The UK government announced on Monday that it has established a Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre (CMIC), under the British Geological Survey (BGS), and based in Nottingham in England. The purpose of the CMIC is to gather data and undertake analysis of the supply, demand and market dynamics of minerals and metals critical to modern technologies, such as cobalt, graphite and lithium. The aim is to strengthen the resilience of the UK’s critical minerals supply chain.
“Critical minerals are so important to every aspect of our daily lives, whether it’s the phones we use, the cars we drive, or the batteries in our laptops,” explained UK Industry Minister (equivalent to Deputy Minister in South Africa) Lee Rowley. “As the world shifts towards new green technologies, supply chains will become more competitive. That’s why we’re harnessing the British Geological Survey’s vast experience in geoscience, to ensure better access to these crucial resources, and support the delivery of our forthcoming Critical Minerals Strategy.”
“We are extremely pleased to host the new UK [CMIC],” affirmed BGS director Dr Karen Hanghøj. “The [BGS] has a strong reputation for its work on mineral and metal supply, and is internationally-known for its expertise on critical raw materials. Through the new [CMIC], we are looking forward to building on this track record to provide UK industry and policy makers with high-quality information and advice.”
Critical minerals are those that are essential to allow the manufacture of products needed for green technologies and national defence, as well as daily life. Production of some of these minerals is expected to increase by almost 500% between now and 2050. The UK government believes that it is “essential” that the country moves to create a supply chain for these minerals that is “resilient and sustainable”.
The CMIC will be able to access funding of up to £3.6-million over the next three years. The new Centre is founded on the work of the Critical Minerals Expert Group, established by London last year. Although formally launched on Monday, the CMIC has already been active, and its first report, entitled 'Study on future UK demand and supply of lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite for electric vehicle batteries', was also launched on Monday.
The UK’s Critical Minerals Strategy is expected to be released later this year. Meanwhile, London has been helping fund lithium mining and processing projects in the county of Cornwall, in the far south west of the country. These include a £500 000 research and development grant to British Lithium Limited and £350 000 to Cornish Lithium and its partners for their project on securing a domestic UK lithium supply chain. Cornish Lithium’s £4-million project to establish a pilot zero-carbon-emissions lithium extraction plant will also be partly funded by the government.