Skip to main content

Foreign Affairs Committee launches inquiry into critical minerals

20 December 2022

The Foreign Affairs Committee today launches its inquiry into critical minerals and rare earths.

Critical minerals are essential to the UK’s economy and national security but are vulnerable to supply chain disruption due to the UK’s reliance on overseas sources. China dominates the market in both mining and mid-stream processing of a number of critical minerals, particularly rare earths.

In recent years, a number of western governments have taken steps – from ‘on-shoring’ to state subsidies – to increase their resilience to market disruption. In July 2022 the Government published its Critical Mineral Strategy, setting ambitious goals for how the UK can keep pace with other nations.

This inquiry will consider how the UK can engage with global partners to diversify supply chains in a way that respects human rights and ensures adequate access to critical minerals. The Committee will look at ways in which the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) can leverage diplomatic ties and build strong alliances for global regulation of the critical minerals market.  

The inquiry will also ask how the FCDO can ensure UK access to critical minerals markets, while also promoting UK values through improved environmental, social and governance performance in critical mineral mining and processing. The Committee will also examine how diplomatic networks can help build a better picture of geopolitical threats that may affect supply chains. 

The deadline for submitting written evidence is 28 February 2023.

Chair's Comment

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns MP, said:

"Critical minerals and rare earths are the building blocks of modern technology. From the microchips in our phones and laptops to wind farms and electric cars, critical minerals are integral to our functioning as a nation, as well as our technological advancement. Minerals are a particularly important ingredient in our transition towards green energy, which requires far more input of minerals than fossil fuels. 

However, with a finite supply and ever-increasing demand, critical minerals and rare earths are an emerging resource battleground. As such we need to investigate whether the time for resilience diplomacy is at hand.

The UK relies on mineral imports from overseas. This inquiry will examine those supply chains, asking what the consequences of disruption to this supply chain could be. It will also explore the pressures that critical minerals place on international security, and ask how we can prevent hostile states leveraging minerals for political gain. The inquiry will examine how we can build resilience through diversification of supply, and whether the UK should make use of new methods of mining, as well as asking how we should regulate these methods”.

Call for evidence

The Committee welcomes evidence in response to the following questions:

  • Which critical minerals are the most important to the UK’s national priorities (including national security and the green transition)? Where are the vulnerabilities in these supply chains? What are the consequences of disruption to these supply chains? 
  • What opportunities are there for diversification of the UK’s critical minerals supply chains? How is the FCDO supporting the Government’s efforts to diversify supply of critical minerals?
  • What can the UK learn from steps taken by other countries to reduce the vulnerability of their critical mineral supply chains? 
  • How can the FCDO support the responsible sourcing of the UK’s critical minerals? How can the UK work with global partners to improve environmental, social and governance performance (ESG) across the sector?   What are the potential complications/implications of insisting on traceability in supply chains?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges of deep seabed mining for critical minerals? What should the UK’s role be in regulatory development around this?
  • Where should the UK’s focus be in developing bilateral relationships for improving our supply chain accessibility and traceability? How can the UK Government help mitigate any adverse impact of “debt-trap diplomacy” and increasing divides between the global South and global North?
  • What are the risks to international security of having mid-stream processing concentrated in a handful of countries? How can the UK guard against hostile states leveraging access to critical minerals for political gain?  

Image: Parliament