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Why young scientists from all over the world are coming to St. Petersburg, despite sanctions

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Representatives from 19 countries from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America will take part in the traditional forum "Topical Issues Of Rational Use Of Natural Resources".

On Monday, May 16, the 18th international forum-contest of young scientists "Topical Issues Of Rational Use Of Natural Resources" will start at the St. Petersburg Mining University. Despite the unprecedented pressure of sanctions on Russia, this year, as before, it will bring together a very impressive audience: more than nine hundred people from 57 universities and organizations located in 19 countries around the world. About half of them will come to St. Petersburg in person. The rest will present their scientific research online.

Dan Wang, a postgraduate student at the China University of Mining and Technology, said this is not the first time she has participated in the competition, as have many of her fellow postgraduate students. Announcements inviting students to apply for the competition are posted on the Xuzhou University website every year. Many eagerly respond to them because they consider the forum a renowned international platform to promote academic careers.

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"Thanks to this competition, I felt much more confident, both in the lab and during scientific discussions. My confidence in my level of competence has increased, which has allowed me to achieve better results", the postgraduate student explained her motivation.

Another factor contributing to the growing interest of Chinese young people in the project of the Mining University, which is "well known in the international arena", is the long-standing partnership between the two institutions of higher education. These include student exchanges and joint scientific experiments aimed at acquiring new fundamental knowledge.

Pouya Abdollahpour of Iran's Sahand University of Technology said that he thoroughly studied information about the forum before applying to participate in it. Two factors contributed to the final decision. First, top managers of the largest mining and oil and gas corporations, as well as professors from the most prestigious Russian universities, traditionally play the role of the experts who assess the level of the young scientists' presentations. And secondly, "every year this event gathers more and more researchers on its platform, and the topics of their reports become more and more extensive".

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"In my opinion, this conference has a high reputation. Of course, I would like to become its laureate, because winning is important for everyone. But still, the most important thing is to get acquainted with new topics and ideas, the most topical directions of scientific thought today. It is necessary to constantly keep the hand on the pulse in order to ensure the competitiveness of your organization and state in the international arena," said Pooja Abdollahpour.

Herve Losaladjome Mboyo of the Congolese University of Mapon, which is named after the country's former prime minister. The young man believes that the prestigious list of sponsors and organizers (one of them is the International Competence Centre for Mining Education under the auspices of UNESCO) adds prestige to the competition. No less important is the practical importance of the reports presented.

"This forum is very much in demand, because without minerals humanity will simply be doomed to extinction. At the same time, we are all well aware that resources are not infinite. This means that we need to develop and master more and more advanced technologies related to their extraction and processing. In my opinion, winning such a competition could be an additional valuable asset in my career as a researcher, as well as a kind of door behind which new friendships and business connections await me," says the Congolese.

His research topic is the optimization of cobalt mining. It is known that the Congo has the largest reserves of cobalt in the world. And it is from there that the global market receives most of the metal - about 60%. However, Kinshasa is unable to make full use of such an obvious competitive advantage: illegal mining is well developed in the country, which means that considerable amounts of money earned from the sale of national treasures pass by the federal budget.

Recently, however, the Congolese authorities have faced another, no less serious challenge. Elon Musk, like some Chinese manufacturers, has excluded cobalt from the technological chain of battery production. Now nickel is used instead.

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"The Congolese state is making every possible effort to combat illegal cobalt mining and the illegal use of child labor in mines. Obviously, this practice, which is forbidden by law, must be a thing of the past. As for Elon Musk using a different raw material to do without cobalt in the production of batteries for electric cars, it's not the end of the world at all. I think the demand for the metal will still be quite high in the future due to the demand for it in other areas. For example, in the production of cell phones, computers, and so on," explained the relevance of his scientific research by Herve Losaladjome Mboyo.

But let's go back to Dan Wang from the China University of Mining and Technology. Her work focuses on the separation of coal and, at first glance, does not look unambiguous either. After all, in recent years this resource has been perceived by society, especially in the West, as a very dirty fuel that is causing climate change. This, of course, is a very controversial statement, but in Europe and the U.S. it has become an axiom. It is so indisputable that in some post-industrial states, students who plan to work for a coal company after graduation can be boycotted by their peers.

According to the postgraduate student, achieving carbon neutrality is the most important goal facing all civilization. Beijing plans to achieve it by 2060, passing the peak of carbon dioxide emissions in 2030. But for the foreseeable future, coal will remain China's main source of energy in any case. Obviously, without it the country's economy simply cannot exist.

"The objective conditions that have developed in certain regions of the planet are different. For example, coal is still considered the main source of energy in China, Turkey, South Africa, Mongolia, India and other developing countries. We cannot give it up right now, because in addition to ecology, there is also the economy and the need to provide a certain standard of living for the population. But, of course, the total use of coal will constantly decrease. In 2020, it accounted for 56.7% of China's energy consumption. It is projected that by the end of the 14th Five-Year Plan (in 3.5 years - ed.), this figure will drop to 50%, and by 2030 - to 45%," said Dan Wang.


She stressed that research related to coal enrichment is aimed, among other things, at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal combustion. So today 20 million tons of waste rock and 1.5 million tons of pyrite sulfur can already be removed from 100 million tons of raw materials using the technology of resource preparation at mining and processing plants. This makes it possible to reduce SO2 emissions by 500 thousand tons.

"I have no doubt that coal will remain a sought-after resource even after carbon neutrality is achieved. It is no secret that its gasification can produce, among other things, hydrogen, which many predict has a great future. In addition, we should not forget that the density of energy generated by wind turbines or solar panels is limited by weather and other conditions. This problem, unfortunately, cannot be solved in the short term with batteries. In short, there are a lot of interesting coal-related projects that require the close attention of scientists. As far as I know, our Russian colleagues are also engaged in similar research and, of course, I will be very interested to exchange views with them on the prospects of this energy resource," summarized the postgraduate student at the China University of Mining and Technology.

It should be noted that this year within the framework of the international forum-competition of young scientists "Topical Issues Of Rational Use Of Natural Resources", 23 sectional meetings will be held. These include, for example, "IInnovative Technologies In Hydrocarbon Deposits Development And Exploitation", "Methods of Exploration Geophysics" and "Waste Management, Water Treatment, Off-Gas Decontamination And Remediation Of Land".