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CMA (UK) & GSBF 3rd Annual Conference: The UK Opportunity for Critical Minerals

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

On 27th November, the Critical Minerals Association (UK) and Geological Society Business Forum (GSBF) welcomed over 300 delegates to Burlington House in London for their 3rd Annual Conference on the UK Opportunity for Critical Minerals.


Critical minerals are the vital building blocks for our modern and green economy. They are needed to manufacture everything from computers to X-ray machines, electric vehicle batteries to wind turbines. But unforeseen developments and geopolitical tensions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine, are demonstrating more than ever the vulnerability of our critical mineral supply chains. In the past few months, China has imposed export restrictions on graphite, gallium and germanium-- critical minerals needed to manufacture computer chips and semi-conductors[1]. Indonesia, too, continues to restrict nickel exports to develop its domestic downstream sector[2].


The theme of our conference, the UK Opportunity, aimed to showcase what the UK has to offer in the mission to develop alternative critical mineral supply chains, and to bring together international partners to promote collaboration. Like its predecessors, our conference was a day of insightful panels discussions and presentations on the importance of building supply chain resilience, with experts from across industry, finance, law, government, and academia discussing how policy can enable UK industry to achieve its Green Industrial Revolution and Net Zero ambitions.


Watch Critical Production’s two-minute video summary of the conference below, featuring footage from the day’s presentations and panels, as well as insights about the UK’s opportunities.


The event attracted a diverse and international audience that highlighted the multidisciplinary nature of critical minerals, bringing together innovators, explorers, chemists, policymakers, investors, miners, recyclers, processors, parliamentarians, researchers, lawyers, environmentalists, and many more. In a sector where women represent 12% of the workforce[3], CMA (UK) are proud  that 53% of the event speakers were women, coming from organisations such as the European Electronics Recyclers Association (EERA), Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), Philipps 66, House of Lords, National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, British Geological Survey, UK Department for Business and Trade, and Innovate UK.


Organisations in attendance included Jaguar Land Rover, the Mining Association of the UK (MAUK), Societe Generale, Mineral Products Assocation (MPA), Society for Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), and University of Liverpool. We welcomed government officials from Armenia, Australia, France, Chad, Australia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Saudi Arabia, as well as regional government delegations from British Colombia, Cornwall, Saskatchewan, Northeast England, Ontario, Quebec, Queensland, Western Australia, and Yukon.


Due to increased interest, we expanded our venue this year to include the Royal Society of Chemistry, which served as an expo stage during the conference to showcase some of the UK’s exciting critical minerals opportunities. The stage included stands for the CMA (UK), Cornish Metals, SRK Consulting, Invest North East, Trade and Investment Cornwall, Trade and Investment Queensland, Met4Tech and its affiliate university the Camborne School of Mines, Imperial College London, and Satarla.


Read on for an in-depth description of the day’s various sessions and discussions.


APPG for Critical Minerals Breakfast Reception – Houses of Parliament

We commenced the day with an invite-only Breakfast Reception at the House of Commons. Hosted by the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Critical Minerals, Cherilyn Mackrory MP, we were delighted to be joined by members of the UK critical minerals industry as well as UK and foreign Government officials. Cherilyn and Jeff Townsend, co-founder of CMA (UK) and the Critical Minerals International Alliance (CMIA), welcomed attendees with speeches.


Guests greet one another at the Terrace Pavilion overlooking the River Thames, enjoying a morning of networking and speeches before heading to Burlington House.


Cherilyn Mackrory MP is invited to the podium by Jeff Townsend to speak about her role as Chair of the APPG for Critical Minerals and the importance of the sector to the UK economy.

 

CMA (UK) & GSBF 3rd Annual Conference – Royal Society of Chemistry and the Geological Society of London, Burlington House


At 10:30am, the conference began at the Geological Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry in Burlington House, Piccadilly. Kirsty Benham, co-founder and CEO of CMA (UK), welcomed delegates to the Geological Society’s Lecture Hall and delivered a brief introduction on the importance of cross-sector collaboration to developing alternative and responsible critical mineral supply chains, as well as highlighting the work the Association has done in the past 3 years to champion this mission in the UK. The Association unites the UK critical minerals value chain in its membership— from industry to academia, finance to R&D, law and more— and amplifies their voices to be at the forefront of influencing policy. In the past year, sister associations have been launched across the globe: CMA Australia, CMA USA, and the Critical Minerals International Alliance (CMIA).



