
  • People need to understand that maybe the site will not have a large emplyoment potential, but services around the mining – infrastructure, catering, transport – will create additional opportunities for people. Introduce them to all elements necessary to conduct this operation and make them understand there is an added and created value. We need to get out of our comfort zone in order to reach a wider audience and link with people.

2. Knowledge transfer
Main points of discussion: University-business cooperation / Transferring scientific research into business cases
Conclusions from the discussion:

  • It is important to connect students, professors and business representatives in various seminars and conferences. Young brains are sometimes providing some very interesting and fresh ideas and their teachers need to catch up with new trends. This way cooperation is secured between university and business.
  • Focus of university management toward industrial partners needs to be enhanced, strengthening human resources policy in order to connect students with companies.
  • For leading and management positions, it is essential to have knowledge of economy – recovery rates, feasibility etc.

3. Innovations
Main points of dicussion: Role of universities / financial support from companies to universities/research
Conclusions from the discussion:

  • For big companies, universities are valuable partners in basic research and testing on piloting scale, helping implement ideas into real industrial scale (Technology readiness level 4). However, for bigger technological scale, companies prefer to cooperate with other industrial partners with their manufacturing, know-how, ideas for improving products or techniques.
  • Cooperation with universities is valuable for different types of measurements and studies that need to be done, as universities are independent and can be much better equipped than many private companies.
  • Companies could support individual students with internship programmes and cooperation on their thesis. Also, reaching out to elementary and high schools is important to make connection to younger people and raise awareness of raw materials sector.
  • EIT RawMaterials is a valuable channel for supporting research and infrastructure, as it includes companies, research institutes and industry working together on European level. enables knowledge transfer from more advanced to less advanced institutions, creation of new collaboration networks.

4. Legislation
Main points of dicussion: length of permitting procedures / lack of legal protection of mineral resources

  • Process for obtaining permission is very long and uncertain and there is space for changes in current legislation. What is necessary is better allignment and implementation of the existing legislation without introducing new legislation.
  • Regarding protection of mineral resouces, project Minatura 2020 suggested definition of mineral deposits of public importance and defining legal instruments at national level to help safeguard piece of national territory to be allowed for mining.