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UK Must Act Urgently To Address Critical Materials Access

The UK urgently needs to develop policy responses to the critical materials challenge post-Brexit, according to a report by the University of Birmingham.

Britain’s exit from the European Union brings both challenges and opportunities to different industries, and the critical materials sector is no different, Kallanish learns. Researchers, investors and industry experts believe the government needs to create a single body responsible for developing a strategy on technology-critical metals, enabling effective inter-departmental collaboration at government level.

This entity should then be in close contact with the EU, because “the UK has part of the supply chain, and the EU the other part,” explains Allan Walton, professor of Critical and Magnetic Materials at the School of Metallurgy and Materials and co-director of the Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials.

Yet, the UK government should also seek opportunities to diversify its access to primary resources through resource diplomacy, which could be part of any new trade negotiations. Countries like Australia, Japan, the US, India and Greenland are a few countries the British should be aiming to work with, according to member of parliament Alexander Stafford.

Actively attracting and supporting large-scale strategic private investments for supply chain development should also be part of the government’s goals. The University of Birmingham report notes the UK could become an international refining centre for specific technology-critical metals by 2025.

The report lists a total of 12 recommendations to secure these metals and materials of the future. With limited natural resources, the country needs to act quickly to ensure access to these crucial resources if it’s serious about building an electric vehicle supply chain. A national strategy is the first step to be taken, experts argue.

The government should also foment research in areas such as refining, separation, sensing, automated sorting and re-processing of critical metals, the report says. Efficient processing routes for selected materials to reduce the environmental burden of production, reduce waste and improve performance could give the UK a competitive advantage in terms of cost, it adds.

Critical materials include copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements.

Gabriela Farhangi UK