Kirsty Benham, co-founder and CEO of the CMA (UK), welcomes a room full of delegates to the Geological Society for its 3rd Annual Conference, centred on the UK opportunity for critical minerals.


Simon Thompson and Tanya Sheridan welcome delegates to the Geological Society and Royal Society of Chemistry. Despite the two Societies being located next to each another in Burlington House, they rarely open their adjoining door for events.

Simon Thompson, the Chief Executive of the Geological Society, and Tanya Sheridan, Head of Policy and Evidence at the Royal Society of Chemistry, welcomed delegates to the beautiful and historic venue. Despite being located right next to one another in Burlington House and even sharing a secret adjoining door (which was officially opened just for the conference), the two Societies have never hosted a conference together before across both venues for an entire day. In fact, many people were unaware the two venues even connected. The CMA (UK) and GSBF are delighted to have played a part in bringing these two organisations together, and curating an agenda that demonstrates the opportunities for geosciences and chemistry to collaborate in critical minerals.

 

In line with the theme of the conference, Minister Ghani highlighted the many opportunities and advantages the UK has to become a global player in the development of alternative critical mineral supply chains.

The final opening remarks were delivered by Nusrat Ghani MP, Minister of State at the Department for Business and Trade, and Minister of State responsible for the Investment Security Unit at the Cabinet Office. Minister Ghani's video address thanked the Critical Minerals Association (UK) for bringing everyone together, and emphasised that critical minerals are “firmly at the top” of her agenda: “Delivering the Critical Minerals Refresh,” said Minister Ghani, “is a key policy aim for my department, and a personal one for me.”

 

The Minister also reviewed the actions the UK Government has enacted in the past year and shared the UK Government's delivery plan for the coming months, including the publication of their Advanced Manufacturing Plan and first-ever Battery Strategy.

 

Session 1 – Critical Minerals in a New World

 

Suzanne Shaw delivers an informative presentation on the evolving role of geopolitics in the supply and demand of metals and minerals needed for the energy transition.

The conference’s first session, ‘Critical Minerals in a New World’, delved into the geopolitical developments and international partnerships transforming the critical minerals sphere. As the race to Net Zero gathers pace, the International Energy Agency projects that the demand for critical minerals will increase four-fold by 2050[4]. Given this trajectory, the development of diverse, resilient, and responsible supply chains is an “essential task”. Suzanne Shaw, Head of Energy Transition & Battery Raw Materials at Wood Mackenzie, provided a global overview of the current geopolitical context for critical minerals, demand and supply forecasts, investment trends, as well as which jurisdictions are attracting business and what incentives they are offering.


As the panel chair, Matthew Hatfield welcomes government officials from MSP nations Australia, Canada, and the USA to discuss the importance of international collaboration. 

After Suzanne’s presentation, Kirsty invited Government officials from Mineral Security Partnership (MSP) nations to the stage. Matthew Hatfield (Critical Minerals Lead, Department for Business & Trade) led a panel discussion on international partnership and approaches to critical minerals with Rachael Parrish (Foreign Service Officer, US Department of State), Marcin Zydowicz (Trade Commissioner, Energy & Mining, Canadian High Commission), and Ana Nishnianidze (Commissioner, UK & Ireland, Australian Trade & Investment Commission).

 

The MSP is a collaboration of 13 countries and the European Union (EU) to catalyse public and private investment into the development of responsible critical minerals supply chains. The MSP has now expanded to include India; a US-UK Critical Minerals Agreement was announced in June; and additional UK critical minerals partnerships have been struck with Canada, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Zambia. “The UK brings a lot to the table,” said Rachael Parrish. The speakers highlighted the UK’s unique ‘convening power’ in bringing together different actors, rich manufacturing and mining history, world-leading finance, and research and innovation.

