Living with minerals
The UK National Minerals Forum, launched in November 2006, has set its agenda for the coming year. It brings together representatives from Government departments, county councils, regional and devolved assemblies, industry, and environmental organisations to overcome the piecemeal approach to long-term strategic thinking in the minerals sector and identify issues requiring a coherent response.
The Forum has established four working groups that will address areas of immediate concern:
- Continuity and security of the supply of aggregates, silica sand, open cast coal and fluorspar reserves.
- Minerals extraction from national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.
- Carbon and the implications for future mineral supply.
- Cumulative impact of legislation and policy.
Armed with a small budget, an expert in the area and a convener, each group will identify areas for further research or propose solutions. These outputs will be presented to the main Forum and wider industry for discussion at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Living with Minerals 3 conference on 3 November 2008, in London, UK.
Nigel Jackson, Chair of the CBI Minerals Group, says, ‘We are trying to take bite size projects on an annual basis and throw them at mixed groups of people. Working groups don’t have to reinvent work that has already been done. We want them to come up with issues from existing published work, collating and examining the data.’
Following the conference, information will be fed to Government advisors in the Forum (representing Defra, the Department of Communities and Local Government, and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) to try to influence public policy. ‘This is a completely new way of doing business,’ says Jackson.
The Forum will also review ‘live issues’. Jackson explains, ‘We are concerned that the EU Soils Framework Directive, which is in consultation, could inhibit our ability to extract minerals [when they] involve the removal of soils. The Forum is a good place to have everyone in the room and say, “what do you think about this?”’ He adds, ‘The transposition of the EU Mines Waste Directive is also worrying. The main objective was to make sure that category A sites are subject to a licensing regime. Initially, we were led to believe that these sites would be few and far between and might touch on china clay workings and large open cast sites, [but] there is a risk now that it could affect all sites.’
Ultimately, Jackson believes the UK Government could do more to support the sector. ‘There isn’t one overarching statement from Government that really nails down the essential need for non-energy minerals to the economy [and our way of life]. The UK is fortunate to have a wide range of minerals resources, and where they can be worked, they should be, provided environmental considerations are taken into account. ‘We have indigenous materials that imports would find difficult to compete with – this is a national asset.’