The origins of EDM date back to 1966 with the creation of SMS – Sociedade Mineira de Santiago (CUF Group), which discovered the Gavião deposit and, later, in 1977, participated in the discovery of the world-class Neves-Corvo copper and tin deposits. In 1979, SMS was transformed into EMMA – Empresa Mineira e Metalúrgica do Alentejo, EP which, in 1982, by amendment of its charter, became EDMA – Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro do Alentejo, EP, operating predominantly in the subsector of polymetallic sulphides. Later, with the publication of Decree Law no 148/86, of 18 June, EDM, EP was established as a result of the merger of the public companies EDMA – Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro do Alentejo, EP and Ferrominas, EP, under the framework of Decree Law no 260/76, of 8 April.

Following the publication of Decree-Law no 313/89 of 21 September, the then EDM – Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro, EP was transformed into a legal person governed by private law, in the form of a public limited company with publicly-owned majority shareholdings, becoming known as EDM – Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro, SA.

Since its origin, EDM has assumed structuring functions in the domestic mining industry, performing tasks of sector operator of the Portuguese State and assuming the role of “holding” company for that sector.

Over recent decades, and especially in the 1990s, rapid technological change decreased the relative importance of industries based on raw materials, especially in the most advanced countries. As one of the continents with the strictest environmental standards, higher wages and without the mining potential of other regions, its mining industry has been drastically reduced.

However, the recent economic development of various emerging countries such as China and India, which have enormous and increasing needs for industrial products and very high growth potential, has led to metals resuming an important place in the world economy in support of vast sectors of manufacturing industries.

In this context, special mention should be made of copper and zinc, two of the most important base metals, both found in appreciable quantity in Portugal, along with other minor elements of great relevance in the new technology industries, as is the case of indium.

The following are some of the most significant periods:

The 1980s – The 1980s were marked by the creation of SOMINCOR – Sociedade Mineira de Neves-Corvo, SA and the consequent development and operation of Neves-Corvo, Europe’s largest copper mine. Neves-Corvo, a world-class deposit due to its tonnage and the abnormally high copper and tin content of its ores, was discovered in 1977 by the Portuguese/French partnership SMS-BE-SMMPP, at a gravimetric target site previously pinpointed by the Mining Development Service. EDM held a majority stake of 51%, with SEREM-SMMPP taking 49%. This minority position was acquired by Rio Tinto in 1985. The gross production value of this mine has surpassed the 2.5 billion euro mark.

The 1990s – Characterized by a first period in which progress was made in trials, which began in the previous decade, involving the mineralogical processing of polymetallic massive sulphides and in which attempts were made to explore and exploit the Aljustrel ore complexes to produce concentrates on an industrial scale. In the second half of this decade, priority was given to the management of holdings in various companies linked to the Portuguese mining industry, ensuring the funding and cash requirements of the Empresa Nacional de Urânio, SA (ENU), which joined the Group in 1992, of Pirites Alentejanas, SA (PA) and Empresa Carbonífera do Douro, SA (ECD). From 1998, against a background of deeply depressed copper prices, emphasis was given to streamlining operations and cost reductions.

The 2000s – Global restructuring, with EDM becoming confined to the management of holdings, with operating activities being transferred to a company it owned, EXMIN – Companhia de Indústria e Serviços, SA. EDM proceeded with a policy of divestitures, with the sale and/or liquidation of unproductive subsidiaries.

However, following a resolution adopted by the State shareholder, as a result of a tendering procedure, EDM’s interest in Somincor was sold on 18 June 2004.

EXMIN – The corporate purpose of the “new EXMIN” was amended to include the activities of prospection, exploration, processing and marketing of metallic and non-metallic minerals, applied research and the provision of services related to earth sciences, engineering sciences and the natural environment.

“New EDM” – With the sale of EDM’s majority stake in Somincor-Sociedade Mineira de Neves-Corvo, SA, it became necessary to redefine EDM’s role of in the mining industry, as a result of which it was decided to merge EXMIN into EDM, given the specific nature of environmental responsibilities imposed on EDM resulting from former mining operations owned by the State.

This merger by incorporation of EXMIN into EDM, completed on 30 September 2005, has enabled the existing structure to achieve greater economic and financial flexibility and has allowed consistent and integrated development of environmental recovery activities in degraded mining areas, rehabilitating them, promoting the safety and well-being of the surrounding areas and providing new solutions to the economic development of the regions in which they are located. The existing housing stock in many of the degraded areas may also be rehabilitated, including through greater interaction with EDMI – Empresa de Projetos Imobiliários, SA, 100% owned by EDM.

The focus of the “new EDM” on activities associated with the mining-related environmental area is a far-reaching strategic measure, as it allows a unique opportunity to solve a serious problem that affects the quality of life and economy of various depressed areas of the country, with the added benefit of considerable external support (ERDF).

It also allows expertise to be developed and deepened in relation to services and construction companies and various other entities that, directly or indirectly, are involved in the projects to be implemented, and capacity may then be created for operations abroad, particularly in new EU member countries that are also facing serious environmental problems in the mining sector.

It being a fact that the remaining geological and mining potential of the country is still highly significant in a European context, the role of a company like EDM, in addition to its mission in the environmental field, now takes on renewed strategic significance for the development of the mining sector in Portugal.

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