Explore what kind of raw materials are mined in different European countries

(metals and industrial minerals)

Event of the month

December 2018: UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Since 1992, 3 December has been the annual observance of the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. There are a billion people in the world with disabilities, and the purpose of this day is to promote their rights and well-being, as well as awareness of their experiences, in all spheres of society and development.

Minerals and metals play a crucial role in achieving this goal, both in the building materials required for making public spaces accessible, but also as a crucial part of many tools and accessories that improve the quality of life for countless people with disabilities.

For example, there are millions of people in the world who depend on wheelchairs. These devices are typically made of aluminium and titanium because those metals are strong, lightweight and resistant to corrosion.

People once depended on prosthetics made of iron and wood, but the modern era has brought high-tech to prosthetics development. Lightweight metals such as titanium and aluminium are indeed used in prosthetics themselves, but raw materials play an increasingly vital role in the technology used for creating a prosthetic. CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) are frequently used to design a model of a limb, which is then used to create a mold for producing the prosthetic. The silicon, copper, gold, silver, tin and aluminium required for computer chips make these pieces significantly more comfortable and durable.

These same materials, along with many more metals such as the indium in touch screens, also make smart technology possible. The combination of a smartphone and the Internet of Things can be life-changing for people with disabilities. The ability to control lights, curtains, temperature, door locks and more with just your voice or smart phone can make people more comfortable, more independent and safer.

November 2018: Raw Materials Week 2018

In November 2018, the third EU Raw Materials Week takes place in Brussels from Monday 12th to Friday 16th. This event provides a unique opportunity for the European raw materials community to come together and exchange information about the latest developments in the sector as well as discuss issues such as policy, international cooperation and technology and how these issues impact European society.

The main topic of this year’s event is “Raw materials for low carbon and circular economy”. Some of the most pressing issues to be addressed within this focus is battery value chain and secondary raw materials for energy-intensive industries. Experts and policy makers will learn about the latest innovations in raw materials and how new technologies and systems can improve mining and related sectors, as well as how these may shape the future for European citizens.

October 2018: Eurochocolate 25th Anniversary

Many of the minerals the mining industry focuses on for producing consumer goods are also vital for keeping our bodies functioning. We get most of these nutrients into our bodies through the foods we eat. Even chocolate can contain a number of nutrients we also mine, including iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. The minerals in dark chocolate provide a myriad of health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and improving brain function.

One of the biggest celebrations of chocolate in the world takes place in Italy every October. It’s called Eurochocolate, and 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of this 10-day event that attracts nearly 1 million people and distributes 200 tonnes of chocolate each year. At this free international chocolate exhibition, attendees can watch giant chocolate sculptures being made, taste chocolate samples from around the world, see master chocolatiers and learn secrets from the experts at workshops.

September 2018: EU Switch to LED Bulbs

September 2018 marks a new phase in EU efforts to fight climate change through more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. On 1 September, the EU ban on halogen bulbs went into effect with the purpose of encouraging the use of more energy-efficient LEDs. The switch is expected to save more than 15 million tons of CO2emissions by the year 2025. And although LED bulbs are more expensive, their efficiency causes savings of around 115 EUR over a bulb’s lifetime, paying back its initial cost within one year.

LEDs are just one example of green technology that is largely dependent on minerals and metals, especially rare earth elements (REEs). For example, LED bulbs use very small amounts of phosphors, but this material is critical to the bulbs’ functionality. The lights also use copper, nickel, indium, gallium and nitride among others. Through the innovative use of these materials, LED lamps last as much as 40 times longer than conventional bulbs and have 80-90% energy savings.

August 2018: World Sailing Championships

Every 4 years, the Sailing World Championships takes place. From 30 July to 12 August 2018, the championship takes at the Aarhus International Sailing Center in Denmark. Approximately 1,500 sailors from 100 countries compete before an estimated 400,000 visitors. In additional to serving as the first phase of qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and Enoshima (sailing), this event is meant to spread enthusiasm for the sport on land and sea among both sailors and spectators.

The summer holiday makes August a popular month for sailing even for those who don’t compete but enjoy it as a leisure activity. Sailing boats are made from a number of minerals and metals, namely in glass fibres used in many boats for reinforcement purposes. Large furnaces are needed for the manufacture of glass fibres to successfully and gradually melt the silica sand, limestone, kaolin clay, fluorspar, colemanite, dolomite and other minerals to liquid form so it can be cast for the hull.

