Among the non-energy extractive industries, the construction minerals sector is the largest one. It has the highest tonnage of extracted minerals, the greatest number of companies and employees, and the largest turnover. Typical construction minerals are aggregates (sand, gravel, and crushed natural stone), various brick clays, gypsum, and natural ornamental or dimension stone. The demand for construction minerals is generally high. The sector mainly consists of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating over 20,000 extraction sites that supply local and regional markets.
Eurostat records data on construction minerals can be found under NACE codes CB14.1 and CB14.21.
Competitiveness and trade
- Demand - demand for aggregates, gypsum, and dimension stone is closely related to the level of new house building, maintenance, renovation, and civil engineering projects.
- Aggregates - Europe is self-sufficient in its aggregates production. Imports are limited with the exception of Belgium and the Netherlands.
- Gypsum - the EU is the largest producer of mined gypsum in the world, accounting for about 25% of the global total. Spain, France, and Germany are the biggest producers in the EU.
- Natural stone - approximately 35% of global natural stone production is in Europe, of which over 80% is in Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal. The sector has been facing increasing competition from countries such as China, India, and Brazil.
- Land management – the extraction of construction minerals has an unavoidable impact on land use. Modern working methods, including progressive extraction and rehabilitation, strive to minimise the area of land being worked. Careful landscaping operations such as using trees can limit the visibility of sites.
- Environmental impact – the industry has an environmental impact through changes in groundwater flow patterns, loss of biodiversity, dust, and noise. Managing these impacts requires that activities are in line with legislation.
- Industry initiatives - industry has made large strides to improve its environmental performance, and companies aim to reconcile their activities with sustainable development and environmental concerns:
- the European Aggregates Association UEPG has joined the Countdown 2010 Initiative of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to contribute to halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010;
- the International Council of Mining and Metals has produced guidelines for the mining industry to incorporate biodiversity considerations into corporate strategies and practices.
Almost all the European legislation affecting the industry was not developed with the specific requirements of the extractive industry as a key objective. The only policy communications developed specifically for the extractive industry are:
- Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Processing and exploitation of industrial and mining waste deposits in the European Union (2011);
- Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Communication on 'Tackling the challenges in commodity markets and on raw materials' (2011);
- Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Access to secondary raw materials (2011) (148 kB, correction to Finnish text);
- Communication on commodity markets and raw materials (2011);
- Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Non-energy mining industry in Europe (2009);
- Staff Working Document: "Analysis of the competitiveness of the non-energy extractive industry in the EU" (2007);
- Directive 2006/21/EC on the management of waste from extractive industries (which entered into force in 2008);
- Directive 92/91/EEC concerning the minimum requirements for improving the safety and health protection of workers in the mineral-extracting industries through drilling;
- Directive 92/104/EEC on the minimum requirements for improving the safety and health protection of workers in surface and underground mineral-extracting industries;
- Communication on the Raw Materials Initiative - Meeting our critical needs for growth and jobs in Europe;
- Staff Working Document accompanying the Communication.