Potential for critical raw material prospectivity in the UK

Deady, E.; Goodenough, K.M.; Currie, D.; Lacinska, A.; Grant, H.; Patton, M.; Cooper, M.; Josso, P.; Shaw, R.A.; Everett, P.; Bide, T.. 2023 Potential for critical raw material prospectivity in the UK. Nottingham, UK, British Geological Survey, 57pp. (CR/23/024N) (Unpublished)

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The UK Critical Minerals Strategy (BEIS, 2022) includes a commitment to “begin a nationalscale assessment of the critical minerals within the UK. By March 2023, we will collate geoscientific data and identify target areas of potential”. This report provides that national-scale assessment of the geological potential for critical raw materials in the UK. It represents the published output of a study, jointly funded by the British Geological Survey and the Department for Business and Trade, which reviewed available geoscientific data in order to identify areas of potential geological prospectivity for critical raw materials in the UK. Critical raw materials (CRMs) are those mineral commodities that are both economically important and at risk of supply disruption. The commodities addressed in this report are those identified as critical to the UK by the Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre (CMIC) (Lusty et al., 2021). These CRMs are currently obtained from mining across the world, but at the time of writing none are produced in the UK, although tungsten has been mined in recent years. Some CRMs such as lithium, tin and graphite are typically the primary products of mines, whereas others are produced as co- or by-products of major commodities such as gold, copper or zinc. Current understanding of the UK’s mineral resource endowment rests largely on evidence from historic mining and exploration, together with targeted academic research. The UK has an extensive history of mining that dates to prehistoric times. Gold, barite, fluorite, gypsum, potash and polyhalite are among the commodities that are currently mined, and exploration for many raw materials is occurring across the whole of the UK. The work presented in this report follows a methodology known as a mineral systems approach, which relies on the concept that all mineral deposits of a certain type were formed by a combination of particular geological processes (McCuaig et al., 2010). The processes that must operate for a mineral deposit to form are identified and translated into mappable target criteria derived from available datasets. Key datasets to be used would typically include geological maps, geochemical soil and stream sediment maps, geophysical maps, and mineral occurrence databases. The UK has full geological map coverage, but other datasets are incomplete, with high-resolution geophysical data only being available for limited areas. New stream sediment geochemistry maps were created as part of this work and are available on the CMIC interactive map portal1 , but the whole country is not covered for all elements. These data limitations mean that this report only provides a knowledge-driven assessment of geological potential for CRM prospectivity across the UK. It provides maps for CRMs (grouped or singly as geologically appropriate) indicating the areas where the geological criteria have been met and thus there is potential for deposits of these CRMs to occur. It is important to note that the maps represent areas of potential prospectivity, not where deposits of critical minerals are guaranteed to be found, and also that mineral deposits could be found beyond the identified prospective areas, where localised geological conditions are suitable. The areas identified in the maps can be considered as targets for more detailed research and exploration. This report focuses solely on the geological potential and does not consider other aspects such as environmental designations and planning considerations that may affect the development of a mineral deposit. Combining all the individual maps highlights areas that are prospective for several CRMs and are thus priority for further geological investigations. From north to south, these areas include: areas of prospective geology around Loch Maree near Gairloch; parts of the central Highlands and Aberdeenshire; areas of prospective geology in mid-County Tyrone in Northern Ireland; parts of Cumbria; parts of the North Pennine Orefield; areas in north-west Wales and Pembrokeshire; and south-west England. These areas should now be the focus for collection of new geological, geochemical and geophysical data, in order to identify new CRM prospects for detailed investigation.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Funders/Sponsors: British Geological Survey, Department for Business & Trade
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This item has been internally reviewed but not externally peer-reviewed.
Date made live: 29 Jun 2023 12:41 +0 (UTC)

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