UK highlights five critical minerals in new strategy

Iridium, manganese, nickel, phosphates and ruthenium are make it onto the critical list of the UK's new critical minerals strategy

Iridium, manganese, nickel, phosphates and ruthenium are included on the critical list of the UK's critical minerals strategy.

While nickel is traded in large global markets and has a diverse range of applications, giving supply chains a degree of resilience, Russia is a major supplier, and its invasion of Ukraine caused significant disruption to nickel markets.

Class 1 (high purity) nickel is an important metal for electric vehicle batteries, and as Russia continues its aggression in Ukraine, the criticality of nickel may rise over the coming year.

A cohort of minerals was cited as having 'high criticality' for the UK including bismuth; cobalt; gallium; graphite; indium; lithium; magnesium; niobium; palladium; platinum; rare earth elements; silicon; tantalum; tellurium; tin; tungsten and vanadium.

The overall intention of the critical minerals strategy is for the UK to have an evidence-based, clearly articulated and evolving list of critical minerals, reflecting the dynamic nature of global supply chains and mineral markets.

This strategy aims – where possible and proportionate – to mitigate risks and to improve resilience of critical mineral supply chains, increasing confidence in the UK’s net zero transition, key manufacturing sectors and national security. The critical minerals strategy intends to build resilience, mitigate risks and collaborate internationally. The three key priorities are to:

  • accelerate the UK’s domestic capabilities
  • collaborate with international partners
  • enhance international markets

By 2040, the world is expected to need four times as many critical minerals for clean energy technologies as it does today.

However, critical mineral supply chains are complex and opaque, the market is volatile and distorted, and China is the dominant player. This creates a situation where UK jobs and industries rely on minerals vulnerable to market shocks, geopolitical events and logistical disruptions, at a time when global demand for these minerals is rising faster than ever.

Case study: Building a UK battery supply chain

As part of the Prime Minister’s ‘Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution’, the government announced the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, with all new cars and vans being fully zero emission from 2035. The government has been working to encourage greater private investment into the UK’s zero emission vehicle supply chain. Battery manufacturing capacity will be an important component, alongside other technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) established the Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF) with the aim of developing a globally competitive electric vehicle supply chain. The ATF provides support for late-stage R&D and capital investment in strategically important technologies, including battery manufacturing.

In July 2021, Envision AESC announced investment in a new gigafactory in Sunderland, which forms part of the £1bn North East Electric Vehicle Hub that also includes investment by Nissan in electric vehicle manufacturing. In January 2022, it was announced that intended government support for Britishvolt’s gigafactory in Blyth, had unlocked £1.7bn of private investment.

Recent investment by Stellantis and Bentley in electric vehicle manufacturing in the UK create further opportunities for the UK to continue to expand its battery manufacturing capabilities.

In March, government published its automotive investor roadmap, which shows how it will work with industry to maintain the UK’s leadership in zero emission vehicles. The roadmap will be used to support our work with business, investors and regulators to encourage investment into the UK automotive industry and its supply chain.

The government is promoting opportunities for investment through its online tool, the Investment Atlas, as well as through dedicated investment promotion teams overseas. 

Importance of diversification

Critical mineral supply chains are highly concentrated. For each of the 18 critical minerals, the top three producer countries control between 73 and 98% of total global production.

China is the biggest producer of 12 out of the 18 minerals, while Australia, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia, South Africa and Vietnam are the biggest producers of the remaining six.


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