Structural change in basic industries is usually interpreted as an autonomous economic process. Some authors claim that there is a tendency to use the "end of the era of materials", thus resulting in a decline of the basic industries. Such a process would obviously benefit the environment. Classic economic theories, which deal with structural change in a rather holistic way, correspond to this trend, predicting either a shift towards manufacturing and services or a relocation of old basic industries to developing countries. On the basis of this dematerialization hypothesis, comparative case studies analyze in detail the driving forces behind industrial restructuring with regard to different industries and countries in Europe, where such a decline has been observed in recent years.