Lithium: Critical Minerals Supply — [Sir Gary Streeter in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 2:54 pm ar 23 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Ceidwadwyr, Truro and Falmouth 2:54, 23 Ebrill 2024

The hon. Gentleman is not wrong, in that global events are catching up with us. I think everybody in this Chamber knows that Whitehall moves at a glacial pace at the best of times, and current geopolitics has taught us that the Government need to be more agile. I think they are getting better at that and at getting Government Departments to work together. I mentioned that the Minister’s predecessor now has the equivalent brief in the Foreign Office and will therefore take her understanding with her. Government Departments are getting better at working together, but the hon. Gentleman made an incredibly important point.

Throughout all the events we have hosted this year I have been reassured by the Government’s determination and willingness to pitch in. The critical minerals strategy grapples with many of the industry’s original concerns, yet I also think most of us see it as an evolving document, as both our ambitions for the sector and the realities on the ground shift. What is true is that the strategy will ensure that the UK remains competitive as different nations grow their supply chains at varying rates, and it will also ensure that regions such as Cornwall, which have so much to offer, get the sustainable investment and job opportunities that we need.

Before I draw my speech to a close, I will discuss the local impact of improving the supply of critical minerals to my constituents in Truro and Falmouth, outlining the successes of the activity by the Government and the all-party parliamentary group on critical minerals on the international stage, as well as the reassuring framework offered by the critical minerals strategy. I will also use this opportunity to mention alternative ways of boosting the supply of lithium, tin and other minerals through recycling.

The world-renowned Camborne School of Mines is now based at the University of Exeter in Penryn. It is highly respected around the world and I have met many of its graduates during my time as chair of the APPG. In February 2023, an additional £15 million was invested into research on strengthening the resilience of our critical minerals supply chain by recovering rare earth metals from products that had already been used. This work has huge potential. For example, it is estimated that by 2040 some 10% of copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt could be generated by recycling used batteries. When we are in a position of urgency, it makes perfect sense for us to maximise the minerals we have in products with limited lifespans, in order to alleviate the pressure on our mining industries and shore up our national security in the process.

Earlier this year, the Minister responsible for resources, my hon. Friend Robbie Moore, announced that the University of Exeter, where the Camborne School of Mines is now based, would be a partner in the new United Nations-backed centre that will propel the transition to a future circular economy. The International Centre of Excellence on Sustainable Resource Management in the Circular Economy is the first such centre in the world. It will develop new approaches to the circular economy in areas such as metals, construction and critical minerals. I thank Ministers for taking the initiative on this front and putting investment into research early on, and I pay tribute to Professor Frances Wall at the Camborne School of Mines for leading the work.

Across the board, we have had big wins for the critical minerals industry in the UK, particularly in Cornwall. Our future security and economic growth rely on getting the next phase of increasing supply chain capability right for international demand, with balance to benefit our mining communities. However, it is quite easy for attention to shift to the next domestic policy interest of the moment, which is why I will continue to use every possible forum in this place to raise the topic. I am incredibly grateful to my constituency neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay, for giving me the opportunity to do so today.