About SoS MinErals

SoS MinErals is a new interdisciplinary programme of research focusing on the science needed to sustain the security of supply of strategic minerals in a changing environment. This programme falls under NERC's sustainable use of natural resources (SUNR) strategic theme.

Two global pressures on mineral resource use are pushing environmental considerations to the fore. Firstly, population growth, coupled with natural resource consumption, is pushing the demand for minerals to new levels. Secondly, global efforts to protect the environment and to mitigate and adapt to increased atmospheric CO2 are changing the pattern of demand to include new metals that support low carbon technologies but require their extraction and processing from the host minerals at lower energy and water intensities.

Advances in the science are needed to:

  • understand how strategic minerals are mobilised and concentrated in the crust
  • deliver advances in process understanding
  • develop models to predict the environmental impact of scaling up on new technologies for low carbon mineral extraction
  • evaluate the implications of exploiting deep, more dispersed and/or more inaccessible minerals in the future

The term 'low carbon' is used in this context to refer to extraction technologies that minimise carbon emissions, i.e. environmentally-friendly processes; those techniques that have the lowest CO2 footprint.

The programme has two high level goals:

  1. to quantify the processes mobilising and concentrating mineral associations supporting environmental technologies (environmental technologies (i.e. low carbon emitting) are mentioned here as only one of the strategic drivers informing which minerals/elements the programme will focus on)

  2. to predict the environmental impact of low carbon extraction/recovery of strategic minerals

See the science and implementation plan 741 KB pdf for details on the priorities and plans for delivery of the programme.