We exploited coal, we talked about shale gas, the mine… it is now the zinc, which overflows the Walloon soil, that catches our attention. Is there really a real industrial potential that could create sustainable jobs in Wallonia?
You should know that in the 19th century, Liege was one of the world centres of zinc production. However, operations at the time did not go beyond 100m of depth, while this metal can be buried up to 2000m beneath our feet. ‘All the wealth of the region was built on iron, coal and especially zinc’, says Eric Pirard, a professor at the University of Liege. ‘We have only scratched the surface and we do not really have a good knowledge of what remains’.
It’s been several months since many companies have asked permission to the regional administrative services to start their geological research. Regarding mine gas, a study of the Faculty of Mons has shown that there is not enough to justify the interest of these companies: 50 millions of m³/km² in the central region, taking into account the potential gas that could be trapped in the old mining cavities. With this in mind, the Minister Henry, in charge of Environment and Spatial Planning would like to see the creation of a Geological Service that would be responsible for maintaining an inventory of exploitable resources in the Walloon soil.
The Belgian-Canadian President of Golden Share Mining Corporation, Philippe Giaro, is convinced that in terms of the level of richness of the minerals, Wallonia could compete with the best quality and the best grades in the world. ‘In Ireland, mines are closing down because the deposits are exhausted. In Wallonia, we have a very similar soil and we should exploit the zinc mineralizations that are known and study the subsoil in depth’.
Major industrial groups in Canada, Great Britain and Australia have already expressed a keen interest in exploiting the Walloon Zinc. There is a need to define the priorities in the context of sustainable economic development, and to develop the tools to make the best use of these resources while increasing the level of knowledge of possibilities.
Pierre Castelain, spokesman of Minister Henry, told that he sees a lever to create a new economic activity. ‘The wealth is there and we must give it value. The public authorities have a role to play and they will help investors to come and exploit this soil. Given the economic climate, anything that can create jobs with good conditions is worth supporting’.