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Natural Resources of Wales - Mining - Simon P. Hobson

The extraction of metals, aggregates and other minerals has been essential for global technology advancement and Wales’ historic economic prosperity.

 

Author: Simon P Hobson

10th September 2022

 

The extraction of metals, aggregates and other minerals has been essential for global technology advancement and Wales’ historic economic prosperity.  Famous the world over, the Welsh slate, copper, coal and iron ore industries have contributed to the lands international standing for over 4,000 years.  And, not insignificantly to the advancement of the global industrial revolution and British colonial prestige among its European peers.  With those industries having long declined and with the Port Talbot steelworks heading the same way, not to mention the clamour from well-meaning groups calling for “No more mining!”, it might appear anachronistic to consider the business of mineral extraction and processing, as part of the future for Wales.  But like energy, a nation without control over the natural resources which drive its economy is as powerless as a nation unable to turn on the lights.

By its nature, mining is not a sustainable industry.  But it is everything for our society.  Aggregates and sand make concrete and cements, Antimony is a flame retardant, is used in semiconductors, forms an alloy increasing hardness and mechanical strength, Potash is essential to meet the needs of modern crop production, Gold and Copper feature in electrical goods and, the likes of Cobalt, Nickel and Lithium are integral in the battery technologies which are now beginning to transform the world of mobile communications, electric vehicles and decarbonise our lives. 

There are of course myriad minerals for which humanity has found a use.  Wales is rich in resources which will continue to play their part in any future economy.  The nation must explore how best to manage and utilise it’s; sand, aggregates, clays, limestone, slate, salt, gold, silver, lead, copper, zinc, antimony and manganese[1].  Seeking out both new and known deposits which may become an economically viable reserve.  The nature of mining, reliant as it is on external commodity markets[2], makes valuing the industry complex but, Wales’ mineral extraction and its supporting businesses is reported as having a Gross Value Added (GVA[3]) of over £170 million[4] per annum.  A GVA which places Wales’ current mining and quarrying activities in a comparative position with other European nations - Lithuania, £100 million; Latvia, £110 million; and Estonia, £200 million[5].  With active encouragement and an international outlook from an ambitious Senedd, mining could contribute far more to the Welsh economy.      

New mining technologies and evidence-based regulations surrounding the industry are already ensuring that a greater compassion is now guiding the extraction of minerals.  Sensitivity towards both local environments and peoples likely to be impacted by activities from a mine business is now the norm.  Much of the new technology is focused on efficiency.  Mining becomes more environmentally responsible when efficiency is improved[6] because less waste is produced.  The universities of North America and Australia create countless jobs and tens of spin-out businesses or technologies from focusing on improving mine efficiencies[7].  An independent Wales’ is eminently capable of following such a path and in the process further transforming its economy into one which excels in high-tech innovation. 

Natural resources are essential for the survival of a nation.  To dismiss the need for mining is to display an ignorance of civilisation.  And, to actively campaign to rid the world of mining is to signal support of the destruction of humanity. 

The campaign is underway – the people of Wales are being asked to consider the future of their country and their natural resources.  If you believe in Wales’ destiny being in the hands of its people, then please support Yes Cymru and its petition for the Senedd to control the country’s natural resources.  Afterall, a nation with no say in the use of its natural resources is no nation.

 

[1] Humpage. A. J. & Bide. T. P., The Mineral Resource Map of Wales, British Geological Survey (2010).

[2] Mining companies sell minerals such as copper through third-party brokers. One such brokerage home is the London Metals Exchange (LME) - https://www.lme.com

[3] Gross Value Added (GVA) is defined as gross output minus the value of goods and services used to produce that output (Brown et al., 2011).

[4] Stats Wales, Gross Value Added in Wales by industry, Llywodraeth Cymru / Welsh Government (2020).

[5] Makulaviius. Mantas. & Sivileviius. Henrikas., Baltic Countries Mineral Resources and Aggregates used in Transport Infrastructure Extraction Analysis, IOP Science (2021).

[6] M.I.T., The Future of Strategic Natural Resources - Using Environmentally Conscious Mining Standards, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (2016).

[7] Evans. Scarlett., How technology is changing Australian mining jobs, Mining Technology (2019).

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