On a global basis, the annual extraction of materials tripled from 1970 to 2017 and it continues to grow. According to the European Raw Materials 2050 roadmap, securing reliable and sustainable access to Raw Materials (RM) and developing domestic value chains are crucial to boosting growth, jobs and competitiveness in Europe. Today the European Union (EU) is dependent on imports of many RM crucial for a strong industrial base.
The aggregates extractive industry provides materials for building and infrastructure industries and it is, by far, the biggest non-energy extractive industry in the EU, representing 75-80% of the EU mining and quarrying sector in terms of number of mines/quarries (26,000 sites) and companies (15,000 companies, 98.5% SMEs), and amount of materials supplied (>3 billion Tns/year). It also concentrates over 40% of the direct jobs (>220,000 jobs) and incomes (>20 billion €/year) of the global EU mining and quarrying sector (see detailed data in FIGURE).
These data show that the aggregates industry is vital for the EU economy. However, in order to keep this position in the long-term and to reduce the dependency on imports (main objectives of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on RM), the challenges are multidisciplinary: The materials and their production processes need to be safe and secure, but also efficient and profitable, while having low environmental and social impacts, especially for quarries in urban areas. Thus, four groups of challenges have been identified.