July 2018: Summer Holidays

July brings the start of summer holidays across Europe. Despite being a relatively small continent, Europe is packed full of beautiful beaches and mountains, many rich cultures and incredible history stretching back thousands of years. Travellers can enjoy scenic nature views, eat delicious foods and visit countless historic structures from bygone eras, oftentimes all in one place.

Whatever part of Europe you enjoy this summer, take a look at the geology around you while you travel or the landscape surrounding your own home. The rich geological features that make up Europe are not only beautiful, they’re the reason these lands have prospered from mining for many centuries. Mined raw materials still contribute to Europe’s economies today.

This summer, create unique memories by visiting a mining heritage site, a functioning mine or one of the many closed mines that have been rehabilitated and given new purpose such as amphitheaters, recreational nature areas or even racetracks.

June 2018: FIFA World Cup

On 14th June, the FIFA World Cup will begin. 32 teams from around the world will compete in 64 matches in 12 different stadiums. Raw materials will play a critical – although often overlooked – role in this international tournament.

In addition to the materials needed for the manufacturing processes of footballs themselves and items such as boots and shin guards, goal posts are made from steel or aluminium. The stadiums themselves that house the matches require massive amounts of metals. At the end of the World Cup, one team will win a trophy made of solid 18-carat gold and set in a base made of two layers of malachite. The current trophy was designed by Italian artist, Silvio Gazzaniga.

And of course, fans would not be able to watch the matches and cheer for their teams from home without modern technology such as televisions. TVs contain a number of raw materials including copper, nickel, tin, zinc, gold, chromium and silicon. Football is the world’s most popular sport, and previous World Cups have drawnover 3 billion viewers. It is the most-watched live event in the world.

May 2018: Europe Day

On 9 May each year, the EU celebrates peace and unity in Europe with Europe Day. EU offices open their doors to the public, and local offices within the EU and those located around the world host events and activities for people of all ages.

Also known as Schuman day, 9th May marks the date of the 1950 Schuman declaration in which Robert Schuman, as the French foreign minister, delivered a speech in Paris laying out his idea for political cooperation in Europe that would make war between the countries unthinkable.

His idea was to pool the French and German steel and coal industries. A consequent treaty was signed less than a year later. The proposal is considered to be the birth of the European Union. Since then, Industry and the extractive sector have continued to play a major role in keeping Europe unified. There are currently many positive Industry trends taking place in the EU.

Manufacturing’s share of total value added is increasing each year, and in 2016, intra-EU28 trade constituted more than 50% of overall trade by the EU28. Trade in services is also increasing, and investment from private companies is increasing. Intellectual property products in particular almost doubled from 2000 to 2016.

Sustainability efforts are also paying off. Recent years have seen a consistent increase in recycling rates, a steady decrease in total greenhouse gas emissions and a decrease in energy consumption.

The EU can trace the roots of its formation back to the role Industry played in unifying countries, and on Europe Day, citizens still celebrate that unity today.

April 2018: World Health Day

Each year on 7 April, the founding of the World Health Organization is marked by World Health Day. The purpose of this day is to draw attention to the importance of global health, and the WHO organises events at international, national, regional and local levels.

Minerals and metals play an extensive and versatile role in the medical world. Some minerals like silica are used as a filler in pharmaceuticals in order to create a practical vessel for delivering small amounts of active substances. Other minerals and metals are used directly as active ingredients in medicines and a wide variety of treatments. These include antimony, gold, iron, lithium, potash, sodium carbonate, zinc, talc and many more. A unique use of barium is as a barium meal, which is swallowed before an X-ray test to help highlight problems in the digestive system.

Raw materials also make countless types of medical equipment and machinery possible. Cooper is used in MRI scanners, and its antimicrobial properties make it a critical material for other medical equipment. Titanium is strong and resistant to bacteria and corrosion, so it’s ideal for surgical equipment. Titanium is often alloyed with aluminium and vanadium to create implants such as hip balls or long-lasting dental pieces.

March 2018: 20th Anniversary of the Opening of the Vasco da Gama Bridge

20 years ago on March 29, the longest bridge in Europe was opened to the public. The Vasco da Gama Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the Tagus River in Parque das Nações in Lisbon, Portugal. Its total length, including viaducts, is 17,185m. This cable-stayed bridge contains 192 cables, and it took 3,300 workers working simultaneously to complete the project in 18 months. The bridge’s public opening coincided with the World’s Fair that celebrated the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the sea route from Europe to India.