 

The High Commissioner of Canada addresses a packed audience in the Lecture Theatre.

The CMA (UK) invited the Honourable Ralph E. Goodale, the High Commissioner for Canada in the UK, to the stage for an address on the significance of Canada as a trusted critical mineral producer. The Hon. Ralph Goodale spoke about Canada as a destination of choice for investment given its secure and sustainable sourcing, outstanding mining expertise, strong ESG credentials, extensive technological and manufacturing capabilities, and its long history of friendly and close collaboration with the UK. The High Commissioner concluded his address by stating that Canada is ready to work with partners and investors to help grow both nations’ economies, and the hope of developing alternative, responsible, resilient critical mineral supply chains.

 

Jeff Townsend, co-founder of CMA (UK) and CMIA, introduces the session on the Provinces and Regions, inviting to the stage high-level Government representatives from Queensland, Ontario, Yukon and Quebec for a series of fireside chats.  

Following the state-focused approach of the morning’s conversations, Jeff Townsend commenced a session to broaden the day’s discourse, shining a spotlight on the role of the ‘Provinces and Regions’ in Australia and Canada. Regional and provincial governments work closely with local companies and communities on the ground and their perspectives are important to bring to the fore.

 

Tony Knight (Chief Geologist, Government of Queensland) delivered a brief address on the province’s geological potential before Jeff invited David Stewart (Agent-General, Queensland), the Honourable George Pirie (Minister of Mines, Ontario), Ranj Pillai (Premier, Yukon), and Nathalie Camden (Deputy Minister of Mines, Quebec) one-by-one up to the stage for a series of fireside chats. Each leader illuminated the unique qualities of their respective regions and the abundant opportunities that exist there for critical minerals extraction, processing, and recycling.


After a brief fireside chat about Queensland’s critical minerals sphere, Jeff Townsend opens up the floor to questions from the audience.
Jeff welcomes the Premier of Yukon, Ranj Pillai, who had travelled to London with a delegation of officials to attend an international ministerial roundtable at Parliament on critical minerals.


 









The Hon. George Pirie addresses a question from an audience member.
Nathalie Camden elaborates on the importance of Quebec as a strategic and responsible  supplier or critical minerals.


His Excellency the Vice Minister delivers a speech about the emerging role of Saudi Arabia, as well as the upcoming and much-anticipated Future Minerals Forum in Riyadh.

The final address before the break was delivered by His Excellency Khalid Al-Mudaifer, Vice-Minister for Mining Affairs for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is dramatically ramping up its investments into critical minerals, and earlier this year the UK signed a bilateral critical minerals agreement with Saudi Arabia. His Excellency elaborated on the rich and untapped geological potential of the region, how ESG is being promoted and embedded in the supply chain, and how his Government draws on global expertise to ensure its investments create new value chains to diversify supply for the energy transition. He concluded by inviting delegates to join him in Riyadh in January 2024 to continue these important discussions. The Future Minerals Forum is quickly becoming one of the major events of the critical minerals calendar.

 

As a member of Mayer Brown’s International Trade group in Brussels, Dylan communicates an illuminating presentation on the context and significance of the CRMA.

After the break, Dylan Geraets (Senior Associate, Mayer Brown) provided an overview of the EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), and how it is equipping the bloc with the tools to ensure a secure and responsible supply of raw materials. He outlined measures including the Act’s differentiation of critical and strategic minerals, shorter planning and permitting timeframes, and clear benchmarks for domestic capacities.

 

Stacy Hope brings attention to the importance of skills and capacity development, prompting a conversation about how to build partnerships with African companies and encourage investment in OEMs.

The final session of ‘Critical Minerals in a New World’ posed the pressing question: how do we ensure a just transition in Africa? The CMA (UK) were delighted to welcome Baroness Northover (House of Lords) to chair this panel with Stacy Hope (Women in Mining, ERM, Fair Cobalt Alliance), Madeline R. Young (University of Northampton), Veronica Bolton Smith (The Connect Africa Network), and Joseph Mansour (Critical Minerals Delivery Lead, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office).

