The Society’s policy work is vital for raising awareness of the essential role of geoscientists in securing critical mineral supply, stress Megan O’Donnell and Flo Bullough
In November 2020, the UK Government set out a Ten-Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. Seven out of ten of the Government’s commitments in this plan rely on critical minerals. With a critical minerals strategy anticipated in 2022, and growing global demand for metals and minerals in green tech, the recent meeting ‘Critical minerals and the green industrial revolution’ (page 38) raised key issues around untenable supply chains and availability of talent, while encouraging positive cross-sectoral collaboration.
In the UK alone, the Government aims to increase renewable energy capacity three-fold by 2030, which will require the construction of one new wind turbine per day between now and then. With each wind turbine estimated to require at least five tonnes of copper wiring, three tonnes of aluminium, 1,200 tonnes of concrete and two tonnes of Rare Earth Elements, the world will need geoscientists, who are committed to environmental protection, to find and extract these critical raw materials in a responsible and sustainable way.
While there is no geological shortage of the materials and minerals needed for the energy transition, resources are not evenly distributed globally, and international cooperation will be essential to ensuring security of supply as demand increases. The growth of the commodities sector by 2030 is anticipated to dwarf that of any previous decade, bringing with it challenges to achieving sustainable development for the mining industry and beyond.
Importantly, the critical minerals meeting highlighted that while the UK’s demand for materials and minerals can be met by offshoring the production, risk and associated emissions to other countries, this is neither the most ethical nor responsible option, and will not deliver the prosperous and just transition that the world needs to tackle the effects of climate change.
Through our policy work and activities around the Energy Transition science theme, the Geological Society continues to raise awareness and provide evidence to Government and Parliament about the important role of geoscience in securing the supply of critical minerals and materials.
If you would like to contribute to our work in this area, head to geolsoc.org.uk/policy-database
Megan O’Donnell is Communications and Policy Officer at the Geological Society of London, UK
Flo Bullough is Head of Policy and Engagement at the Geological Society of London, UK
• IEA (2021) The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions, IEA, Paris; iea.org/reports/the-role-of-critical-minerals-inclean-energy-transitions