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Mineral Rights - Unlocking Great Britain's Potential

Great Britain (GB) has the geological potential, mining history, universities, research bases, financial institutions, and mining services in place for critical minerals extraction. The nation is well placed to support a vibrant exploration and mining industry, but does it have one?

If an exploration company had to choose between developing a critical minerals project in GB or investing in another jurisdiction familiar with mineral extraction, the current GB mineral rights processes (other than for gold and silver where the mineral rights are held by the Crown) could disincentivise investment.

The GB mineral rights system can be navigated, but it requires exploration and development companies (referred to as “operators”) to invest time, knowledge, patience, and capital into the process; all before such companies can even secure a site to explore for minerals. Some have described the GB system as “chaotic and archaic”, particularly prospective explorers, who view it as too complex to be worth investing time, capital, energy, and patience when many other jurisdictions are easier to operate in.

The GB mineral rights situation is highly complex as ownership of mineral rights can be severed from surface rights to any parcel of land, and it cannot, therefore, be assumed that the (surface) land owner will own the minerals beneath that land. Over centuries of conveyancing, many mineral rights have been separated from surface rights. Whilst the system works for some operators, the vast majority struggle to navigate a complex process of identifying mineral rights owners from ancient deeds, without any degree of legal certainty. A lack of support for operators and mineral rights owners from specialist civil servants (e.g. the lack of a mining agency or a coordinating body) reduces the likelihood of new entrants investing in GB when more navigable alternative jurisdictions are available.

Read our paper to understand the key issues and our recommendations to UK, Scotland, Wales Governments.

Article by Kirsty Benham, Founder, Critical Minerals Association

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