 

 Many countries across the African continent have rich geological potential for critical minerals such as rare earth elements (REEs), graphite, cobalt, copper, and platinum group metals. These countries will be looking to develop their resources to boost economic growth and improve standards of living. Our speakers explored how foreign nations should work with resource-rich developing nations to ensure extraction is in line with the goals of socio-economic welfare and sustainable development.

 

“It’s not just a matter of mining more and mining better,” said Joseph Mansour, “but moving those [resource-rich developing nations] up the value chain themselves. It is incumbent on countries like the UK, who will mostly be a consumer nation, to ensure that this ‘resource boom’ works for the benefit of resource-rich countries.” Joseph went on to outline the compatibility of the UK and Africa-- many of what African nations and businesses are missing are the biggest strengths of the UK, particularly geological exploration (the British Geological Survey is the oldest and one of the most prestigious geological surveys in the world) and mining finance. “Africa needs to be part of a strategy with the rest of the world,” added Veronica Bolton Smith. “It shouldn’t be dictated to. It needs to make its own agenda and attract investors in that way.”

  

These points eventually led to a dynamic debate about China’s policy of ‘non-interference’ on the continent, whether it is truly appealing to African nations, and what the West can and should do to offer an alternative method of investment. While the panellists disagreed about the benefits of China’s approach, they found consensus on the value of the UK ‘showing rather than telling’ what it can bring to the table.

 

Sarah Gordon, co-founder and CEO of Satarla, leads an interactive Dialogue Table during the lunch session, inviting experts across the value chain to share their insights.

The panel was a fantastic note to end on before lunch at the Royal Society of Chemistry, where discourse continued among delegates, as well as an interactive Dialogue Table run by our platinum sponsor Satarla on the issues of ESG for the mining sector.

 




 

Delegates enjoy lunch in the Royal Society of Chemistry, where various industry sponsors and government delegations host stands that highlight the UK’s many opportunities, such as Cornish Metals, SRK Consulting, Satarla, Trade and Investment Queensland, Invest North East, Trade and Investment Cornwall, Met4Tech, Camborne School of Mines, and Imperial College London.


Session 2 – The UK Opportunity

 

Kathryn Goodenough demonstrates the useful tools and findings produced from the BGS’s April paper on prospective areas for critical minerals in the UK.

The first session after lunch focused on ‘the UK Opportunity’. Kathryn Goodenough (Principal Geologist, British Geological Survey) kicked us off with an insightful presentation on the UK’s mining history, the projects the British Geological Survey are currently engaged in, as well as an overview of the Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre (CMIC) which recently published a report on a revised methodology for measuring criticality.

 

Nick Pople outlining the importance of ensuring UK investment is directed towards UK-based critical minerals projects.

Mike Armitage (Chairman, Geological Society Business Forum) then chaired a discussion with Eva Marquis (Research Fellow, Camborne School of Mines), Richard Williams (CEO, Cornish Metals), Nick Pople (Managing Director, Northern Lithium), and Charles Pembroke (Corporate Sustainability & Climate Change, ERM) on ‘Fertile Ground: Mineral Rights, Planning & Permitting, and Developing Local Infrastructure and Utilities’. To attract investment a nation must have the right conditions to demonstrate stability and predictability, and governments have a vital role to play in providing a reliable concierge service to demonstrate support to business.

 

Charles Pembroke highlighted that over 40% of delayed or failed mining projects in the UK blame issues with planning and permitting, which breeds a damaging uncertainty in the business environment. The panel focused on how planning regulations can be updated and streamlined, especially for strategic projects, and how data from geological surveys should also be updated and made accessible to the public. Moreover, Richard Williams and Eva Marquis underlined how “willpower and funding” from local planning authorities can be transformative in corroborating the success of mining projects. The value of public engagement is immense, and we should be working as much as possible to stimulate an appetite among local and government for critical minerals.

