Mineral extraction and refining
The UK is a world leader across the full mining lifecycle, including low carbon solutions that can support a more sustainable industry.
The UK’s supply chain supports clean growth and sustainable development of resources. Underpinned by UK mining corporates’ world class capability in responsible mineral development and supporting strategies that create long term economic prosperity while protecting biodiversity, and the environment.
The UK is a leading mining finance and trading hub. There is a growing domestic extraction industry, with companies exploring and developing critical mineral projects across the UK supported by the Department for International Trade.
The UK’s experience in mining and niche high quality equipment sectors, mean companies operating here can potentially capture a significant share of the global market. UK companies also have expertise in initial scoping studies through all phases of feasibility and detailed mine design, including construction, operation, and also mine closure.
Critical raw materials and clean growth
Clean growth and future mobility ambitions are driving the global demand and price for high technology metals. The World Bank predicts that production of minerals, such as graphite, lithium and cobalt, could increase by nearly 500% by 2050, to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies.
There are opportunities for inward investment to develop new projects and technologies, often supported by Innovate UK grant funding. This includes investment in the UK’s indigenous resources and in the midstream processing and refining sector.
Freeports offer opportunities for the UK to develop as a critical minerals processing hub supplying Europe and beyond.
Many UK mining supply chain companies have been utilising our renewable energy to build high quality and low emission equipment for decades. There is an opportunity to fill some capability gaps.
World leading capabilities across the full mining lifecycle include finance, legal, environmental management, engineering consultancy, exploration and mine operation, infrastructure development, emissions reduction, clean energy, high tech equipment, and solutions for remediation and mine closure.
Key UK assets
Cornwall has a rich history of mineral extraction. Over 110 companies are supporting a growing mining cluster, including exploration and development companies.
Businesses based in Cornwall have access to industry ready graduates from universities in the area. These include the University of Exeter Camborne Scholl of Mines and the Plymouth University School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science in Devon.
London is the centre of global mining finance, it is home for 171 metals & mining companies and accounts for 21% of the total market capitalisation of all listed mining companies worldwide.
4 of the 10 largest publicly traded mining companies are listed in London. This presence has attracted world leading mining consultancies and service companies, resulting in a global centre of excellence supported by an extensive supply chain.
Global metals trading and pricing
The London Metal Exchange (LME) is the world centre for industrial metals trading. The prices agreed on their 3 trading platforms are used as the global reference price. Both the metal and investment communities use the LME to transfer or take on risk, 24 hours a day.
Legal and regulatory environment
Global mining companies continue to choose the UK’s legal and regulatory systems for its stability, clarity, and ability to attract investment. Many UK based institutions also support the development and implementation of international standards for mining.
The freeports at Teesside and Humber have attracted the interest of mine development companies, looking to site critical mineral processing close to battery manufacturing facilities. The brownfield sites with freeport advantages, have support from a strong academic and industry innovation sector. They are also close to key export and domestic battery and automotive manufacturing centres.
The Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining (IOM3), supports innovation through the promotion and development of the materials cycle. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), UK Catapults, Innovate and other UK government funded organisations encourage innovation within the UK mining sector.
The UK has over 170 universities and higher education institutes, with 4 of its universities ranked in the global top 10.
They have world-class geoscience, minerals and materials and engineering research centres. They also work with corporate research institutes to conduct pure and applied research across the mining industry and its supply chain.
There are 2 specialist mining colleges in the UK, the University of Exeter Camborne School of Mines and the Royal School of Mines, now part of Imperial College, London. The University of Exeter has a pioneering new research centre, examining how crucial metals are extracted, used, and reused in clean and digital technologies across the UK.
Business and government support
The UK government is investing £12 billion as part of its Ten Point Plan to support green jobs and transition to net zero by 2050.
The mining sector can capitalise on green opportunities incentivised by the government, such as supplying high-tech metals required for novel battery technologies.
Sustainable fertiliser production
ICL produces 500,000 tonnes of polyhalite fertiliser per year. Anglo American is developing a sustainable mine in a national park. The underground mine will produce 10 million tonnes of polyhalite per year for decades.
A 37km underground tunnel will transport output to the processing plant in Teesside Freeport for export.
Materials critical for electric vehicle batteries
In Cornwall 2 companies are developing projects to produce lithium salts. Cornish Lithium is conducting exploration and development of lithium resources from geothermal brines and from solid micas.
British Lithium is operating a pilot plant and have demonstrated production of lithium salts (both companies have benefited from UK R&D grants).
Rare earth metal production
Pensana is developing a site at the Humber Freeport for the processing of rare earth concentrates.
Peak Resources is planning a facility at the Teesside Freeport. LCM produces Rare Earth alloys and companies such as AMG, Climax Molybdenum, Johnson Matthey & Vale have metal refineries in the UK.
Low carbon mobile equipment
40% of global production of mobile crushing and screening equipment occurs in Northern Ireland. UK based mobile equipment manufacturer JCB builds hydrogen engines.
Anglo American is developing hybrid hydrogen fuel cell/battery powertrains with Williams Advanced Engineering. Aggreko have demonstrated the use of hydrogenated vegetable oils (HVO) in stand-by electricity generators.