The Vasco da Gama bridge contains 730,000 m3 of concrete. Concrete is made from fine and course aggregate bonded together. The most common forms of concrete are lime-based such as Portland cement or calcium aluminate cements. Bridge cables are generally made from thousands of bound steel wires as steel has extremely high tensile strength.

February 2018: Olympic Winter Games

Starting on 9th February and continuing through to the 25th 92 nations will participate in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Athletes will compete in 15 different winter sport disciplines, ranging from ice hockey to the luge. Raw materials are used in every sport you’ll see in the worldwide competition this February, but we’ve chosen to look deeper at the raw materials used in one of the sports that is enjoyed in leisure as well: skis.

The oldest skis date back as far as 6000 BCE. In the Middle Ages, they were used for winter transportation by soldiers as well as doctors, midwives and clergy whose work frequently required trekking through harsh conditions. Skiing became a popular sport around the 1940s, and their design has evolved drastically since then.

High quality skis are now made of multiple materials, including wood, fiberglass, carbon fiber, and steel to give skiers ultimate control and flexibility. The inner core is the most critical part of a ski because it defines its character. Wood is the tradition material to use, but manufacturers have also developed high performance foam as well as aluminium cores. The other layers of skis use fiberglass, carbon fibers and epoxy. Finally, steel is manufactured into the edges of skis to give skiers control.

January 2018: Anniversary of the Bathyscaphe Trieste

On 23 January 1960, the Bathyscaphe Trieste journeyed to the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. It was the first manned vessel to reach this depth of 10,911 metres – the deepest known part of the ocean. The Trieste was designed by Swiss physicist, Auguste Piccard and largely built in the town in Italy it was named after. It was manned by Auguste Piccard’s son, Jacques Piccard, and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh.

This excursion proved that deep-sea exploration was possible, but it required nearly every piece to be custom designed, even down to the bolts used. The innovation required for developing the Trieste and its consequent success led to many engineering breakthroughs, including the first manipulator arm, the first deep-sea, color-TV camera system, the first high-pressure housings and connectors and the design of the first remotely operated vehicle.

A variety of raw materials made this development possible. The Trieste had walls 12.7 cm thick to withstand the enormous pressure it endured, and it weighed 12.25 metric tonnes (on land). For a ballast, 9 metric tonnes of magnetic iron pellets were places on the craft. These weights were held in place by electromagnets, so if there was an electrical failure, these would be released and the vessel would automatically float to the surface. The entire vessel was powered by batteries, which often contain a number of materials such as nickel, zinc, graphite and manganese dioxide.

The air system was similar to those used in space. As exhaled air passed through soda-lime canisters, it was scrubbed of carbon dioxide. The two men could only observe their deep-sea surroundings through a single block of acrylic glass (Plexiglas) as this was the only known transparent material that could withstand the extreme pressure. External lights on the vessel were made of quartz arc-light bulbs.

December 2017: Advent

For the four weeks leading up to Christmas, people across Europe celebrate Advent. During this season of preparation, a popular tradition is the Advent wreath, and with it Advent candles. In addition to the metals used in candle production, raw materials help us to make our candles glow. Many times, we use matches to light them. These clever inventions used to be quite hazardous as they were made of toxic white phosphorus and had a tendency to self-ignite. But in 1844, Gustaf Erik Pasch designed the safety match which used non-poisonous red phosphorus.

Today the coated end of a match, known as the match "head", contains either phosphorus or phosphorus sesquisulfide as the active ingredient. They also include antimony trisulfide, powdered glass, sulfur and zinc oxide for colour.

November 2017: 150th Anniversary of Marie Curie’s Birth

On 7 November, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Marie Curie’s birth. Marie Curie was a Polish scientist who, along with her husband, discovered both polonium and radium for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics. This made Marie the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. After her husband died, she continued making significant scientific advances in radioactivity, winning yet another Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry. Her discoveries have led to major developments in the medical world. Marie organized mobile X-ray teams during the first World War, often delivering the machines to the front lines herself, and she is considered the founder of radioactive treatment for tumours.

