Security of Supply of Mineral Resources

Photo: Quarrying for minerals

Two global pressures on mineral resource use are pushing environmental considerations to the fore. Firstly, population growth coupled with natural resource consumption is pushing the demand for minerals to new levels. Secondly, global efforts to protect the environment and to mitigate and adapt to increased atmospheric CO2 is changing the pattern of demand to include new metals that support low carbon technologies but require their extraction and processing from the host minerals at lower energy and water intensities.

Security of Supply of Mineral Resources is a new interdisciplinary programme of research focusing on the science needed to sustain the security of supply of strategic minerals in a changing environment. NERC has allocated £7 million to this programme.

GeoBus for the Security of Supply of Mineral Resources programme

16 Mar 2017

NERC is funding 'GeoBus' to support the engagement of industry and the public with the Security of Supply of Mineral Resources programme.


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Security of Supply of Mineral Resources is a new interdisciplinary programme of research focusing on the science needed to sustain the security of supply of strategic minerals in a changing environment. This programme falls under NERC's Sustainable Use of Natural Resources (SUNR) strategic theme.

Two global pressures on mineral resource use are pushing environmental considerations to the fore. Firstly, population growth coupled with natural resource consumption is pushing the demand for minerals to new levels. Secondly, global efforts to protect the environment and to mitigate and adapt to increased atmospheric CO2 is changing the pattern of demand to include new metals that support low carbon technologies but require their extraction and processing from the host minerals at lower energy and water intensities.

Advances in the science are needed to understand how strategic minerals are mobilised and concentrated in the crust; to deliver advances in process understanding; to develop models to predict the environmental impact of scaling-up on new technologies for low carbon mineral extraction; and to evaluate the implications of exploiting deep, more dispersed and/or more inaccessible minerals in the future. The term 'low carbon' is used in this context to refer to extraction technologies that minimise carbon emissions; ie 'environmentally-friendly' processes; techniques that have the lowest CO2 footprint.

The programme has two high-level goals:

  1. to quantify the processes mobilising and concentrating mineral associations supporting environmental technologies;(environmental technologies (ie low carbon emitting) are mentioned here as only one of the strategic drivers informing which minerals/elements the programme will focus on) and

  2. to predict the environmental impact of low carbon extraction/recovery of strategic minerals.

See the Science & Implementation Plan below for details on the priorities and plans for delivery of the programme.

Science & Implementation Plan (PDF, 1.3MB)

The Mineral Resources programme will be commissioned in two phases.

Phase 1 will consist of the formation of and reporting from an Expert Group. This group will consist of key representatives who will advise NERC on the key foci of the programme which will best deliver the relevant NERC strategic challenges within the SUNR theme. A programme Network will also be funded which will reach internationally in scope and commence around the time that the Expert Group delivers their recommendations.

The Expert Group's recommendations will be used to formulate an announcement for programme Catalyst Grants which are aimed at enabling researchers to develop realistic and relevant research strategies and research partnerships with the potential for significant national/international impact. These grants will allow researchers to build partnerships and to develop proposals and will support the following kinds of activity:

  • Evidence gathering, strategic reviews and research needs/impact assessments
  • Planning and hosting of themed 'research challenge workshops' and research meetings
  • Building appropriate research strategies, plans and proposals
  • Bringing together working partnerships, collaborations and management mechanisms
  • Developing leading teams and management structures
  • Developing knowledge exchange and communication Strategies

Phase 2 will consist of a call for main grant proposals and will be developed in detail during phase 1.


Timing

2011-12 - 2019

Can I apply for a grant?

The call for catalyst proposals closed in April 2013 and the call for large research grants (which was open to catalyst grant holders only) closed in July 2014.

Budget

The programme has a budget from NERC of £8·7 million; Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) added £380,000 at the catalyst grant phase and £1 million at the research grant phase. One research grant was funded through the Newton Fund with matched funding of £2 million from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP).

Programme awards

Award details are shown in our online grants browser - Grants on the Web.

View details of funded catalyst grants - external link

View details of funded research grants - external link

Programme Executive Board

The Mineral Resources programme will be governed by the Programme Executive Board, which is responsible for the strategic direction and management of the programme and delivery of the programme's objectives. The Programme Executive Board is currently comprised of:

  • Lizzie Garratt, Natural Environment Research Council
  • Kathryn Magnay, EPSRC

Other individuals will be appointed to the Programme Executive Board as the programme progresses.

NERC Programme Management Team

The NERC Programme Management is responsible for the management of the programme on behalf of the Programme Executive Board. This includes financial management, procurement and grant awarding, which are carried out according to the policies and procedures of NERC and the Shared Services Centre (which supports the NERC's activities).

  • Amy Vitale
  • Lucy Hopewell

Science Coordination Team

The science coordination function is provided by NERC's centres.

  • Dr Jon Naden, British Geological Survey
  • Ellie Evans, British Geological Survey

Expert Group

The role of the Expert Group is to provide NERC with independent advice on the key foci of the programme which will best address the relevant NERC strategic challenges within the SUNR theme.

The Expert Group is made up of the following members:

  • Professor Adrian Boyce, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
  • Mr Alan Gibbon, Minerals Industry Research Organisation
  • Professor Hylke Glass, University of Exeter
  • Mr Gus Gunn, British Geological Survey
  • Professor Barrie Johnson, Bangor University
  • Dr Stephen Roberts, National Oceanography Centre
  • Dr Dan Smith, University of Leicester
  • Professor Mark Tibbet, Cranfield University
  • Professor Frances Wall, University of Exeter
  • Professor Bruce Yardley, University of Leeds

Network

The director is Tony Hartwell.