Aluminium is the most widely used metal in the world after stainless steel. In fact, Aluminium and its alloys are the material for the future. A major growth in the consumption of this metal has taken place over the last 70 years. In 1950, the global production of primary aluminium was below five million tons. In 2019, it has gone up over 64 million tons. In an exclusive interview with Pratapaditya Mishra, President of Metef, Secretary General of the Federation of Aluminium Consumers in Europe (FACE), Mario Conserva strongly advocates for recognition of the entire aluminium industrial system – production of metal, alloys, semis, components and final products – as an essential sector.

Excerpts from the Interview:

Where does aluminium industry stand to-day?

Aluminium is a fundamental material for the global manufacturing sector. It is versatile and suitable for a very wide range of applications: building and construction, transport of all kinds, packaging, infrastructures, furniture, mechanics, electrical engineering, etc.

The global aluminium industry is worth about 800 billion euros, which accounts for just one per cent of the total world Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In Europe, more than 2,500 companies produce raw metal, semi-finished products and foundry castings, with over one million direct employees and a total annual turnover close to 60 billion euros. In Italy, which boosts Europe’s second largest aluminium industry after Germany, there are almost 1,000 direct companies, with a turnover of 13 billion euros.

Covid-19 pandemic has virtually crippled the global economy. How do you see the aluminium industry perform in such a vexing situation?

We are going through a delicate moment because of Covid-19 pandemic. The severe limitations issued on many commercial and industrial activities throughout the world have brought aluminium-related business to almost a halt in many countries. Therefore big questions about growth prospects concern the market of the light metal.

It is important to highlight that our industry produces vital materials used in essential sectors such as healthcare, food, energy and mobility, packaging for medicines as well as for food and drinks, electronic instrumentation, infrastructures for communication as well as for transmission and distribution of energy, vehicles for transport, plus a wide number of all kinds of durable goods.

Given the key importance of the light metal chain, I believe that the entire aluminium industrial system – production of metal, alloys, semis, components and final products – should be recognized as an essential sector.

Can you tell us about Metef?

Metef’s first fair was organized in Italy in 1997, and ever since has been the world’s global gathering hub for the sector’s purchasing, marketing, sales and technical operators.

At Metef, sales managers and buyers as well as engineers, designers and R&D managers, have always found a suitable context. Metef is the expo for all the players interested to know the newest solutions available across the entire industrial aluminium production chain. The Metef expo caters to metallurgy, advanced manufacturing, automotive, transportation, construction, mechanics, which are all industrial segments tightly linked to the light metal, because of its characteristics in terms of versatility and sustainability.

Aluminium helps to preserve the environment, and is a symbol of circular economy as well as the basis of almost any kind of industrial development.

What is your take on sustainable business practices?

World is looking at innovation and sustainability. The aluminium manufacturers all around the globe strive for continuous improvement in sustainability by the design, manufacture, and distribution of products and processes that protect customers, employees, users and the environment by minimizing the use of hazardous materials, minimizing waste, preventing pollution and conserving energy.

What needs to be done to proactively develop new contacts and ltwinks beeen the Italian and Indian aluminium systems?

First of all, both Indian and Italy are bound by a common thread of partnership. They need each other very much. The aluminium technologies create a bridge between Italy and India. India is a major producer of raw aluminium and Italy is a leading maker of aluminium semis and processing technologies so there are benefits to the alliance.

We have experienced the extent of such a fruitful collaboration since the international meeting organized at Metef 2017 by ArtValley, in association with India-based international aluminium portal AlCircle and Italy-based sectoral magazine A&L.

And how did it all progress?

In July 2018 we inaugurated the conference, Indo Italian Metal Hub, in Milano, with the presence of the President of Regione Lombardia HE Attilio Fontana. It was another significant event between institutions and entrepreneurs of both countries, in terms of knowledge as well as cultural and commercial exchange. The India-Italy business exchange platform for aluminium and metal has progressively grown.

In particular, in January 2018 on occasion of the Aluminium Age an important one-week-long business mission took place in India with conferences and B2B meetings in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

It was the opportunity for Indian and Italian aluminium and metallurgy players as well as politicians and diplomats to meet, build relationships and start business projects, with a particular focus on the issues of industrial parks, smart metal innovation, finance and the prospects of strengthening East-West economic, industrial and cultural ties.

Do you see the possibility of collaboration between the two proposed events INCAL and Metef in 2021?

As for the purpose of India-Italy mutual business opportunities, I particularly remember the words of Maurizio Sala, President of Amafond, “…..the Indian metallurgical industry is a crucial market for the Italian manufacturers of machinery and products”.
I therefore trust that at the Metef in Bolognafiere in March 2021, the event will mark the restart of aluminum as a metal symbol of industrial renaissance under the banner of the “Green Aluminum Label” proposed by FACE since last year in Brussels. It is going to be a great opportunity to further establish relationships of collaboration between the Italian and Indian systems of the light metal.

What is the main theme for the next Metef proposed to be held in Bolognafiere on 25-27 March 2021?

The new location of Metef 2021 is Bolognafiere, one of the biggest exhibition centres in Italy, located at a crossroads of the Italian manufacturing and metallurgical industries. The hub in the city of Bologna is equipped with infrastructures, easy to reach and highly appreciated by foreign visitors. This partnership is backed by Italy’s national and international trade associations of different sectors represented at Metef. Among them, there are Amafond, the Italian Foundry Suppliers’ Association, Centroal, the Italian Aluminium Association, and Face, the Federation of European Aluminium Consumers.

What is the new roadmap to Metef 2021 and beyond?

The motto we have chosen is, “Let’s restart with Metef for a new future”. Restarting is the will and ambition to get back to normal, reopen companies to start producing again while respecting the safety rules to protect the workers. It is the pride to face new challenges, and the awareness that many things have changed. It is following new paths and heads to targets, driven by motivations very different from the past but based on the added value of experience and foresight.

Metef wishes to help the firms offering to our people the opportunity to get back to work as a system based on new basic values.

The Green Deal – launched by the European Union to enhance the development of SMEs – and the new Circular Economy project, where aluminium plays a leading role for its continuous recyclability and environmental sustainability, are going to open a new season.

How do you see Odisha in this Indo-Italian Metal system?

Oh, we all know Odisha is the aluminium capital of India and all the major primary aluminum manufacturers are here with highest bauxite deposits in India. It is on a rise and has all the elements to become a powerful state shortly under the leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. A great leader!!! I will try for a meeting between Mr. Patnaik and our President of Regione Lombardia HE Attilio Fontana for a future collaboration between Odisha and Lomabardy, the richest region of Italy in the areas of metals, minerals, agriculture, fashion design, IT, healthcare, tourism and other areas.

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