The Minister of Economy of the Republic of Austria was requested by the National Council to prepare an Austrian Mineral Resources Plan within an appropriate period of time. This was to be viewed as a national master plan for securing the supply of mineral resources and was to serve as a basis for planning future mining activities with the federal states and municipalities in relation to specific needs.
Work on the Austrian Mineral Resources Plan was divided into two phases. The first phase involved the systematic identification and evaluation of mineral deposits with regard to their protection-worthiness. Once this was completed, efforts proceeded to the decisive second phase (elimination of conflicts). This involved collaborating with the federal states to eliminate any protection conflicts caused by the mineral zones which had been objectively identified using systematic analysis methods. The aim of this effort is thus to identify mineral zones which do not conflict in any way with other properties protected by law (e.g. residential areas, national parks, water management priority zones, landscape protection areas, forests, Natura 2000 areas).
After these conflicts have been eliminated, the mineral zones are to be declared as “mineral protection zones” for land use planning purposes. In defining mineral protection zones, special attention will be given to ensuring an adequate regional supply of raw building materials found close to the surface for several generations.
Differing methods of evaluation have been developed for the individual groups of raw materials (i.e. sands, gravels, solid rock varieties, high-quality carbonates, clays, industrial minerals, ores and energy raw materials).
Private enterprise continues to be responsible for safeguarding the supply of minerals. Even so, within the framework of the Austrian Mineral Resources Plan, public administration is performing the groundwork required in preparation of activities by private enterprise. This goes far beyond the remit and resources of private enterprise. Along with other measures, these groundwork activities are to be regarded as vital tasks within the context of an active raw materials policy.
The European Commission has followed the efforts leading to the Austrian Mineral Resources Plan with interest. The Communication from the European Commission on the Raw Materials Initiative, published in November 2008 and greatly appreciated by stakeholders and Member States, cites the Austrian Mineral Resource Plan as an example of best practice in the area of land use planning for safeguarding the supply of mineral resources.
The Austrian Mineral Resources Plan strives to achieve a broad consensus among the federal government, the federal states and businesses specifically active in this field. It thus represents an important contract across generations for safeguarding the supply of mineral resources.