Future demand for minerals, the sector’s low profile, Brexit uncertainty and major global changes - including Chinese mineral expansion, protectionism in the USA and turbulence in the Middle East - present a range of challenges and opportunities for the minerals sector.
Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive of the Mineral Product Association told delegates at the RTPI/MPA Minerals Conference earlier this week that domestic supply of minerals is held back by partial Local Plan coverage and an uneven distribution of accessible reserves. To address this, the MPA has published a report setting out long term demand for minerals, and proposed an industry-led UK Minerals Strategy.
The conference also heard there are not enough planning applications for minerals projects to replenish supply. To address this, Adrian Cooper, Planning Policy & Strategy Manager at Shropshire Council told delegates there needs to be improved strategic coordination across council boundaries, coupled with efforts to boost the number of experienced long-term staff. The West Midlands, for example, has only 15 experienced minerals planning professionals working in the region, 90% of whom are concentrated within three county councils.
Future demand for minerals is expected to be strong, driven by a range of major infrastructure projects like High Speed 2 and Crossrail, and the measures proposed in government’s draft Industrial Strategy. But the expected demand for minerals from housing is more uncertain, said Gordon McCreath from law firm Pinsent Masons.
Speakers agreed the future of the sector will depend on a good strategic planning, backed up with support from government. The recent return to spatial strategies, dedicated housing and infrastructure funding and extra resourcing for planning authorities are all welcome developments, McCreath told delegates, but there is a lack of concrete measures from the government to really boost housing supply.
John Acres, RTPI Vice President, who opened the conference said:
“It’s clear planners need to be front and centre to plan now for future minerals demand so it can meet its potential role as an enabler of growth. Decision makers and planners will need to take a more strategic approach to ensure the industry can meet the demand from the £500 billion worth of national infrastructure investment.”
The RTPI/MPA Minerals Conference is held annually. This year’s conference considered how the minerals industry is responding to the growth agenda and the economic imperative of maintaining a steady supply of materials.