Today, radioactivity still plays a huge part in cancer treatments, as well as in X-rays used for medical purposes and security systems and in producing energy. Building on Marie Curie’s discoveries, modern researchers have developed improved methods of utilizing radioactivity, using materials such as cobalt, indium, and iodine. In addition to the radioactive materials used, several metals play a major role in the construction on modern machines used to scan for cancer such as PET and CT scanners. Common metals used for such medical equipment are aluminium, titanium, copper, and tungsten.

October 2017: World Food Day

Every year on 16 October, we celebrate World Food Day in honor of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations being founded in 1945. 800 million people suffer from hunger even though the world produces enough food to feed everyone. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, along with many other organisations concerned with food scarcity, works to bridge that gap and achieve zero hunger.

Minerals and metals fit into this equation in two ways: first, in providing essential components for agricultural products like fertilizers and animal feed through raw materials, and second, as the very nutrients that protect us against malnutrition. Without enough copper, iron, sulfur, magnesium, zinc, potassium and sodium, our bodies fail to function properly.

Limestone quarries produce lime that provides cows and chickens with the calcium they need to stay healthy themselves and in turn produce healthy milk and eggs for our consumption. Potash is the raw material form of potassium, which is one of the three primary nutrients essential for plant growth. This is why potash is used to fertilize crops worldwide. Even products like cast iron skillets helps increase the amount of iron in our foods. This helps fight iron deficiencies that are a common problem, even in the developed world.

September 2017: 10th Anniversary of European Minerals Day

Every two years on European Minerals Day, European citizens have the opportunity to get an inside look at the role minerals play in European life. Access to mining facilities is usually restricted for safety reasons, but on Minerals Day there are over 200 Open Door events that will take place across Europe at quarries, mines, plants and museums from 22-24 September 2017. These events include a wide range of activities, such as guided tours, rock carving and fossil hunting.

Through European Minerals Day, members of the minerals sector can connect with local communities in a fun and educational way. People who attend these events can learn about how minerals are collected or processed in a local quarry or plant, how those raw materials become the products we use every day, get the know the people behind those big machines and find out what you need to study to become one of those people yourself. There are also many opportunities for communities to learn more about the impact that mines and quarries have on their surroundings, both socially and environmentally.

August 2017: 150th Anniversary of the death of Michael Faraday

150 years ago this August, British physicist and chemist Michael Faraday passed away. Even if you don’t recognize his name, we all enjoy the impact of Faraday’s brilliant contributions to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. He coined terms like “cathode”, “electrode” and even “ion” and made several notable discoveries. But perhaps his most recognizable contribution was the invention of the electric motor.

Faraday essentially took electricity, which was understood by scientists but had limited applications, and used it to create new technology that was practical and useful. He did all this despite receiving little formal education.

Now, 150 years later, the electric motor is still a major part of modern society. Electric motors are everywhere, from huge motors in factories to electric cars to the smaller motor inside a washing machine. Even elevators use an electric motor than turns electric energy into movement.

July 2017: Wimbledon

Every summer, the oldest tennis tournament in the world is held in London. We’re referring of course to Wimbledon, which has been hosted by the All England Club since 1877. This year’s event runs from 3-16 July. In addition to the players, Wimbledon draws hundreds of thousands of spectators each year, and about 750 entries for ball boys and girls are narrowed down to about 250 through a rigorous training routine.

The sport of tennis has become quite high-tech in recent years. Tennis rackets were originally made of wood, but eventually designs came about with metal frames – first made of steel and then aluminium. The metal frames could handle more tension in the strings, allowing for a wider head. Today, most rackets are made of aluminium, fiberglass or a composite of graphite for their strong yet lightweight qualities. Aluminium rackets often contain other materials such as silicon, magnesium, copper, chromium or zinc. These alloys can make the rackets stronger, lighter or easier to use depending on how the various materials are combined.

While the manufacturing process of creating tennis rackets is fairly straightforward, an essential element of racket design takes place in a lab. The physics and mathematics of materials, design and how the ball interacts with the strings are highly complex. Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) allow for extreme precision in this process. This makes tennis rackets a prime area for innovation and maximizing the effectiveness of raw materials.

June 2017: The Royal Silvering of Kutná Hora

During 25-26 June, the Czech city of Kutná Hora will be transformed to a 15th century medieval mining town. Hundreds of official performers as well as amateurs will line the streets in historically accurate displays of music, dance, jousting and juggling. There may even be falconers present among the plays and competitions. But the main event is the arrival of Bohemian and Roman King Wenceslas IV along with his court. This lavish spectacle is attended by thousands of onlookers each year.

