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The UK establishes the Critical Minerals Taskforce amid a changing global environment.

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

In an effort to ensure that the UK has a reliable and resilient minerals supply chain a newly established ‘Critical Minerals Taskforce’ was established yesterday (April 20th) by the Department for Business and Trade at its inaugural meeting.

The Critical Minerals Taskforce’s (CM Taskforce) main focus will be promoting resilience within the minerals supply chains to safeguard UK industry in a changing global environment. In order to do this national security and defence capabilities are being put at the forefront of priorities however this committee will also be concentrating on the UK’s ability to support a swift transition to a net zero energy economy by 2050. Similarly, to the Freight Energy Forum, this taskforce will consist of industry, government, and academic experts within the minerals sector.

Private sector experts include representatives from: Rio Tinto, Anglo America, Jaguar Land Rover, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and the public representative include Renewable UK, Solar Energy UK, Nuclear Industry Association, Tech UK, Minor Metals Trade Association and the National Microelectronics Institute.

In this changing global environment, we have seen that supply chains are complex and opaque with heavy dependence on a few countries for particular minerals. Many of these countries are vulnerable to social and governance issues which resulted in volatile and erratic behaviour within the minerals and energy sector during 2022, particularly the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia. By diversifying and encouraging new supply chains the UK’s will be able to harmonise its commodity imports more effectively where China remains the second largest trade partner for imported commodities and minerals.

As the global demand for manufactured goods continues to increase, as do the likes of the demand for key minerals including lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite, of which many are used in the manufacturing of electric motors. The CM taskforce will begin to co-ordinate with alternative supply partners from resource-rich nations, such as Canada and South Africa, and continue investing into these partners to commit to the security of a long-term supply of these critical minerals whilst also ensuring they fall within national security measures. The UK has since secured new contracts to import lithium and cobalt from Canada as of March 2023 and other essential minerals (palladium, platinum and iridium) from South Africa (November 2022).

This CM Taskforce will bolster the UK’s ability to identify supply chain vulnerabilities in advance of potential major disruptions by diversifying and strengthening the UK’s supply chains in a post-Brexit economy; and should begin to reduce the estimated £12.2 billion that UK businesses lose out annually due to supply chain disruptions*. Should this be successful we would expect the UK’s manufacturing and exports sector to become more competitive internationally and a dampening effect on the cost of living as domestic pricing pressures are relieved.

* : estimated loss from a survey published by TMX Group Limited

By George Stratford

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