Bringing minerals and mining closer to society
The Briefcase project seeks to bring minerals and mining closer to society. Using an innovative method, it teaches pupils to identify minerals and link them to our everyday items manufactured from those mineral’s elements, and encourage them to reflect on issues like conflict minerals, consequences of purchase decisions, the sustainability of mining operations, and the importance of recycling and climate change.
The project is orientated towards Wider Society Learning (WSL) and aims to raise pupils’ knowledge of mining activities and mineral applications. Briefcase teaches the pupils, aged from 6 to 14 years, about the impact of our purchase decisions on the people living where the mining activity is operating with low safety conditions or in conflict areas and how the concept of “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) promotes the mining activity in those areas instead of Europe, where safety conditions are secured. Also, our purchase decisions allow choosing companies or trademarks which have demonstrated to their customer how they are guaranteeing the origin of the raw materials used in the offered goods.
Responsible research and innovation approach
The project has been selected as an example of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) project for its contribution to the ethics pillar. The project teaches on the utility and indispensability of minerals and mining, focusing on the consequences of their uses and production systems, the sustainability of the mining operations, the importance of the consumer’s behaviour, the effects of consumption, as well as the recycling opportunities. The Briefcase story will be published in early 2020 within the compilation of RRI stories made by the Horizon 2020 project “NewHoRRIzon” which aims to foster the integration of RRI into European research and innovating practice.
During 2019, around 644 pupils have used the Briefcase tool and 50 teachers have attended the workshops in order to use it in a self-way during their future lessons. The tool has been presented during several events, demos and workshops in Maribor, Portorož, Berlin, Budapest, Milan, Rome, Pavia, Graz, Leoben, Coventry, Athens, Aarhus, Pamplona, Madrid, Bilbao, Camas, Seville, Zagreb, Brussels and Brno, covering 12 countries. Dissemination events have exposed the tool to 13,000 persons from the general public, from which 3,500 came from the scientific and industrial community and 500 were potential stakeholders.
Impact of mining in our society
Briefcase teaches pupils to recognise the most common minerals and their applications with hands-on experience and to reflect on their own purchasing decisions, conflict minerals, the sustainability of mining operations, and the importance of recycling and climate change and power to demand more ethically sound practices of companies, as well as the consequences of “not in my backyard”, which has moved a lot of mining outside Europe.
The European Commission is concerned about the provision of raw materials for the adequate supply of its industry, especially the Critical Raw Materials (CRMs), as well as the social acceptance of mining. To be aligned with the Raw Materials Initiative adopted by the European Commission, Briefcase has taken into account the following points:
- Social acceptance of mining: mining is seen as a polluting industry. Society needs reliable information about where and how we need minerals to keep today’s wealth and wellness.
- Social and environmental consequences: there’s a lack of social awareness on how our purchase decisions affect the people living and working in countries where the resources are exploited.
- Exploiting European resources: Europe is a huge consumer of raw materials but relies heavily on the outside for its supply. It’s necessary to open new mines and maintain those that are productive. This will contribute to the welfare of Europe and the generation of new jobs.
Briefcase project contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals:
- SDG 11: Sustainable cities are included in the scope of the pupils’ lessons inside the Briefcase project. Recycling habits and their importance are discussed with children.
- SDG 12: The project teaches pupils the importance of the minerals in all daily lives, as well as the importance of sustainability practices in mining as part of the responsible production required to protect the environment and human rights.
- SDG 13: Climate changeis included in the scope of the pupil lessons inside the Briefcase project. Environmental degradation is presented as the result of non-sustainable mining practices.