Almeria has 136 active mining research authorisations that have an impact on 52 municipalities and affect 76,340 hectares. These permits are limited to metallic minerals, ornamental rocks such as marble, sands and gravels and geothermal and energy resources. In addition, there are 31 applications for authorisations currently being processed, totalling almost 32,000 hectares, mostly to locate and study the presence of marble, but also quartz, cobalt, fluorspar, lead, zinc and geothermal resources. In addition to these, there are four other applications to investigate resources related to energy production, such as coal, geothermal resources, bituminous rocks and radioactive minerals.
On the other hand, in terms of applications for resource exploitation, a total of 10 requests for exploitation authorisations have been submitted since 2019, four of them in the last year. The new planning aims to strengthen this industry throughout the value chain, improve its competitiveness, support the internationalisation of its business fabric and promote research into available mineral resources. It will also include measures to achieve long-term environmental sustainability in mining operations and to continue reinforcing the safety of the activity.
The map of mining resources in Almeria
Mining resources in Almería are distributed around more than fifty municipalities in the province, which are home to 87 mining operations. The resources with the highest number of mining authorisations are sand and gravel, marble and travertine, and limestone.
The process of investigating in the subsoil
Research licences are granted, in accordance with the Mining Law, for a period of three years and grant the holder the right to carry out, within a demarcated perimeter, studies and works aimed at discovering new resource reserves and deposits. These authorisations precede the start-up of any mining activity in Andalusia. They focus either on old deposits that have become inactive for various reasons, or on geological areas of high potential that, due to their proximity to these exploitations or to the knowledge of the characteristics of the terrain itself, may offer new opportunities for economic activity. The mining research process requires significant investment and several years of work, with an average duration of more than six years, and with a generally low success rate, which in the case of metallic mining is even lower, due to the demanding technical, economic and environmental requirements involved in moving from a researched resource to an exploitation project.
In any case, the Regional Government ensures that the start-up of any mining activity has all the guarantees of efficiency, safety and sustainability, given its impact on the territory and the development of the regions in which it is located. For this reason, preference is given to those projects that have an impact on the sustainable and efficient use of natural resources, emphasise the minimisation of the environmental impact of mining activity, have an impact on the circular economy and include a comprehensive approach to mining restoration.
From documentary analysis to prospecting
Mining research involves several phases of work which, in general, have little impact on the territory. In order to carry out these tasks, increasingly innovative techniques and technologies are used which, in the last decade, have undergone considerable evolution, with the incorporation of advances in equipment and technologies for geophysical prospecting, drilling and data analysis. Gone are the days when the simple delimitation of possible natural resources implied altering the area under study. Andalusia is a pioneer in the use of state-of-the-art mining exploration techniques.
The Consejería de Transformación Económica has been part of the European INFACT project, dedicated to the innovation of related technologies under the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation H2020. This initiative proposes a new form of mineral resource exploration that is socially accepted, environmentally friendly and technologically advanced, as well as re-evaluating the mining potential in Europe. Three reference areas were chosen for the EU project, one of them being the Iberian Pyrite Belt, where non-invasive technologies were tested at Cobre Las Cruces and Minas de Riotinto using airborne instruments in helicopters, small aircraft and drones.
Leadership in metal production
Mining is an activity capable of generating a large economic drag on the regions and areas in which it is carried out, thus becoming an opportunity for industrial development and quality employment. Andalusia is a historical mining region with extraordinary geological resources. In recent years, the activity has experienced spectacular growth and leads the production of metallic minerals, with 90% of the national total. In the last decade, this activity has led to an investment of around 2,000 million euros and the latest export figures confirm a significant increase in sales of Andalusian minerals abroad.
For all these reasons, this productive segment is arousing the interest of large international groups due to its infrastructures and high mining potential.