Silver mining has always played a big role in shaping Kutna Hora, giving it economic wealth and prominence. The presence of silver-bearing ores in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands led Kings to establish mining laws to regulate production. But the “Ius Regale Montanorumi” implemented in 1300 by King Wenceslas II was extremely detailed for its time. This mining law dealt with basic rules as well as administrative and technical conditions required for the operation of mines. It was so exhaustive, in fact, that it was used for six centuries, only being updated 60 years ago in 1957.

The annual Royal Silvering festival is put on by Kutna Hora’s Silver Museum, which celebrates its 140th anniversary this year. Attendants can learn more about the role silver mining played in Europe over the centuries by visiting the Silver Museum’s historical sites, including the silver mine itself.

May 2017: 70th Season of the Cannes Film Festival

Every spring, the city of Cannes, France welcomes film lovers from all over the world for the annual Festival de Cannes. This year, the event will have its 70th season of celebrating the art of film and previewing new films of all genres from 17 to 28 May at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.

Today’s films are almost exclusively digital, and everything from the cameras they’re shot with to the computers they’re edited on require all sorts of metals and other raw materials like silicon. But when the Cannes Film Festival began 70 years ago, films were still made using actual film.

Film itself was discovered by accident in 1727 when German doctor Johann Henrich Schulze mixed chalk, silver and nitric acid to make silver nitrate. He found that when his solution was exposed to sunlight, it changed color, and he was able to make imprints on the solution with sunlight and cutouts. Over the next few centuries, the film we’re familiar with was developed and improved upon numerous times, but the same basic principles still applied.

April 2017: Earth Day

On Sunday, April 22 people around the globe will celebrate the world we live on and learn more about how we can work to protect our environment. For the mining industry, this means both extracting raw materials in sustainable ways and producing raw materials that are essential for environmentally friendly technologies. In the EU, all mining endeavors are required to include restoration plans in the budget before they can begin.

But this Earth Day, we’re exploring the role of raw materials in one of the amazing technological advances contributing to green energy: the wind turbine. Wind energy is one of the cleanest and safest energy sources, and these machines are an incredible example of an innovative use of minerals.

In addition to several tons of copper and aluminum, these sleek structures contain up to several hundred tons of steel, which includes a number of highly engineered metals. The tower is made more weather-resistant and durable with molybdenum and zinc, electric steel in the generator optimizes conversions of motion into energy and high-tech steel bearings that connect all the parts ensure low maintenance and high performance. The steel lasts for about 30 to 40 years in a turbine, but it’s completely recyclable at the end of this application, reducing its environmental impact.

The use of wind turbines has increased by 25 percent over the past decade, and the rate of growth of wind energy is increasing. The mining industry plays a crucial role in helping this progress continue.

March 2017: FIS Snowboard World Championships

From the 7th to the 19th of March, competitors from around the world will come to Sierra Nevada in Spain to show off their skills in the disciplines of Slopestyle, Halfpipe, Big Air and more. The earliest version of a snowboard dates back to 1929, and was little more than a plank of plywood. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the sport became increasingly popular, and equipment became increasingly advanced.

Today’s snowboards still start out with a wooden core, but they also contain fiberglass and steel. After the wood is cut and laminated, steel edges are attached to give riders more control. Then lightweight fiberglass made from raw materials such as silica sand, limestone and soda ash is added to the top and bottom. Then resin binds it all together. Stainless steel inserts are placed on top of the board, which the riders step into with their boots. And the riders we’ll see at this year’s world championships are sure to impress.

February 2017: 170th birthday of Thomas Alva Edison

This February we celebrate the 170th birthday of the great American inventor, Thomas Edison. Edison holds 1,093 US patents, plus more in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. His technological developments include the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and an electric light bulb that was practical enough for common use.

Edison’s inventions led to entirely new industries of sound and image recording. Out of all the devices we have today that can be traced back to Edison, record players are perhaps the closest to his original invention of the phonograph. To make records, metals such as silver, nickel, and aluminium are used to create masters of recordings. Those metal masters are then used to press vinyl with the ridges that produce sound.

January 2017: Automobile fuelled by gas patented 130 years ago

Karl Benz had always been a creative and skilled inventor, but in January of 1886 he successfully patented the first automobile fueled by gas. Benz continued to modify and improve his invention and changed transportation forever. His idea is still being modified today, and we see new models of cars and other vehicles each year.

