SoS MinErals policy meeting at the Houses of Parliament

Dan Smith in the Jubliee Room
Samples analysed through the TAND044 weathered profile showing the discrepancies between the maximum total REE (TREE) content (a) and the highest proportions of easily leachable REE (b). Photo Copyright Eva Marquis.
Free energy global minimum structure of Neodymium oxalate in water. Photo Copyright Aaron Finney.
Radioluminescence of Yttrofluorite (Hundholmen, Tysfjord, Norway) showing distinct narrow REE3+ emission bands, attributed to the coupling of the induction band with REE. Photo Copyright Nicola Horsburgh.

Six members of the SoS RARE project joined SoS MinErals colleagues at an event to present highlights of SoS Minerals projects to UK policy makers. The event was hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Mining and held in the Jubilee Room of the Houses of Parliament on Thursday, 1 March 2018.

The first headline was the snow – that prevented several Scottish SoS Minerals participants attending and cut the guest numbers – but even so, the audience filled most of the chairs in the Jubilee Room. It is not the best seminar room – with little space outside of the area of (close packed) chairs but the grandeur of the traditional décor and proximity to the entrance and souvenir shop were a bonus. Attendees included BEIS, GO-Science, POST, Innovate, various companies and WWF, and some politicians although I didn’t meet them personally.

Darryn Quayle of the Department for International Trade made some opening remarks about the importance of mining to the UK – including the London financial centre and the mining supply industry. Sir Keith O'Nions gave an opening talk on critical raw materials and then each SoS Minerals project gave a presentation consisting of an overview by the principal investigator or other senior member of the project team and then highlights by researchers. We had been asked to nominate early career researchers to present the research highlights. SoS RARE did something a bit different to the other teams by also introducing an industry partner. Alex Lemon gave a presentation on behalf of Mkango Resources Ltd, a dual listed AIM / TSX-V company developing a world class REE deposit in Malawi 3 years from production and highlighted how important academic interactions have been for Mkango, starting with Alan Woolley at the Natural History Museum and then Camborne School of Mines(University of Exeter) with collaboration on a CASE PhD, the SoS RARE and HiTEch AlkCarb projects, and most recently Sam Broom-Fendley's industrial strategy fellowship. Then Eva Marquis spoke about the geology of ion adsorption deposits, giving a summary of SoS RARE results from the Madagascar field laboratory. One of the reactions at the end of our session was 'just get leaching'! Aaron Finney described how it is possible so simulate rare earth element interaction with molecules in solutions and this also picked up interest in the discussion session with a comment about potential collaboration between the primary resource processing and recycling. Frances gave Nicky Horsburgh's talk because Nicky was trapped in Scotland by the snow, and highlighted that REE minerals do have distinctive spectra that could be used for automated sorting. We also squeezed in Megan Barnett to field any questions on bioprocessing since that is a theme common to most of the projects.

I enjoyed all the talks. I particularly liked Laura Newsome's CoG3 talk on her findings of how Co is hosted in laterites. I overheard a verdict that Dan Smith won the 'most tweeted' prize for his talk introducing the TeaSe project. I suspect that the environmental work being done in MarineE-Tech might produce some of the most high profile results from the programme.

Tony Hartwell, who supports networking activities for SoS Minerals, is preparing a summary of the presentations that can go to BEIS and other parliamentary staff who had asked for more information. Our thanks to Tony, Jon Naden and Ellie Evans, as well as Aspect Consulting (secretariat for APPG IM) for organising the day.

Frances Wall, 4 March, 2018


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