Written evidence from Professor Adrian Finch (BEV0019)


Batteries for electric vehicle manufacturing


Submitter of the Evidence:

I am Professor Adrian Finch, Professor of Geology at the University of St Andrews. My research group at the University of St Andrews is one of the UK’s largest to target specifically the geology of critical raw materials and the challenges facing the extraction of critical resources. My research group works alongside one of the largest battery research groups in the UK and we are members of the Centre for Energy Ethics.


Reason for Submission:

My reply addresses question: Does the UK have a sufficient supply of critical materials to support vehicle battery production? I am making my submission since these questions are at the heart of my research group’s activities on the resourcing of critical materials. Furthermore, my experience working on some of the world’s most promising critical metal exploration projects gives me insights into the geological problems and extraction of key resources.



  1. Battery technologies require access to Lithium (Li), Manganese (Mn), Nickel (Ni) and Cobalt (Co) and of these four metals, the most critical are Li and Co.
  2. The UK and Europe currently produce almost none of their critical metal needs even though they are one of the world’s greatest consumers. There is an ethical dimension to the West committing to zero-carbon futures – that accelerate demand for resources – but at the same time not actually producing those resources, which effectively outsources the carbon footprint and environmental damage of mining to other parts of the world.
  3. Of the four metals that make rechargeable batteries (Li, Mn, Ni, Co), the UK has the potential of the British Lithium project on Cornwall, but little real prospect of sourcing the other metals (Co, Ni, Mn) involved in battery manufacture in the short to medium term. Note that there is a chance that lithium mineralisation has gone unnoticed because the mineral petalite (a Li ore) looks almost identical to feldspar, the most common mineral in the Earth’s Crust.
  4. In contrast to the UK, Continental Europe has several potential sources of lithium, manganese, nickel and cobalt. Hence the UK’s access to these resources is significantly influenced by its relationship with the EU, our nearest source of these metal resources. There are also projects in the high Arctic in places such as Greenland that might in due course meet some of the UK’s demand.
  5. Establishing a mine in the UK and Europe is perceived as difficult because of power of local concerns about the environmental impact of mining. Europeans need to beware of a Not-In-My-Back-Yard mentality, but rather sponsor the recognition that a commitment to zero-carbon futures means more mining. By ensuring that mining takes place in Europe, we can minimise the carbon and environmental impact of mining (ensuring it meets European safety and environmental standards), instead of outsourcing it to parts of the world over which we have no control.
  6. Mining for metals used in green technology is essential to replace our dependence on oil and gas. We are leaving behind the age of carbon and entering the age of metals. The green zero-carbon future is entirely dependent on responsible mining for new metals such as those in batteries. The UK needs to be at the heart of that change, driving it, not just dependent on other countries for the success or otherwise of its zero-carbon strategies.
  7. The UK has some of the world’s best academic expertise on the geology of critical metals, how to find them and how to exploit them, which includes my research group. I do not believe it makes full use of that expertise.
  8. The use of lithium in batteries may in due course be replaced by other, less critical materials such as sodium or hydrogen.