The design of the car has evolved a lot over the decades and a range of different materials are used for their production. For example, high-strength steel and carbon fibre is used to improve crash protection of the vehicle and to lower the weight. Body panels, engine blocks, roofs, wheels and fuel tanks however are often made with aluminium.

December 2016: Christmas

Well over 20 raw materials are used to create a decorated Christmas tree. They are present in every stage of the process, from the sulfur in the fertilizer at tree farms, to the steel blade that cuts down the tree, to the iron and copper in the ornaments. The lights alone require over a dozen raw materials to work. Raw materials may be the last thing on your mind when you enjoy the beauty of a Christmas tree, but the mining industry is what makes our enjoyment possible.

November 2016: World Television Day

In December 1996 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21st November as World Television Day commemorating the date on which the first World Television Forum was held in 1996.

Despite some debate about this official day, it was decided that televisions had more benefits than one would think. For example, as stated on The World Television Day website, “(Televisions are) a cornerstone of democracy and a pillar of freedom of expression and cultural diversity...”

Your television at home is made up of a variety of raw materials, some that you many not even expect. Glass is the largest component of a flat-screen TV and it’s the starting point for TV creation. Modern television also use neon, xenon and argon gases combined into phosphor gas for the cells that make up their displays. Cerium is used inside your TV to improve the color of your screen. The electronics and case feature materials such as plastics, copper, tin, zinc, silicon, gold and chromium.

October 2016: Oktoberfest

Every year from mid September to mid October, Munich hosts the world's largest beer festival with more than 6 million people attending from around the world. The event? Oktoberfest of course!

Having started in 1910, the festival has become a much loved part of Bavarian culture and visitors can enjoy an array of attractions including amusement rides, games, side stalls and traditional foods. Perhaps the most popular of all however is the consumption of Oktoberfest beer with a total of 7.7 million litres of beer being served at the festival in 2013.

Making a good quality beer is a complicated process. Balacing the minerals and the ph levels of the water used to make beer can greatly affect the taste and colour of beer. For example, dark beer cannot be brewed in Pilsen, Czech Republic and light lagers cannot be brewed in Dublin without adding the proper type and amount of buttering salts.

Generally, the water in Munich is high in carbonates which means that the smooth flavours of the dunkels, bocks and oktoberfests of the region also have a relatively low sulphate content enabling a malt flavour to dominate.

September 2016: Wine harvesting season

For winemakers in Europe, September is a very important month for this is when the harvesting of wine grapes (vintage) occurs and it is one of the most crucial steps in the process of wine-making. A winemaker will know it is time to harvest the grapes by the ripeness of the grape which is measured by sugar, acid and tannin levels.

Many winemakers use fertilisers to enhance their grape production. Fertilisers made from potash, phosphate rock, sulphur and nitrogen enable agriculture to flourish. Phosphates and potash (salts that contain water-soluble potassium) are both extracted directly from minerals. Phosphorus is important for the development of the roots, flowers, fruits and seeds. Phosphorus is mined from limestones and mudstones with a high phosphate content.

August 2016: Olympic Games Rio 2016 – Olympic medals

At last, the moment for sport fans all over the world has come. Rio 2016 is here!

To say that a lot of planning has taken place for these Olympic Games is an understatement and the work behind the design and creation of the Olympic medals is no exception.

The design on each medal celebrates the power and strength of the athletes and the forces of nature.

Strict environmental and labour laws as well as sustainability criteria needed to be met in the making of these medals which means that the 500g gold, silver and bronze medals have been made using a variety of different materials. Left over mirrors, waste solders and x-ray plates were used in making the medals which consist of recycled raw silver at 92.5% purity.

The bronze medal contains some zinc and tin as well as copper. 40% of the copper used in the bronze medals came from waste at the Mint itself. The substance was melted and decontaminated to provide material for the medals.

Image credit: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro

July 2016: UEFA Euro 2016 - Stade de France

The Stade de France is the national stadium of France, just north of Paris in the commune of Saint-Denis. It was originally built for the FIFA world cup in 1998 and has had much use since - including hosting matches of UEFA Euro 2016.

Much attention of the building was paid to enhancing the experience of the spectators. For example: the 80,000 spectators are protected without covering the playing field and all lighting and sound, which include 550 lights and 36 blocks of 5 speakers, are housed inside to avoid obstructing visibility. The tinted glass in the center reduces the contrast and distributes natural light. It filters out red and infrared radiation, how-ever, it allows blue and green lights, due to their necessity involving the health of the turf.

