BEIS has launched the first dedicated strategy on critical minerals - essential components for electronics, semi-conductors, vehicles, and lots of things we need and use in our daily lives.
The mineral supply chain is fraught with environmental, corruption, and human rights risks. Tech firms have devoted a lot of time and money to trying to understand their mineral-related risks and to better understand where they come from. With Covid-related supply chain disruptions too, there has been much-needed focus on supply chain security so that consumers and businesses can continue to source the products they need and want. The main parts of the strategy are listed below (techUK members have received a much more detailed version) along with our perspectives on the strategy, next steps, and how to get involved with our work in this area.
Main parts of the strategy
Accelerate the UK's domestic capabilities
- 1. Maximise what the UK can produce domestically, where viable for businesses and where it works for communities and our natural environment.
- 2. Rebuild our skills in mining and minerals.
- 3. Carry out cutting-edge research and development to solve the challenges in critical minerals supply chains.
- 4. Make better use of what we have by accelerating a circular economy of critical minerals in the UK - increasing recovery, reuse and recycling rates and resource efficiency, to alleviate pressure on primary supply.
Collaborate with international partners
- 5. Diversify supply across the world so it becomes more resilient as demand grows.
- 6. Support UK companies to participate overseas in diversified, responsible and transparent supply chains.
- 7. Develop our diplomatic, trading and development relationships around the world to improve the resilience of supply to the UK.
Enhance international markets
- 8. Boost global environmental, social and governance performance (ESG), reducing vulnerability to disruption and levelling the playing field for responsible businesses.
- 9. Develop well-functioning and transparent markets, through improved data and traceability.
- 10. Champion London as the world's capital of responsible finance for critical minerals.
What do we like about it?
The strategy is holistic, with clear new structures and bodies in place, and a set list of minerals deemed critical and on a watchlist. This gives everyone certainty, which is very welcome. techUK is also a big fan of government strategies that highlight complementary policy areas, saying who is responsible for what. This is the case here, interlinking with energy security, national security and the need to get to net zero. We're particularly interested in the role of upcoming Sustainability Disclosure Requirements in enabling more sustainable supply chains. References to the long awaited WEEE consultation is good too, as we've been calling for a holistic and non-contradictory set of policies for critical minerals for a long time.
What are we worried about?
As mentioned above the strategy has been done in a genuinely holistic way which is welcomed. However, this has come at the expense of clear, quantitative targets and policies that industry can get behind. Without these, the strategy cannot be evaluated, and industry has no clear way of getting involved and helping to make some of these ambitions a reality. There is also the leadership election. The strategy ticks a lot of boxes for both camps, so we don't have too much concern that this would get scrapped. However new leaders have new priorities, so we urge the government to keep the focus on this pressing issue and put flesh on the bones so industry can understand what is required and what they can support. There is also no explicit mention of conflict minerals. The already transposed Conflict Minerals Regulation remains in stasis at EU level as the Commission is still yet to implement the supporting infrastructure (REMIS database, whitelist etc). The UK remains committed to this on paper, so it would be good to understand if that is the case, or if they plan on replacing or scrapping it.
techUK is planning a supply chain summit on 8 November and has a dedicated work stream on responsible business, supply chain transparency, and market access. To learn more please email Craig.Melson@techUK.org or Lewis Walmesley-Browne on email@example.com.
Associate Director for Climate, Environment and Sustainability, techUK
Craig is Associate Director for Climate, Environment and Sustainability and leads on our work in these areas ranging from climate change, ESG disclosures and due diligence, through to circular economy, business and human rights, conflict minerals and post-Brexit regulation.
Head of Market Access and Consumer Tech, techUK
Lewis' programmes cover a range of policy areas within Market Access (international trade regulation, sanctions and export controls, technical standards and product compliance, supply chains) and Consumer Tech (media and broadcast policy, consumer electronics, and connected home technology).
techUK - Committed to Climate Action
Digital transformation is critical to the decarbonisation journey of organisations in every sector. Across supply chains and sectors, industries are converging with tech partners to find innovations that reduce carbon emissions and unlock efficiencies that drive down energy use. techUK focuses on the application of emerging technologies and data-driven decision making in traditional forms of infrastructure to deliver innovative environmental outcomes. For more information on our Climate, Environment and Sustainability Programme, please visit our Climate Action Hub and click contact us'.
Committed to Climate Action - related resources:
- News: techUK reaction to Jet Zero strategy
- Opportunity: CGI seeking SMEs with tech solutions that address biodiversity loss and net zero
- Blog: Mapping the vision for a sustainable city (A case study by Atkins)
- Blog: How geospatial data is putting EV infrastructure problems in their place (Guest blog by Geovation)
- Blog: A geospatial approach to climate resilient wastewater flow separation (A case study by Atkins)
- Blog: The technology effect: Scaling climate impact (Guest blog by Dell)