The adoption of a new, improved and modern Law on Mining and Geological Research, as well as an entire set of new by-laws, coupled with the introduction of e-mining, will increase the security of investments in the mining sector, but also domestic planning and the preservation of our mineral wealth.
The new Law on Mining and Geological Research provides transparent and stable conditions for investments in mining and geological research, both in the exploitation and processing of mineral resources, and in the area of concessions.
“We will define the long-term goals for the development of mining and the geological research of mineral resources, as well as the projection of needs for all types of raw minerals, taking into account technical and technological development, not only through its application in mines and the processing of those raw materials, but also the possible substitution of the same in Serbian industry. This will create better conditions for the more efficient and rational geological research of mineral raw materials,” considers Dragoman Rabrenović Ph.D., director of the Geological Survey of Serbia.
The EU’s new raw materials strategy envisages Europe returning to its own sources of mineral raw materials. What does that mean for Serbia and its base of raw materials?
Europe cares about knowing what mineral resources it possesses on its territory. It determines this in a number of ways, one of which is generally through the EuroGeo Survey (European Association of Geological Surveys), which conducts and maintains a unique database of minerals. It is in the EU’s interests for European mineral resources to be produced and marketed on its own territory, and Serbia is among the leading countries when it comes to some mineral raw materials that are today important or strategic. The EU’s new raw materials strategy, which envisages Europe returning to its own sources of mineral resources, in order to ensure the security of supply, returns Serbia to the position it enjoyed in the past, as a highly rated base of raw materials. In addition to traditional ores of copper, gold and lead, Europe is particularly interested in our deposits of minerals, both lithium and boron, but also other rare elements that can be applied in new technologies. Due to the balance reserves of certain minerals in Serbia, especially boron, major foreign companies – from Canada, the U.S. and Australia – are interested and have invested substantial funds in researching and proving the raw mineral potential.
It was in 2014 that EU member states promoted the TAIEX directive, intended for the mining sector. This is an instrument for technical assistance and information exchange that provides support to partner countries in terms of adapting to and implementing European Union legislation. Through this instrument, the state can adopt good policies in the field of concessions, while the state has a function of planning in the national interest (who offers the best mineral extraction technologies, innovative solutions, promotes sustainable or “green mining”), through the selection of the best environmental vulnerability studies. Environmental impact studies should be available to a wide range of government institutions, public health institutions, regional and local stakeholders, while all stakeholders can freely make non-binding decisions on whether a concession is acceptable.
If the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Ministry responsible for geology and mining want the Geological Survey to be present through the Law – not only in geology and mining, but also in many state projects – it is necessary to strengthen the Geological Survey through the renewal of personnel and technical capacities
How prepared are we for these steps in a technological sense?
Post-war studies revealed more than 95% of various deposits, while many mines have been opened. New local investments in the expansion of research were needed, then came the arrival of foreign research companies in our country, which to a great extent led to many research projects and activities being launched, which simultaneously also represented a good opportunity to employ domestic knowhow – our geologists and miners. And thus many Serbian geologists and miners secured jobs at these companies, either as managers or research team associates. With their already proven local knowhow – gained both through the acquisition of new knowledge and their introduction to new, contemporary exploration methods and technologies – our geologists provided a great contribution to this research with their professional engagements. On the other hand, with this our country gained, among other things, new, renewed and strengthened research potential, which is also important for the future of Serbian geology.
In 2015, the Geological Surveys of Europe organisation granted full membership status to the Geological Survey of Serbia. What does that mean for you?
EuroGeoSurveys (EGS) currently brings together 38 geological survey institutes from Europe. As of March 2015, the Geological Survey of Serbia has been a full member of the EGS organisation, among its 33 full members (with voting rights). EGS brings together the geological survey institutes of Europe with the aim of performing jointly in accessing the financial funds of the European Union, adopting common strategy priorities in geological fields, as well as in cooperation with geological institutes in the form of expert and administrative councils, the possibility of cooperation between experts, as well as for the needs of harmonising practises and regulations with the current relevant regulations and priorities of the EU. Another advantage of this project is the harmonisation of methods in geological practises, which leads to regional comparability and the continuity of geological data.
An example of the work of the Geological Survey of Serbia within the EGS association is its participation in the GeoERA ERA-NET programme financed with funds from Horizon 2020. Participation in this programme includes 48 national and regional organisations/institutions for geological research from 33 European countries, which have joined forces to develop the ERA-NET action to co-finance projects intended to establish a European Geological Surveys Research Area (GeoERA) to deliver a geological service for Europe.
