Making UK indigenous minerals matter
The importance of the UK’s indigenous minerals should be seen and heard, particularly in the current economic climate, concluded delegates in interactive sessions at the Living with Minerals 3 conference, held in London, UK, on 3 November. Their concerns about the future of the industry are to be fed into a document that will be presented to UK Government representatives, with the intention of informing policy.
The event was part of an ongoing campaign by the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) UK National Minerals Forum to highlight some of the difficulties facing the minerals industry in securing a licence to operate in the UK. It seeks an overarching statement of support from the Government about the importance of the industry to the UK economy and society.
Whether Government takes notice remains to be seen, but Nigel Jackson, Chair of the CBI Minerals Group, says, ‘if we do not try, we will achieve nothing. We are lucky to have these resources’.
John Cridland, Director General of the CBI, adds, ‘The economy depends on the healthy supply of energy and non-energy minerals. Our shortage could hinder our ability to recover from [the economic downturn]’. This is particularly in light of a squeeze from resource-rich developing countries who face their own growing demands for minerals for construction and energy.
The Forum, which comprises representatives from Government, county councils, industry and environmental organisations, explored four key areas from 2007/8 through its working groups. Its findings were put up for discussion at the conference, attended by a broad range of stakeholders, through electronic voting.
Working Group 1 – Declining minerals reserves and future security of supply
Chair Andrew Bloodworth, Head of Science for Minerals at the British Geological Society, explained how the UK needs to improve planning guidance to balance economic demand with environmental need, as well as develop transport and storage infrastructure. Linking up hard rock quarries through the railway network should be an option. The most popular solution for delegates was to establish a new National Minerals Authority, with public opposition to mineral development cited as the most serious threat to supply.
Comments from attendees include – ‘The problem with the Regional Aggregate Working Parties is that they do not have political teeth.’ ‘We need to look at two levels of decision making with a national minerals authority for strategic decisions advising Government and at local level’.
Working Group 2 – Minerals extraction in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty
Of the 2,100 active minerals works in the UK, 46% are in national parks (NPs). Ruth Chambers, Deputy Chief Executive of the Campaign for National Parks and a member of Working Group 2, explained that ‘alternatives do need to be found’, as supply from these parts and areas of outstanding natural beauty is likely to decline before 2042. Fifty-nine per cent of attendees agreed that the Government should actively encourageaggregate production outside these areas, with 72% proposing that recycled or secondary aggregates are the best alternatives.
However, there was a conflict of opinion. Points raised include – ‘It’s never too late to look at reworking aggregates in NPs. We need to look more closely at the alternatives and how sustainable they really are. And we must understand what the public reaction really is to quarrying in the parks.’ ‘I think minerals should be got where they can be got. Quarries in NPs are of beauty in their own right’. ‘You need planning officers that have worked in industry.’
Working Group 3 – Carbon and proximity of mineral supply
The UK Government aims to raise the target of carbon emission reduction to 80% by 2050. Lester Hicks, Chair of the Working Group, explained that although the minerals industry’s carbon contribution is relatively low, it ‘needs to up its game to reduce emissions before the Government steps in’ with mandatory requirements. An industry-led assessment was considered most favourable by delegates. Comments include – ‘Many people buying minerals want to know the embodied carbon'. ‘How can we achieve carbon reduction in transportation?’
Working Group 4 – Cumulative impact of policy, legislation and regulation
Simon van der Byl, Director General of the UK Quarry Products Association, explained that 89% of environmental legislation comes from Brussels. He said ‘Minerals development spans several decades and will have to compete with several changes in policy, some of which might affect viability’. Forty-four per cent of attendees voted that the UK Government should ensure that EU legislation does not put the UK at a competitive disadvantage.
Further information: Confederation of British Industry
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