 

Dan, Sheena, Nic, Sabine, and Christian discuss the importance of innovation, scientific collaboration, and bridging skills gaps in sustaining the UK’s place in the global value chain.

Next we invited Dan Smith (Associate Professor in Applied and Environmental Geology, University of Leicester), Sheena Hindocha (Knowledge Transfer Manager, Materials Chemistry, Innovate UK KTN), Nic Stirk (Co-founder and Director, Materials Nexus), Christian Peters (Founder, Seloxium), and Sabine Anderson (SRK Consulting) onto the stage for a panel discussion on ‘UK Innovation, Scientific Cooperation & Skills Gaps’. The UK is home to world-class universities and research institutions that specialise in geoscience, mining, metallurgy, and materials engineering. Innovation will be key to developing technologies for emitting lower carbon emissions, boosting recycling capability, and enabling material substitution and novel extraction methods for critical minerals. However, the UK is struggling with a shortage of skills needed across a multitude of disciplines. “Building trust so there is enough information sharing” between different actors and sectors is crucial to addressing this problem, said Christian Peters.

 

Session 3 – Integration & Collaboration 

 

Julie-Ann Adams welcomes her fellow speakers and leads the panel into a discussion on the current obstacles and opportunities for waste recycling in the UK.

Session 3 commenced with a panel discussion on waste collection and recycling with Julie-Ann Adams (European Electronics Recyclers Association), Lilia Guittari-Lickovski (Department for Business & Trade), Chris O’Brien (AMTE Power) and Ros Lund (Coal Authority). The panellists highlighted issues with the UK recycling market including slow permitting times relative to other countries, a lack of production of agglomerates on an economically viable level, and the lack of an end-of-life plan for products reaching the market today. New challenges are still emerging, such as the rise in popularity of products such as vapes which are not widely or systemically recycled. Regulations will need to be updated to encourage investment in and growth of the recycling industry.


Chairing the panel discussion is Lucy Smith, Chair of the CMA (UK)’s Circular Economy working group. She emphasises that cross-sector dialogue is not only vital to the achievement of the UK’s critical minerals needs, but to the establishment of a circular economy.

The conversation then turned to cross-sector collaboration with panellists Lucy Smith (Ventures Lead, Materials Processing Institute), David Payne (Senior Planning Advisor, Mineral Products Association), Izzi Monk (Policy Advisor, Royal Society of Chemistry), Sarah Connolly (Innovation Lead, Innovate UK) and Jacqui Murray (COO, National Manufacturing Institute Scotland). They illustrated examples of successful collaboration from the site scale with co-production of materials, to the international scale with multinational companies using their influence to create roadmaps for industry. The panellists also emphasised that greater transparency and data sharing encourages more collaboration through trust, and it also illuminates where value can be generated.

 

Amanda van Dyke from ARCH Emerging Markets Partners, a private equity firm with valuable experience in mining finance, answers a question from an audience member.

The penultimate panel discussion of the day covered the subject of responsible financing with Amanda van Dyke (Managing Director, ARCH Emerging Markets Partners), Fiona Clouder (ClouderVista, Appian Capital Advisory LLP), Christophe Roux (EMEA Regional Head of Mining, Metals and Industries, Société Générale) and Jamie Strauss (Founder, Digbee), chaired by Sarah Gordon (CEO and Co-founder, Satarla). The panel first celebrated London as an excellent city for finance, with a long history serving as an international economic centre for commodities trading. It has more recently become a hub for ESG organisations who are driving big transformations in industry. The panellists detailed how investors can work responsibly and sustainably, for instance by investing in all areas of the mineral value chain.

 

Our speakers also placed a strong emphasis on the importance of ESG— an acronym that was uttered in every presentation and panel of the day. It is increasingly difficult for companies to raise funds without exhibiting strong ESG credentials; investors carry out vigilant due diligence processes to avoid financing projects that will not succeed in the long term. As a result, ESG is the best way to add longevity and value to projects. The panellists also highlighted that investment should be targeted towards countries and communities that are under-developed to precipitate and influence a global shift towards a more resilient and diversified economy, and thus a more sustainable future.


