Between the 9th and the 12th of March 2020, the two Horizon 2020 funded projects PACIFIC and INFACT have jointly organised their ‘Winter School on Sustainable Mineral Exploration’ at the International Campus of Andalusia (Huelva, Spain). The main goal of the school was to present the techniques and knowledge on sustainable mineral exploration that have been developed within the INFACT and PACIFIC projects, providing a stimulating mixture of lectures, practical sessions and visits to former mining sites.

The school targeted an audience of European master students, PhDs and post-doctoral researchers. In total, the event gathered 53 students from 13 different countries, of which 40 could attend physically and another 13 who followed parts of the school remotely. Videoconferencing was a last-minute adaptation made by the organisers to allow for the participation of students affected by travel bans, quarantine, or other restrictions due to the Corona outbreak across Europe.

Despite the sanitary situation which led the organisers to carefully monitor international health recommendations and make several last-minute adaptations, the winter school was a successful event. 19 speakers, involving beside the project partners also representatives from the European Commission and EIT RawMaterials, conveyed the school’s goal of building wider society awareness of the raw materials value chain, including exploration activities, best-practices and societal and environmental issues.

Feedback received from participants suggests that the winter school succeeded in explaining the current state of mineral exploration in Europe and challenged participants to learn about low-impact methods and their roles in an exploration framework. The students were eager to learn, and the organisers received lots of positive feedback during and after the course. The rapid rate of subscription to the school, which obliged the organisers to close the registration in advance, suggests the willingness of both the research community and industry to further investigate sustainable techniques for mineral exploration in Europe.

As stated by one of the participants: “I really liked how geology, geophysics and social sciences were brought together in these four days. The presentations and the workshops gave an excellent insight in these fields and also the importance of their combined practice was emphasised in an instructive manner.”

Both INFACT and PACIFIC are thrilled about this successful cooperation between the two Horizon 2020 projects, even more so as the school provided a collaborative space where researchers from both projects were able to plan new scientific collaborations.

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