The UK government’s new Critical Minerals Strategy aims to safeguard the UK’s supply security for critical raw materials. The strategy will be informed by the newly set up Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre, and its launch in July is due to be followed by a policy paper detailing its implementation.
The MMTA put questions on the Critical Minerals Strategy to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Its response is published here.
In which sectors and raw materials do we see the most urgent pinch point or threat to UK supply?
- The government set up the Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre (CMIC) in July this year, working with the British Geological Survey, to provide policymakers with up-to-date data and analysis to inform evidence-based policies aimed at developing more robust critical mineral supply chains.
- The CMIC will provide ‘criticality assessments’, which review the criticality of minerals for the UK. The first criticality assessment defines a list of 18 minerals which are considered ‘critical’, as listed in the Critical Minerals Strategy.
- This assessment will be updated over time to reflect changes in supply and demand.
How is the UK dealing with the fallout for the supply chain of sanctions on Russia in view of the war in Ukraine? Are Russian exports of specialty metals such as titanium, tungsten, cobalt and antimony likely to be sanctioned?
- The UK has led the international sanctions effort, cutting off whole sectors of the Russian economy. We will not stop targeting Russia’s economy until Ukraine prevails.
- Being highly dependent on any single country for specific goods creates vulnerabilities. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated how these risks can manifest themselves for a range of commodities.
- Sanctions are carefully targeted to avoid unintended consequences.
- The Critical Minerals Strategy sets out our ambitions to work with international partners to strengthen trading and diplomatic relationships, and efforts to make supply chains more diverse, transparent, responsible and resilient.
The UK is one of the world’s leading aerospace and defence manufacturers. What needs to be done and will be done to secure this supply chain given its critical raw materials are dominated by Russia and China?
- The Ministry of Defence (MOD) works with key suppliers to mitigate supply chain risks and worked with the rest of Government to develop the Critical Minerals Strategy.
Alongside Russia’s war in Ukraine, the world has been watching in alarm the escalating hostile rhetoric between China and Taiwan. What measures are in place or being put in place to protect the supply chain from the potential impact of any political escalation on trade with China, the world’s leading supplier of many critical metals?
- Through the Critical Minerals Strategy we are working to support the development of resilient, long-term supply chains for critical minerals.
- The government, together with G7 partners and the EU, is committed to maintaining the rules-based international order, peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and beyond.
The Critical Minerals Strategy proposes to increase the production of critical raw materials in the UK. What natural resources are there in the UK and how will this be achieved?
- The UK has pockets of mineral wealth, and promising projects in lithium, tin and tungsten extraction.
- We will identify what critical minerals there are in the UK through a national-scale assessment, collating geoscientific data and identifying target areas of potential.
- The government will signpost financial support and reduce barriers to domestic production of critical minerals, highlighting the UK as a strategic location for refining, recycling and manufacturing.
What environmental, legal and cost barriers are there, and how are they to be overcome without damaging UK’s commitment to environmental protection and net zero?
- The government wants to work with like-minded international partners to boost Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance in the critical minerals industry, worldwide. Our aim is to level the playing field for responsible UK businesses, who bear the extra costs of doing things the right way while others do not.
- ESG issues and risks can breed instability and make supply chains less resilient, putting up prices, impeding investment, and causing social, economic and environmental harms.
- We will champion London as the world’s capital of responsible finance for critical minerals, and develop well-functioning and transparent markets, through improved data and traceability.
What should/will the UK government do to enable the country to rebuild its skills in mining and minerals?
- The Critical Minerals Strategy sets out plans to review the UK’s skills, education and training along the critical minerals value chain and define a critical minerals skills blueprint, recognising the full breadth of skills we need.
- The Strategy calls for the government to work with Camborne School of Mines to boost its position as a world-leading mining school and launch a degree apprenticeship in mining engineering in 2023.
- The government will work with UK industry and careers services across the UK to deliver schools outreach on the importance of critical minerals and to modernise perceptions of mining.
What roles does the metal trade play in the Critical Minerals Strategy, and what can the UK do to safeguard its position as a hub for metal trading?
- The Critical Minerals Strategy calls for the City of London’s position as the global centre for metals trading to be used to support well-functioning markets, to help de-risk investments and development of new projects – all of which will support the City’s world-leading position.
- The Strategy calls for the government to work with stakeholders at home, abroad, and through the WTO to encourage more effective and transparent global critical minerals markets.
- The government will engage industry, standards organisations and the financial sector to promote the City of London as the centre of responsible mining finance and to facilitate responsible investment.
After Brexit, the failure to grandfather existing EU REACH registrations into UK REACH is causing £2bn worth of costly duplication for the industry and trade*. What will the government do to mitigate this and ensure no further disruptions to trade with the EU and other countries?
- The government is working with stakeholders to explore an alternative transitional registration model (ATR) for UK REACH. The aim of this model is to maintain or improve existing human health and environment protections while reducing costs to businesses.
- We believe the ATR model should reduce overall costs to the sector, as we would be moderating the elements of registration that require industry to provide the expensive hazard data packages.
- The government is consulting on extending the deadlines for registration in order to allow businesses sufficient time to meet the requirements of any alternative approach.
- ¨ The consultation to extend the deadlines opened on 5 July and closes on 1 September. Responses to this consultation will be used to inform decisions on changes to the submission deadlines. Necessary changes to legislation via a Statutory Instrument would be needed for any changes to the deadlines.
*The estimated £2bn cost is the potential cost of accessing the data held by EU companies. The UK government is consulting on extending the deadlines for full data submission under UK REACH potentially to October 2026. BEIS states that it is this deadline, not the April 2021 deadline for first stage notifications, that affects whether or not a metal can be legally placed on the market.
What developments need to take place in the recycling industry and how will this be supported and incentivised by the government?
- The Critical Minerals Strategy calls for the government to promote innovation for a more efficient circular economy for critical minerals in the UK, focusing public R&D funding on recycling, reuse, resource efficiency and substitution of critical minerals as part of the R&D blueprint.
- The government will signpost financial support to accelerate the development of a UK critical mineral circular economy, such as energy cost support schemes for eligible companies.
- We will look at regulatory ways to promote recycling and recovery, via the planned Defra consultation on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations later in 2022 and future consultation on end-of-life batteries.