The government explores potential sites in the midst of the fight for critical materials
Under government plans to end dependence on China for vital materials, Britain’s coastlines could be opened for mining.
Ministers have announced plans to conduct a “national-scale evaluation” of the UK’s materials reserves for electronics, mobile phones and batteries.
Much of the work will be done on land. However, it is important to understand “the potential risks and environmental consequences of coastal water mineral extraction”.
This scoping is taking place against the backdrop of growing concern about supply chains following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The disruption of energy and good flow caused by sanctions and geopolitics has prompted a sharp focus on the source of crucial resources for nations.
Kwasi Kwarteng (the business secretary) said this week that the UK market was vulnerable to “market shocks,” geopolitical events, and logistical disruptions.
He said that critical minerals would become more important in the wake of Russia’s illegal invasion and transition away from volatile and expensive fossil fuels.
China is currently the largest supplier and processor of materials, which will continue to be in increasing demand as we shift towards greener energy. These materials are essential for the production and use of clean energy technologies such as batteries.
As relations between China and the West become more strained, China’s dependence is seen as a growing threat. Richard Moore, chief of MI6 said this week that countering China is now his top priority. This surpasses counterterrorism.
Crown Estate has the right to extract rights in coastal areas of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The UK already has a large dredging industry that supplies sand and gravel to engineering and building projects.
The Crown Estate granted Cornish Lithium rights in 2020 to search for lithium in geothermal waters near the south and north coasts of Cornwall.
Cornish Lithium is one of the newer developers looking to extract lithium in the UK, given the increasing demand for electric car batteries.
The UK is also exploring opportunities in the Pacific by using controversial deep-seabed mines.
It sponsored exploration licenses for UK Seabed Resources (a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin),
Ministers have committed not to support exploitation licenses until more information is available about the effects of the practice on the environment.
Last week, the UK announced that it will “continue contributing to discussions on deep seabed mining pressing to the highest environmental standards,” adding the Government.
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