About the Project
Learn more about the motivation, approach and impact of the VECTOR project.
Ensuring that the supply of renewable energy needed to achieve these goals is met will require a sharp increase in production, and a more responsible use, of critical raw materials. Whilst recycling can provide an increasing portion of these materials, recycling alone cannot meet the projected demand, which implies that further mining will be required if the EU is to meet its climate goals.
Sourcing raw materials from inside the EU, where suitable environmental, social, and political regulations could be implemented, may be instrumental in securing an ethical provision of metals. However, mineral projects face complex challenges in the EU.
These challenges include the:
for example, we need a precise knowledge of the whereabouts of subsurface mineral deposits on the continent.
for example, there is a lack of shared value in mineral exploration across Europe.
The purpose of the VECTOR project is to explore these challenges. The consortium of 18 partners aims to understand the origin, connections, and complexities of the challenges, and consequently to develop solutions that may be used to address them. A major objective is to include all stakeholders, including the often overlooked and underappreciated general public, in a dialogue about the sourcing of critical raw materials within Europe.
The project partners will investigate potential solutions that incorporate as many perspectives as possible, address environmental concerns, and solve technical challenges. This will result in pathways towards sustainable, responsible mineral exploration in Europe, which can serve as a reference for the rest of the world.”
This will result in pathways towards sustainable, responsible mineral exploration in Europe, which can serve as a reference for the rest of the world.
To move forwards with the EU Green Deal we must understand society’s perception of the extraction of critical raw materials from the Earth. Research within VECTOR will assess how individuals balance the ethical, social, economic, political, and environmental consequences of sourcing critical raw materials. The aim of this is to understand how values impact attitudes, decisions, and acceptance of policy.
Using surveys, VECTOR aims to identify and improve the implementation of these essential values in business to develop long lasting impact that centres on your interests. This will be performed through the development of tools such as a ‘Shared Value index’ that can be communicated easily and clearly to decision makers, allowing them to quickly understand the impact of future actions.
Developing continued professional development platforms for geoscientists to better understand wider society’s perception of their work.
Creating curriculum-facing materials to better inform those in education.
Attending science and arts festivals to directly inform and discuss with the public the importance of critical raw materials in the green transition.
We are investigating mineral deposits at three locations across Europe. Each deposit contains a range of critical raw materials needed for the green transition. Our study locations are the Irish Midlands, Kuperschiefer (Germany), and Jadar (Serbia). In the Irish Midlands and Kuperschiefer, we will be using non-disruptive technologies to investigate and map the Earth’s subsurface in 3D. Study of Jadar will use only legacy data and will not involve any active field work.
Taken together, these methods will allow scientists to use low-cost, portable and minimally disruptive technologies to analyse the subsurface and determine if they are close to a useful mineral deposit. This represents a marked improvement from traditional exploration techniques, and limits the need for activities such as extensive drilling, which may disrupt both the local environment and communities.
Passive seismic imaging that makes use of natural noise that originates above the ground, from traffic or the wind, will be used to inform us of the structure and composition of the subsurface.
The sounds generate waves, and the paths the waves follow in the subsurface differ depending on the rock density.
3D electrical conductivity will be used to test the distribution of conductive ores in the subsurface. Minerals and rocks vary in their conductivity. Variation in the measured conductivity of the subsurface will help us to map where different ores and rocks are beneath the ground.
X-Ray fluorescence will be used to analyse differences in the chemistry of minerals and rocks. When a sample is exposed to X-rays, the elements within the sample become ‘excited’ and fluoresce. Each element has a unique signal that it emits back, allowing us to map the rock’s composition.
X-Ray diffraction will be used to analyse how both ore minerals and rock-forming minerals differ in structure. X-rays scatter when they hit a material, and the pattern of this scattering is impacted by the way that the atoms are positioned. Through these patterns we can reconstruct how elements are arranged, to identify the mineral or rock type.
Statistical analysis will then incorporate all our measured variables from across the different technologies, allowing the relationships between them to be explored and understood.
We understand that very few people are experts in both geoscience and social science – none of the VECTOR team are either, and that is why we have specialists in both fields.
To ensure that our findings are understandable for all, and we can provide information that addresses the full scale of the issue, we aim to integrate both sides of our analyses. Using the data that we collect, we will develop a single interface that allows all of our findings to be accessed by anyone, in one place and in an easy-to-understand format, helping you to become more informed about the current state of affairs.
Is the VECTOR project pro-mining?
VECTOR is neither for nor against mining. One of the aims of the VECTOR project is to better understand societal responses to exploration for critical raw materials within the EU. VECTOR will integrate these views, and concerns for the environment, with scientific solutions, and develop products that could be used to enable sustainable, responsible exploration for critical raw materials within the EU.
