Overview of legacy mining sites
Over the course of its 200-year history, a number of Umicore’s predecessor companies were involved in mining zinc and other metals. In the mid-1990s, Union Minière started a process of divesting all of its remaining mining rights as part of its strategic reorientation towards added-value materials and recycling.
Umicore’s predecessor companies operated within the boundaries of national mining legislation and in the context of the environmental standards valid at the time these mines were operational. The decommissioning of the mines and the restitution of mining concessions to the relevant state authorities has consistently been carried out in collaboration with the competent authorities and local stakeholders. This process takes into consideration the specific circumstances of each site. Wherever it is deemed necessary by the relevant authorities, remediation projects are developed in close consultation with other stakeholders in order to reduce any risks to an acceptable level as defined by the authorities.
Below is a summary of Umicore’s main historical mining activities:
Former mining sites in France
Umicore’s predecessor companies had been operating mines in France since the mid-1800s. The last remaining mining activities, all in the south of the country, were terminated in the late 1960s to early 1970s. In the 1990s extensive rehabilitation works were carried out at the former mining sites. All mining concessions in France have been returned to the state; the last one was confirmed by ministerial decree in 2005.
Former mining sites in Belgium
The mining sites in Belgium laid the foundation of our Umicore’s predecessor company, Vieille Montagne. The mining concession of the same name was granted by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1805, while over time five more concessions were added, all in eastern Wallonia. The Belgian mining activities ceased in the 1950s and extensive rehabilitation works were carried out at all sites and in close consultation with the competent mining authorities. Four concessions were officially retroceded to the Government, with the remainder ongoing.
Former mining sites in Germany
The first concessions to mine zinc and lead in Germany were acquired in the mid-1800s. Exploitation at most of the concessions ceased in the late 19th to early 20th century, with a handful of mines continuing activities into the middle of that century. The last active mine was closed in 1978.
Several mining concessions located near the cities of Cologne and Koblenz remain in Umicore’s possession. Extensive risk assessment has been carried out with the assistance of specialized consultants. After consultation with the mining authorities, work has been undertaken to further reduce any risks posed by these sites (e.g. from subsidence). Monitoring of the sites is performed on a continuous basis to ensure the safety of the sites.
Former mining sites in The Netherlands
In 1899, the Société des Charbonnages réunis Laura & Vereeniging was founded. The company conducted mining activities at the Laura and Julia mining concessions in South Limburg from 1905 until 1974. The mining rights have been returned to the Dutch state in the meantime.
Former mining sites in the US
In 1980, Union Minière, the predecessor of Umicore, acquired an abandoned silver-gold mine in Platoro, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Subsequent exploration drillings were unsuccessful and it was decided to stop any attempt to further exploit the mine.
Remedial works started in the 1990s, consisting of capping and landscaping waste rock piles and installing a water treatment plant to capture and treat the acid mine drainage that continuously flows out of the mine. A major upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant was completed in 2018. In addition, smaller improvement projects to the water treatment steps have since been carried out and this will continue in the coming years. This is required as the water run-off is highly seasonal and dependent on natural weather conditions: snowmelt in spring releases large amounts of water into the mine openings that carry metals released from the natural rock with it. As a result, regular adjustments to the treatment steps are required. Umicore will oversee this project on a long-term basis in cooperation with the competent authorities.