Margery, Anna, Luke, and Grant raise concerns about current trade and taxation policies which do little to support the use of recycled materials in downstream manufacture ring.

The session concluded with a focus on the downstream mineral supply chain with Margery Ryan (PGMs, Market Research Manager, Johnson Matthey), Anna Gibbs (Business Development, Emerging Energy, Phillips66), Luke Hampton (Head of Supply Chains, Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders) and Grant Smith (Chairman, Less Common Metals). Once again, the UK was noted as a country with great promise in growing downstream mineral supply chains. Its impressive R&D and rich industrial history has established chemical and downstream manufacturers for REEs, graphite and more. Downstream manufacturers are also beginning to interact and work more with raw material producers, something that has seldom happened before, evidencing change in industry and a shift towards circularity. Despite this, it was highlighted that China is becoming increasingly difficult to compete with. European consumers will soon be forced to pay a premium for products with localised supply chains and high ESG credentials.

 

Mike Armitage thanks delegates and organisers for the delivery of an excellent conference.

Mike Armitage (Chairman, Geological Society Business Forum) closed the conference by thanking all speakers and panellists, in addition to Sarah Gordon, Becca Kirk, and the Critical Productions team for facilitating the virtual component of the conference. Mike also extended thanks to the Royal Society of Chemistry and Geological Society of London for use of their venues; the joining of the two Societies allowed us to accommodate our growing delegate numbers, which have doubled since our 2nd Annual Conference in 2022.


Drinks Reception

Having just completed a ministerial roundtable at Parliament on critical minerals, Minister Ghani joins our drinks reception and gives a speech about the publication of the UK’s first-ever Battery Strategy.

After the conference, delegates were asked to join us in the Royal Society of Chemistry for a drinks reception. We were pleased to welcome Minister Ghani to the venue, who gave a speech to the room about the critical minerals ministerial roundtable that she had attended in at Parliament earlier the day, as well as the UK’s Battery Strategy that was announced the day before (26 November).

 


After the conference, delegates return to the Royal Society of Chemistry for an evening of networking, drinks, and delicious canapes.


Thank you to everyone who attended our conference, especially those who travelled long distances to come to London and take part in the discussions. Thank you to our co-convenes, the Royal Society of Chemistry and Geological Society of London, who joined up their beautiful and historic venues for our event. Thank you to the CMA (UK) team and its volunteers who organised the conference and ensured its smooth running on the day - shout out to Eileen Maes for managing the huge conference logistics. Thank you to Becca Kirk and our media partner, Critical Productions, who filmed, livestreamed, and coordinated the virtual aspect of the conference. And finally, thank you to our sponsors Cornish Metals, SRK Consulting, Trade and Investment Queensland, Imperial College London, and the University of Exeter; to our drinks reception sponsors Northern Lithium, Bell Geospace, ARCH Emerging Markets Partners, and Mayer Brown; and to our platinum sponsor Satarla. This event would not be possible without the generosity and advocacy of so many different stakeholders who are equally committed to the vision of the CMA (UK)-- to build alternative critical mineral supply chains for a more resilient, responsible, and sustainable future.

 

 Authors: Eileen Maes & Lily Dickson, Critical Minerals Association (UK)

Photo Credits: Camilo Queipo


Sources:

[1] Liu, S. and Patton, D. (2023) China, World’s top graphite producer, tightens exports of key battery material., Reuters. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-require-export-permits-some-graphite-products-dec-1-2023-10-20/ (Accessed: 08 December 2023).

[2] Indonesia embraces resource nationalism (no date) The Economist. Available at: https://www.economist.com/asia/2023/01/26/indonesia-embraces-resource-nationalism (Accessed: 08 December 2023).

[3] World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2021, March 2021. Accessible at: https://www.weforum.org/publications/global-gender-gap-report-2021/

[4] The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions: Executive Summary. International Energy Agency, IEA Publications, March 2022. Accessible at https://www.iea.org/reports/the-role-of-critical-minerals-in-clean-energy-transitions/executive-summary

 

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