Future Minerals Scenarios for the UK

Mankelow, Joseph; Highley, David. 2014 Future Minerals Scenarios for the UK. UK Minerals Forum, 37pp. (Unpublished)

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UK Minerals Forum Futures Working Group - Final Report 08102014.pdf

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Need - Adequate and resilient supplies of minerals are essential to support the growth and success of the UK economy and therefore the well-being of its population. Resources - Geology is fundamental to which minerals may be produced domestically. The UK is fortunate in being relatively well endowed with mineral resources, and their extraction and use have played an important role in the historic development of the economy. The UK continues to have an economically important minerals industry, with oil, gas, and construction the dominant sectors by tonnage and value. Although UK coal production is much diminished, coal still makes a vital contribution to our current energy mix. A number of industrial minerals support downstream industries and some important export markets. In addition, the UK’s mineral potential still attracts interest - a major new tungsten mine in Devon will start production in 2015. However, the UK is not self-sufficient in a number of key sectors, particularly metals and, increasingly, energy - oil, gas and coal. The future potential to access unconventional energy resources, notably shale gas, is as yet unknown and requires significant further investigation. History - Major changes in the fortunes of each of the UK’s extractive sectors have occurred in the last four decades. Overall the trend has been one of decline, annual volumes of minerals production and consumption being roughly 200 Mt lower (by about 35%) in 2011 than in 1970, although this decline partly reflects the recent recession. A decoupling of economic growth with apparent minerals consumption suggests greater resource efficiency but this may mask under-investment in infrastructure and the move of manufacturing overseas. Nevertheless minerals remain the largest material flow in the economy with some 290 million tonnes produced in 2012, of which 193 million tonnes was from onshore. Drivers of change - Future demand and supply of the products of the UK minerals industry will be affected by a number of external factors. Major drivers of change include: • growth in the economy; • the security and cost of energy supplies; • future investment in construction and infrastructure; • evolving technology; • the balance between the benefits of minerals extraction and the associated impacts on the environment and society; and • the political (and regulatory) framework within which the minerals industry operates. With rapidly declining domestic reserves of oil and gas, ensuring energy supplies at a cost acceptable to consumers as well as the environment is crucial. Despite the prospects of large shale gas resources, commercial evaluation in the UK is still in its infancy and commercial viability as yet unknown. Future population and household growth will require large-scale investment in more housing and new and improved infrastructure, including energy. These in turn will drive demand for construction materials (aggregates, cement, ready-mix concrete, asphalt, bricks, tiles, glass and plaster products), all of which are currently UK-sourced. Some, like cement, lime, bricks and glass manufacture are also energy-intensive. Delivery - It remains to be seen whether regulatory systems and high energy costs frustrate the delivery of the essential raw materials needed by the UK economy over the next 35 years. Balancing such factors with the UK’s carbon reduction targets for 2050 is also challenging. Conclusion - Future minerals supply, whether through imports or domestic production, cannot be taken for granted. Access to long-term supplies of minerals is of crucial importance if the UK is to achieve sustainable growth, a balanced economy, security of energy supply, renewal of infrastructure and increased climate change resilience. This cannot be left entirely to private industry or global markets. It is the responsibility of Government to establish an appropriate policy, regulatory and fiscal framework to encourage sustainable production that balances economic, social and environmental priorities. Given the crucial importance of minerals, and minerals-based products, to the economy and society, the Future Minerals Scenarios Working Group recommends that the minerals industry should work alongside policymakers and other interested stakeholders to develop a UK Minerals Strategy within the UK’s wider industrial strategy. With good will and determined effort it is surely possible to conserve what is essential in our landscapes, habitats and cultural heritage while meeting UK demand for minerals over the next 35 years to 2050.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Funders/Sponsors: UK Minerals Forum
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
General > Science Policy
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Date made live: 26 Nov 2014 13:56 +0 (UTC)

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