The elliptical shape of the Stade de France symbolises the universality of sport in France and the building itself is considered a technical marvel by many. It has been awarded a prize by the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABC), recognising the unique structure.

June 2016 – Gotthard Base Tunnel opened on 1st June 2016

In 1947 Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner sketched the rough design for a rail tunnel under the Gotthard Pass. Nearly 7 decades and more than 12 billion Swiss francs later, the tunnel was opened in June 2016. The Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) runs through the Alps in Switzerland and has a route length of 57 km (35.4 mi) and a total of 151.84 km (94.3 mi) of tunnels, shafts and passages, making it the world's longest and deepest traffic tunnel and the first flat low-level route through the Alps.

High-tech ready-mix concrete was used for the tunnel construction and the 400,000 tons of cement required were delivered by rail in a carefully managed process. During the construction of the tunnel, 100% of the aggregates used had to be from recycled excavated material. This was a challenge due to differences in their relative moisture and quality. To control for this however, microwave sensors were installed in the aggregate silos and additives which were specially adapted to the varying aggregate compositions were used.

Photo copyright: © AlpTransit Gotthard Ltd.

May 2016: 700th anniversary of Charles IV’s birth, Prague, Czech Republic

Many could say that the charm and magic of Prague can be attributed to the Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV, born in May 1316. He stands among the most exceptional personages of Czech and European history and had a fine taste for architecture and design. It was during his reign that Prague became the Imperial seat that many are still drawn to today. It has been 700 years since Charles’ birth and the city is marking the date with a wide array of commemorative events ranging from exhibitions to historical-themed festivities, conferences, celebrations and special programmes for visitors such as themed tours and walks, including a walk on Charles bridge - the stone heart of Prague. Many will walk across the bridge, with those in mind of the famed many who had done so before since the 14th century, in the sure hope that this architectural gem of Charles IV will last for times to come.

April 2016: 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, Stratford upon Avon, UK

It has been 400 hundred years since the beloved British playwright and poet, William Shakespeare died. To celebrate and commemorate his life and work, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK are hosting a celebration which will commence on Shakespeare’s birthday weekend, 23rd and 24th April. From theatrical performances, to a grand parade as well as the opening of the “New Place” (Shakespeare’s re-imagined last home), fans of the playwright will not want to miss this event.

Stratford-upon-Avon is the home of the Royal Shakespeare company (RSC) and although it is a small town, it has become an international centre for dramatic art, attracting the biggest names in the field. The RSC own the Royal Shakespeare Theatre which houses 1,040+ people and is dedicated to William Shakespeare. The theatre cohesively brings many styles together - gothic, art deco and modern and uses rusted steel to steel as smooth as glass.

March 2016: ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli Mission - Launch Period

Does life exist on Mars? ESA are on the mission on find out. As part of the ExoMars programme, a Trace Gas Orbiter plus demonstrator module known as Schiaparelli was sent to Mars and arrived there in March 2016. The main purpose for the mission is to search for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signs of active biological or geological processes.Watch this ‘space’!

February 2016: Carnival of Venice, Italy

Every February, the famous Carnival of Venice takes place in Venice, Italy, which is world-famous for its elaborate masks.

Venetian Masks can be classified into two major groups - Commedia Dell'Arte and Carnival Masks. Both groups have particular characters, gender specifics and numerous vivid legends which surround them.

Historically and traditionally, genuine Venetian Masks are created and decorated by hand. The adornments are made of materials such as feathers, rhinestones, macram and even gold or silver leaf (to name a few). Each mask is a unique piece of artwork. They are usually made of leather, porcelain, papier mâché or with the original glass technique. .

January 2016: European Capital of culture – San Sebastian, Spain

The Spanish city San Sebastian has lately gained even more significance when it officially became the European Capital of culture in January 2016. In the upcoming months, many of the cultural events in this city will be held in the Kursaal - one of San Sebastian’s unique architectural buildings.

The Kursaal was designed by Radael Moneo and is composed of two large translucent glass cubes that represent ‘two bleached rocks’ and were intended to perpetuate geology and emphasise the harmony between the natural and artificial world.

The building won the Contemporary Architecture Mies van der Rohe Award, the most important in Europe, for “the exceptional character” of the project and its “conceptual, aesthetic, technical and constructive innovation.”