There is no question that the mining industry has caused considerable environmental and societal damage and that some mining projects do not adhere to responsible practices. However, given that recycling alone cannot supply the materials required for the EU to meet its climate goals, the mining of critical raw materials will be required, combined with extensive efforts to reduce overall consumption, and additional research and development into circular economy technologies.
We believe that, within this context, modern mineral exploration and mining must be carried out to the highest standards that greatly minimise environmental and societal impacts. Some wealthy societies have chosen to outsource raw material production to minimise environmental and social disturbance. However, this raises questions of environmental justice and how the societal costs and benefits of mining are distributed across the globe.
The VECTOR Consortium partners are aware that many people view mineral exploration and mining as a societally damaging industry, and consider themselves anti-mining. VECTOR respects all opinions on the subject and does not seek to influence people’s opinions, but rather to inform debate on the topic, including in relation to the development of responsible exploration and mining practices.
Does the VECTOR consortium include mining companies?
Yes, the VECTOR consortium includes mining companies. The VECTOR consortium comprises a large variety of stakeholders, including research organisations, social and environmental consultants, technology start-ups, not-for-profit organisations, and mining companies, in order to ensure a balanced dialogue and unbiased research. It is important to involve mining companies in the project, as not only do these companies have practical and technical working knowledge of exploration methods, local community engagement, and site working practices, but they are key to providing geological data, information, and access* to the study sites that will be the focus of the Project.
However, it is important to note that the mining companies involved in the project have the same status as the other consortium partners, and are not involved in the management or governance of the Project. As explained in our Ethics Commitment, the VECTOR project seeks to take a human-centred approach to fulfilling the Project’s aims, which involves all stakeholders, including the general public. We have processes in place to ensure that the Project meets its commitment to maintaining high ethical standards in its conduct and outcomes.
*no access rights are provided in relation to the site in Serbia
Does the VECTOR project seek to influence public views on critical raw material exploration within Europe?
No, VECTOR does not seek to alter social acceptance or influence broader public views on mineral exploration within Europe. Rather, it aims to understand how current public attitudes are formed and provide data tools that can be utilised by all members of society, from governments to NGOs to companies, to understand these attitudes and integrate them within assessments and decision making concerning mineral exploration within Europe. The aim is to inform rather than influence; to encourage critical thinking; and to stimulate public debate about the need for critical raw materials and their role in Europe’s success in meeting the decarbonisation targets set out in the Green Deal.
The VECTOR consortium has appointed an Ethics Advisor and Independent Ethics Committee to oversee the conduct and outcomes of the Project, and ensure that the Project progresses in line with its purpose.
ill the VECTOR project use AI and machine learning?
VECTOR will not use or develop AI technologies. VECTOR will make use of data science for research purposes. Machine Learning will be used within VECTOR to find common patterns in the data that we collect in our core research, be this geological data or survey data about social acceptance of extracting critical raw materials. This allows us to better see links between these data sets and integrate the two different sides of our research. Machine Learning will never be used to analyse individual human thoughts, behaviours, or patterns.
Information will remain anonymous and will be prepared in such a way that it cannot be misused, whether by the consortium or anyone else accessing the data. The data produced by VECTOR will be open-source and open-access to ensure a total transparency.
To ensure the proper use of data science, the project is continuously supervised by an Advisory Board, whose members represent a diverse range of experience (e.g. NGOs, civil society, academia, industry). The VECTOR consortium has also appointed an Ethics Advisor and Independent Ethics Committee to oversee the conduct and outcomes of the Project, and ensure that the Project progresses in line with its purpose.
How will the VECTOR project ensure that the research conducted during the project, including that involving engagement with external stakeholders, is conducted to the highest ethical standards?
The VECTOR consortium has appointed an Ethics Advisor and Independent Ethics Committee to oversee the conduct and outcomes of the Project, and ensure that the Project progresses in line with its purpose, and with the highest ethical standards.
We have developed 5 dimensions of impact that will guide our approach to project outcomes and impact
creation. These can be understood as values that will shape the outputs of the project by focusing
the consortium on the impact we want to make.
The dimensions of impact can be understood as values that will shape the outputs of the project by focusing the consortium on the impact we want to make. The dimensions are:
VECTOR seeks to inform rather than influence. We aim to provide the resources for anyone to make informed conclusions and opinions about the roles of critical raw materials in the green transition.
VECTOR aims to develop practical, non-disruptive tools that can enlighten decisions and create meaningful change without disturbing the environment or communities.
VECTOR seeks the highest ethical standards in project conduct and outcomes.
VECTOR aims to embed responsibility (for people and planet) within the approach to critical mineral exploration in Europe and the wider world.
VECTOR wants to centre sustainability within the development of policy and technical approaches to critical mineral exploration in Europe and the wider world.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement nº 101058483.
Co-funded by the European Union.
Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or Horizon Europe research and innovation programme. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.
Co-funded by UK Research and Innovation. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of UK Research and Innovation. Neither UK Research and Innovation nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.