The GeoERA encompasses four thematic areas: geo-energy, groundwater, mineral resources and an information platform, while the Geological Survey of Serbia participates successfully in five GeoERA international projects, in the fields of geo-energy, hydrogeology and mineral resources.
The fact that the Geological Surveys of Europe organisation granted full and equal membership status to the Geological Survey of Serbia in 2015, despite Serbia not yet being an EU member state, shows the exceptional importance that is given to our raw mineral potentials
What could the announced changes to the Law on Mining and Geological Research mean for the Geological Survey of Serbia?
Given that the Law on Mining and Geological Research (Official Gazette 88/2011) established the Geological Survey as the national geological body, it was assigned the competence to deal with basic geological research. Amendments to the same Law, from 2015, did not expand any new competencies that the Office was advocating for at that time, such as to be included in the domain of issuing investigative exploitation rights and monitoring the situation in that area. The Geological Survey of Serbia didn’t have access to geological data of interest to its activities in the manner that’s defined in all geological surveys and institutes of the EU.
Taking into account its knowhow, vast experience and access to a huge fund of geological documentation, the Geological Survey has a stance to be better positioned as a profession in amendments to the new Law, exclusively for the needs of the Republic of Serbia in the fields of mining and geological research. Our proposal was supported on the part of the Ministry of Mining and Energy by the statement of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mining and Energy Zorana Mihajlović Ph.D., who stressed that “there can be no development of mining if the Geological Survey of Serbia does not get its proper place, if it is not made a much more recognisable and unavoidable address for all geological research.”
Some of the jurisdictions provided in the draft Law relate to the submitting of opinions on feasibility studies and general projects for capital facilities that are of interest to the Republic of Serbia.
The Geological Institute should, in part, be recognisable in the domain of issuing permits for the geological research and exploitation of mineral resources through the e-mining electronic service, with which the procedure would be accelerated and deadlines shorten to the optimal level.
The Institute should have a stake in monitoring research, from issuing acts with information for the drafting of projects and the performing of planned geological works, through oversight in geological research, to the revision and defence of studies, in accordance with European practises, and of course with the expert control of the Minister of Mining and Energy.
The draft law should define the assigning and availability of geological data, through the fund of geological documentation of the Minister of Mining and Energy, with the aim of producing various geological maps and improving the management of the geological information system.
The Serbian Geological Institute was once a powerful institution that operated in more than 40 countries of Europe and Africa. What is required today for the Geological Survey of Serbia to be recognisable for its capacities?
The history of the geological profession and science in Serbia have traversed a very complex and dramatic period, but it has managed to resist all the challenges of social happenings from the very beginning. As an organised profession, its beginning lie in the formation of the “geological service” under the scope of the mining department of Majdanpek Mine (1848), under the management of the Ministry of Finance of the then Principality of Serbia. With the strong support of the Serbian Geological Society and a “decree”, the Geological Institute of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was established in 1930 as an “independent state institution” tasked with “studying the soil and deeper parts of the earth, mineral wealth and groundwater, according to an established plan and modern scientific methods”.
The scientific “Journal of the Geological Institute of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia” was also founded. It was the predecessor of Geozavod, which was founded after World War II and reached the highest level of its development from 1951 to 1973, when more than 1,100 highly educated engineers and technicians were employed. It was also in 1948 that the Geoinstitute was established, for the needs of researching and developing nuclear and other mineral raw materials, which had a staff numbering over 400 engineers and technicians.
The Geoinstitute reached a high level in the field of applying new methods in the research of nuclear raw materials, which ranked comparably to many institutes around the world. Alongside nuclear geology, research was carried out on mineral deposits and the geological map of Yugoslavia, while other work was also done abroad. The decision to integrate and merge these two geological houses into one was brought in 2005, with the Law on Mining and Geological Research forming the basis for the Geological Survey of Serbia to be established in 2011 as a special organisation of the state administration, tasked with the jurisdiction to perform basic geological research throughout the entire territory of the Republic of Serbia.
Serbia is among the leading countries when it comes to some mineral raw materials that are today important or strategic
Serbia’s mining sector and mining industry are carried by large systems like Kolubara, Kostolac and Bor, but also the large research projects of foreign companies
The Geological Survey of Serbia can be the best partner when it comes to making positive decisions in areas that fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Mining and Energy