In the context of globalization and fierce competition in commodity markets, the strategic value of the mining industry continues to grow. This increased demand and a sharp rise in prices has created good prospects for the recovery of the mining industry in Portugal.
This new view of the sector of mineral resources, which reverses the trend witnessed over the last decade largely based on the generalization of “abundance” of resources, appears, too, to have been reflected within the European Union (EU), as confirmed by communication no 699 of the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council – “Raw Materials” Initiative – of 4 November 2008, which warned of the risks to the European supply of certain non-energy raw materials. This strategic position for Europe was again reaffirmed by means of the communication of the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, in February 2011, entitled “Tackling the Challenges in Commodities Markets and on Raw Materials”, in which the principle of access to basic raw materials is extended to the energy sector and to foodstuffs.
The EU is highly dependent on imports of raw materials of strategic importance, which are increasingly affected by market distortions and, in particular, “high-tech” metals, such as cobalt, platinum, rare earth metals, tantalum and niobium. Though very often needed only in tiny quantities, these metals are increasingly essential to the development of technologically sophisticated products due to their growing number of features. Without these high-tech metals, the EU will not be able to master the shift towards sustainable production and environmental-friendly products.