Committee announce new inquiry into strategically important metals

Periodic table
11 November 2010

The Science and Technology Committee launches a new inquiry examining the importance of strategic metals to the UK.

Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said

"This inquiry has the potential to be wide-ranging, from concerns about the availability of rare earth elements to how metals are recycled from discarded technological devices, some unfortunately through the use of exploited child labour in developing countries."

Metals such as cobalt, platinum, titanium, tantalum and the rare earth elements are important resources, widely used in modern technological devices. For example, neodymium, a rare earth element, is used in magnets which are used in computer hard disk drives, electric vehicles and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

There has been recent speculation that the availability of some of these metals is in decline, however, the exact impact of such a decline on UK high technology industries is unclear. Whilst other metals are more widely available but there are concerns relating to unethical mining and recycling from discarded devices. The Science and Technology Committee has today announced its inquiry examining the importance of strategic metals to the UK.

The terms of reference for this inquiry are outlined below, and the Committee invites written submissions on these issues by the close on Friday 17 December 2010.

1. Is there a global shortfall in the supply and availability of strategically important metals essential to the production of advanced technology in the UK?

2. How vulnerable is the UK to a potential decline or restriction in the supply of strategically important metals? What should the Government be doing to safeguard against this and to ensure supplies are produced ethically?

3. How desirable, easy and cost-effective is it to recover and recycle metals from discarded products? How can this be encouraged? Where recycling currently takes place, what arrangements need to be in place to ensure it is done cost-effectively, safely and ethically?

4. Are there substitutes for those metals that are in decline in technological products manufactured in the UK? How can these substitutes be more widely applied?

5. What opportunities are there to work internationally on the challenge of recovering, recycling and substituting strategically important metals?

Each submission should:

a) be no more than 3,000 words in length;
b) be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible;
c) have numbered paragraphs; and
d) include a declaration of interests.

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to and marked " Strategically important metals".

An additional paper copy should be sent to:

The Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA

Image: iStockphoto

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