|“Let us leave this world a little better than how we found”. It’s not just the slogan of an environmental movement but rather the philosophy of Gruppo Minerali Maffei, Italian leader and one of the most important player in the field of raw materials for production of glass, ceramic and sanitary-ware industries.||
“Actually the mining sector, by its nature, is at a point of no return. That’s not just because of the lacks of new deposits, but overall for a new kind of concept that also a company like ours, which is involved in this field since decades, should never forget: the exploitation of the mineral raw materials is essential to the life of our society, but all the technology and intelligence applied to the exploitation of natural resources are void if we fail to leave our children a welcoming environment where to live.” Dr. Eugenio Salvaia
Gruppo Minerali Maffei was set up in 2008 following the merger of two historic Italian groups in the mining sector: Maffei, founded in the 1901 and Gruppo Minerali operating since the ‘70s.
“When Gruppo Minerali was founded” remembers Dr. Eugenio Salvaia, Commercial Director of the group “in Italy there were no more mining reserves of good quality minerals (quartz, silica sands, feldspars, kaolin or clay); the existing ones were owned by Maffei and few other companies. Gruppo Minerali found its own way to become part of the market, focusing on the mineral treatments to recover poor raw materials.”
During the 80s and the 90s Gruppo Minerali grown through the acquisition of new companies; the Maffei SPA instead was purchased by Gruppo IRIS, the world leader in the production of glazed ceramic and glazed porcelain tiles for wall and floor.
In 2000 Gruppo Minerali established a new holding company, Mineral Resources, which became soon a launching pad for many international projects. In 2001 the group opened its first plant in Bulgaria, following new ones in Mexico, Guatemala, Czech Republic, Brazil, Colombia, Tunisia and recently, after the merger with Maffei, in Egypt.
The acquisition of Maffei in 2007 - and subsequently the creation of the holding company Gruppo Minerali Maffei in 2008 - meant for both the opportunity to compensate their own weaknesses: for Gruppo Minerali had the possibility to process, with his own proprietary technology, raw materials extracted from ex Maffei's reserves; for Maffei to valorize, through appropriate mineral treatments, raw materials that before was discarded.
Gruppo Minerali Maffei actually is an holding with several subsidiaries worldwide. It engages circa 400 employees, among which 270 have been operating in Italy. The corporate governance is still based in Novara, Piedmont. The 2010 revenue of the group was 138 million euro, with a 9-10% growth. The 2011 expectations should be on the same level.
“During the 2009 economical crisis, the mining sector had a 30% decrease, in the tiles market. Our 2009 revenue decreased to 114 million euro.” Otherwise every cloud has a silver lining. “Nevertheless, not all the fields where we operate were performing badly. For example, the glass market, due to our enveloping techniques in the recovering materials, was firm, specially in the field of container glass used as holder in the food industry.”
The engagement in the recovering market is for the Italian mining group more than a way to survive during the economical crisis.
“Actually the mining sector, by its nature, is at a point of no return” confirms Dr. Salvaia. “That’s not just because of the lacks of new deposits, but overall for a new kind of concept that also a company like ours, which is involved in this field since decades, should never forget: the exploitation of the mineral raw materials is essential to the life of our society, but all the technology and intelligence applied to the exploitation of natural resources are void if we fail to leave our children a welcoming environment where to live.”
With this awareness, Gruppo Minerali Maffei has been committing itself on environmental projects, which represent, due to its absolutely advanced and innovative approach, new successful steps in the mining field.
“Our efforts are focalized mainly on two fronts” continues Dr. Salvaia. “At first recovering areas affected by excavation, creating theme-parks. For example, through our associated company, SASIL, we have reevaluated in Italy such areas as Gabella Pond, Nolizza Area, Arcobaleno Park and Aurora Park. These areas are allocated to social fruition, equipped with fixed structures for services, shelter for animals and storage equipment for park maintenance. But overall our focus is concentrated on a developing of a new system for scrap glass waste otherwise destined to waste dump. This new system is possible thanks to the implementation of the law concerning waste separation in Italy at the end of the 80s. The project started in 2005 after funding by European Community.”
The SASIL treatments are developed through a long process that uses advanced technology in order to extract ceramics and glass from waste materials. The resulting production is destined for 80% to the glass market, for 15% to the ceramic market and for 5% to brick industry. The advantages are evident, not just for the environment, but also for the production, due to the reduction of energy consumption, as the cullet melts better than the combination of raw materials used in glass. Today Gruppo Minerali Maffei has been recovering just in Northern Italy about 240,000 ton of glass per year.
Although the success, the diffusion of this system in other area where Gruppo Minerali Maffei is present, is not so easy. “Our recovering system means a clear benefit for the entire community” says Dr. Salvaia “but it is impossible to apply it in areas where there is not a proper waste policy. We already tried to implement it in Mexico, but it partially failed due to the lack of an environmental law. Environmental projects are for sure the future, but they need to be supported by the local government through funding and appropriated law-system. Otherwise any efforts by industrial companies will be always worthless.”
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