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New report highlights the UK’s increasing dependence on mineral imports

World Cement,

The UK Minerals Forum’s Working Group on Future Mineral Supply in the UK has published a report on the production and consumption of minerals over the last 40 years. The project aims to identify potential opportunities and threats to future mineral supply and the impact that these would have. The group’s findings will be presented at the CBI-sponsored ‘Living with Minerals 5 Conference’ in November 2014.

Key findings

  • The UK has become increasingly dependent on imports of minerals and minerals-based products over the last 40 years. This dependence is predicted to increase as offshore oil and gas reserves dwindle.
  • Total consumption of minerals in the UK dropped 35% from 619 million t in 1970 to 403 million t in 2011, while minerals production declined by 35%. During this period the total value of UK minerals output grew by almost 300% in real terms. This rise has been attributed to offshore oil and gas production.
  • Production of cement raw materials in Great Britain fell from 26.7 million t in 1974 to 9.9 million t in 2011, a decline of 63%.
  • Consumption of primary aggregates in Great Britain has contracted by nearly 30%, from 208 million t in 1970 to 146 million t in 2011.
  • In the UK, domestic coal output dropped by almost 90% between 1970 and 2012.
  • Between 1970 and 2011, production of brick clay and kaolin fell by 78% and 46%, respectively. However, ball clay production has increased from 732 000 t to 930 000 t.
  • Natural gas production peaked in 2000 at 110.09 million t oeq. Production levels have risen from 9.7 million t oeq in 1970 to 38.9 million t oeq in 2012.
  • Oil production grew from 156 000 t in 1970 to 44.6 million t in 2012, peaking at 137.7 million t in 1999.

Speaking at the publication of the Past Trends report, the Chairman of the UK Minerals Forum, Lester Hicks, said: “It has been well said – ‘if you can’t grow it, you have to mine it’.  We cannot do without minerals, for energy, our homes, flood defence, chemicals and manufacturing. Many of our minerals, especially for construction, are still obtained in the UK. These would be especially hard and expensive to import. So where we get our minerals is important. But this interim report shows an overall pattern of declining domestic production and increasing imports over the past 40 years. It sets a challenging baseline from which future possibilities must be examined by the minerals industries, regulators, environmentalists and government”.

The report can be found here.

Adapted from press release by

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