EGU23-14481, updated on 26 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Project VECTOR – researching challenges to mining in Europe through a robust ethics structure.

Chris Stockey1, Sarah Gordon1, Rose Clarke1, Emily Lewis1, and the VECTOR Partnership*
Chris Stockey et al.
  • 1Satarla, London, UK, (
  • *A full list of authors appears at the end of the abstract

VECTOR (Vectors to Accessible Critical Raw Material Resources in Sedimentary Basins) is an EU Horizon and UKRI co-funded research project assessing the social, technical, and environmental challenges to mining critical raw materials in Europe. Our commitment to geoethics is informed by the diverse partnership’s research expertise and our social science research. We will incorporate these learnings into all subsequent research and outreach programmes to promote good practice. Our dedicated ethics structure ensures that we put this commitment into practice. This approach to project ethics is a first for a Horizon Europe project.

Plans for decarbonisation presented in the EU Green Deal include achieving Net Zero by 2050 and reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). Meeting the supply of renewable energy needed to achieve these goals requires a sharp increase in production, and a more responsible use, of critical raw materials. Recycling alone cannot meet the projected demand. Sourcing raw materials from inside the EU, where suitable environmental, social, and political regulations could be implemented, may be instrumental in securing an ethical provision of metals. However, mineral projects face complex social, environmental, and technical challenges in the EU. VECTOR will explore these challenges through social- and geoscience research, integrating the results of both research streams into easy-to-understand resources.

The VECTOR consortium is committed to ensuring the highest level of ethical standards during the project, with respect to both conduct and outputs. To put this commitment into practice, the VECTOR consortium has appointed an Ethics Advisor, responsible for advising the project on ethical matters and Chairing an Independent Ethics Committee, which will bring subject matter expertise to ethical deliberations. The Ethics Advisor and the Independent Ethics Committee sit within an ethics governance framework that interacts with, but is independent of, the Project governance framework. This ensures that ethical matters arising during the course of the Project are considered by expert, neutral third parties who are not otherwise directly invested in the Project, and that their advice is given due weight in Project decision making processes and practically implemented. This approach is a first for a Horizon Europe project, and one we hope will set the bar for strong ethical project management across the Horizon universe.

This will also be informed by our social science research to understand how stakeholders balance the ethical, social, economic, political, and environmental consequences of sourcing critical raw materials. The aim is to understand how levels of social acceptance influence attitudes, decisions and policy acceptance. Insights gained from this will inform good practice standards in our other research and be used to develop outreach tools targeting all stakeholder groups, informing their future decision making. These include policy makers and the much-overlooked public, as well as continued professional development pathways for geoscientists.

Taken together, our ethics structure and social science research provide a robust geoethics framework that will evolve with our new understandings and inform our work to investigate a socio-environmentally sustainable supply of raw materials.

VECTOR Partnership:


How to cite: Stockey, C., Gordon, S., Clarke, R., and Lewis, E. and the VECTOR Partnership: Project VECTOR – researching challenges to mining in Europe through a robust ethics structure., EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-14481,, 2023.