I am told cats tend to be moody because nature designed themto be the ultimate killing machines. Unfortunately as they only weigh 8 pounds,we humans are constantly picking them up and hugging them instead. No respect,occasional disdain. The European mining sector is sort of similar.
The EU has political stability. Brexit was for a week, then theGerman and the French went back to ignoring the British. There is easy accessto financial capital and investors, some of it is even parked as gold-platedLamborghinis in the streets of London. There is respect for the law (GeorgeClooney married a lawyer from Europe), a highly educated work force (JustinBieber is not from here) and technological innovation is at your doorstep (someonein our office captured a Pikachu recently). To round off all these qualities,Europe also offers a range of Finnish and Swedish men who can talk endlesslyabout mining in the Arctic Circle.
Sounds perfect for a bustling mining sector, so where iseveryone? Why are BHP BillitonGroup and RioTinto only keen on acquiring London property and not digging deepin Poland? Why is it, in 2015, only 13% of the US$815.6 million of theexploration expenditure budgets for EU headquartered companies was allocated tothe EU? Canadian companies allocated 35% of their expenditures domestically,and the Australians love the outback so much they allocated 56% of theirbudgets to domestic projects.
Estimates by SNL Metals & Mining for our StrategicDialogue on Sustainable Raw Materials for Europe, or STRADE, project suggestthat for the period from 2016 to 2020, Canada and Africa will see an average of15% year-on-year growth in exploration expenditure budgets with Australia closebehind at an average of 13%. SNL expects the EU's exploration expenditure togrow at an average of 8% over the period, just ahead of the U.S.'s 7% averageyear-on-year growth.
At least the EU is doing better than the Americans! Thereare some people secretly hoping that Donald Trump is elected just to show thatBrexit wasn't the daftest thing to be voted for by a democracy. But much likethe Americans, the EU's attempts at promoting mining investments is almostnegligible. When examining the role Australian, Canadian, Chinese, Japanese andAmerican governments take in promoting international mining engagements, the EUwas closer to the passivity shown by the Americans. While others offer to fundgeological surveys with exclusive access to results for their own companies, oroffer targeted finance for high-risk projects, the EU holds dialogues. OurSTRADE policy brief talks about this in more detail.
Can the EU do something to have its mining sector treatedwith respect rather than disdain? It's definitely trying to find ways to dothis. Driven by the Directorate General for Growth in the Economic Commission,the EU is funding a variety of projects to find the path to competitiveness. Asthese findings eventually translate into directives, perhaps the EU mineralsector will achieve what nature endowed it to be: A lean, mean, mining machine.