Raw materials from Germany – a treasure we can build on!
Germany is one of the world’s leading industrialized countries. Our hunger for raw materials is accordingly enormous. But what about the extraction of raw materials in our own country?
In a global comparison, Germany is honestly rather poor in raw materials. Russia takes first place in the raw materials ranking. It has the most raw materials of all, including the largest natural gas reserves in the world. The world’s largest oil reserves are in Venezuela, and Australia is the world’s largest producer of iron ore.
Nevertheless, Germany is able to cover its own needs for raw materials in some important areas, especially mineral raw materials. Energy raw materials (lignite, crude oil, natural gas, petroleum gas and mine gas), stones and earths, peat, metals and industrial minerals such as rock and potash salts, kaolin, fluorspar and barite or quartz raw materials are mined in this country. In 2019, the value of this raw material production was around 11.4 billion euros. This contrasted with 175 billion euros in imports of mineral and energy raw materials, including all intermediate and downstream products along the value chain.
Mining country Germany
In terms of mass, gravel, sand and natural stone account for the largest share of raw material production in Germany. They are used to 95 percent in the construction industry. The German salt industry, after all the largest in the EU, plays another important role. In 2017, 6.5 million metric tons of rock salt and around 8 million metric tons of table salt were extracted alone. Salt is an important basic material for a wide variety of materials. It is needed for the production of plastics, glass and aluminum. Or it is split into caustic soda and chlorine by electrolysis. The latter is an important component of many plastics, is used for water treatment and disinfection, and in the production of paints, varnishes, pesticides and pharmaceuticals.
All this makes Germany an important mining country. In 2019, it was the world’s second-largest producer of lignite, third-largest of crude kaolin, fourth-largest of rock salt (including evaporated salt and brine), and fifth-largest of potash salt.
The situation is different for metals. Only very small quantities of copper, silver and gold still come from German deposits. All other metals must either be imported or recovered from scrap. This makes their procurement a major challenge for Germany as an industrial location. After all, iron and co. are not only needed in the steel industry. Precious metals and rare earths in particular are indispensable for the electrical industry. All this creates dependencies, not infrequently on countries that can exploit their monopoly position in the production of the important raw materials or where unstable political conditions prevail.
There is one great treasure of raw materials that we are currently not sufficiently exploiting: that of recycled secondary raw materials. Each of us uses around 16,000 kilograms of raw materials per year. Of these, only a meager twelve percent come from recycling. Yet a sustainable recycling economy would not only be good for the environment. It would also make us a little more independent and the procurement of raw materials more secure.
Raw materials industry must transform itself
Admittedly, raw material sourcing and recycling is a very complex issue. But it affects us all. Nothing works without secure access to raw materials. We must therefore manage our natural resources carefully. The raw materials industry plays a key role here. It must respond quickly to the challenges of our time. It must transform itself. At pektogram, we want to support this process with our ideas for new business models and digitization, and set the pace for transformation. We want to turn the raw materials industry inside out in order to jointly uncover another great treasure: the potential that lies in the responsible use of our raw materials – for a world worth living for everyone.