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Industry news: October 2009

Approval for UK carbon capture plant

Carbon capture and storage, BGS©NERC

The European Commission has supported plans for the construction of the UK’s first coal-fired power plant fitted with carbon capture technology and has recommended that the site at Hatfield, near Doncaster, receives £164 million from the European Union and the same funding again from the UK Government.The decision comes as the European Commission increases funding into new technologies to combat climate change and new EU plans state that €50 billion needs to be invested into clean energy over the next 10 years with €13 billion of this on carbon capture and storage.The Hatfield scheme was voted by the European Commission as the third best in Europe and was chosen over the Longannet power station, Scotland, and a potential new power station at Kingsnorth in Kent. If the site was granted planning permission the owners Powerfuel say that 1500 jobs would be created and the power station would be ready by 2015.

Sources: [No longer available] and

Eon delays new power station investment

Coal-fired power station, BGS©NERC

The energy producer Eon UK has announced that any new investment into the proposed new coal-fired power station and carbon capture and storage facility at Kingsnorth in Kent is to be put on hold. Eon had originally planned to construct the first coal–fired power station to be built in the UK for 30 years at Kingsnorth, the site of an existing power station which is scheduled to be decommissioned by 2015. However, in a statement released by the company, Eon attributes the decision to “the global recession, which has pushed back the need for new plant in the UK to around 2016 because of the reduction in demand for electricity.” Eon has stated it will review the decision in two or three years time and remain committed to carbon capture and storage and clean coal technologies.


Approval for new opencast mines

Opencast coal mining, BGS©NERC

Two new opencast developments have gained planning permission this month.The planning inspectorate has approved development of a mine near Little Wenlock, Shropshire, by UK Coal plc. The decision was granted after an original application in 2007 and a public inquiry in April this year.The proposals have received much local opposition from residents and Telford and Wrekin Council, who now plan to appeal against the decision. Local council members have announced they are “deeply disappointed” by the decision, particularly because of the site’s proximity to a nearby AONB and concerns from residents about dust and lorry movements. The permission allows UK Coal to extract 900 000 tonnes of coal over a 32–month period.UK Coal states it will return the site to green fields within four years and the development will create 90 jobs.

The Banks Group has also had its Brenkley Lane opencast site, located on the border of Northumberland and Newcastle, approved by both local authorities this month.This 130 hectare site, adjacent to the existing Delhi opencast mine, has planning permission to extract 2.4 million tonnes of coal and 200 000 tonnes of fireclay over 11 years.The development is expected to create 40 new jobs and will begin to be developed in 2010.

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Anglo American to sell Tarmac

Tarmac-owned Dene quarry, BGS©NERC

The quarry owner and construction materials’ supplier Tarmac has been put up for sale by parent company Anglo American plc. International mining company Anglo American announced major changes across its businesses which include streamlining management and a divestment of non–core assets which include Tarmac. Anglo American purchased Tarmac in 2000 and tried to sell it in 2007. However the decision was reversed when a slump in the construction industry lowered Tarmac’s perceived value. No one has yet expressed an interest in buying the Tarmac group but potential buyers could include Irish construction firm CRH. Anglo American stated that “The divestment of these assets will be undertaken in a manner and on a timetable that will maximise value for Anglo American’s shareholders,” and that preparatory work for the separation of Tarmac from the group’s core operations has commenced.

Sources: [No longer available], and [No longer available]

“Encouraging signs” for major construction industry equipment suppler

Quarrying machinery, BGS©NERC

Caterpillar Inc, the world’s largest suppler of construction and mining equipment, announced some positive news for the construction sector this month with higher than expected profits of £245 million for the July – September quarter. The company’s chief executive officer, Jim Owens, said “the third quarter marked the low point for Caterpillar’s sales and revenues in what has been the toughest recession since the 1930s. We are seeing encouraging signs that indicate a recovery may be underway."

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Platinum group elements commodity profile, BGS©NERC

The British Geological Survey releases the Platinum Commodity Profile

The Platinum Commodity Profile, the latest in this series from the BGS, is now available for free download from MineralsUK. The profile deals with all six platinum–group elements (PGE), platinum, palladium, iridium, osmium, rhodium and ruthenium. One of the main uses of PGEs is in autocatalysts which convert noxious emissions in vehicle exhaust systems to harmless non–toxic products; they have many other applications including jewellery, electronics, chemicals and glass. The Platinum Commodity Profile includes a summary of the geology of PGE deposits, methods of extraction and processing and analysis of production, trade and prices. Alternative technologies and recycling are also summarised.

New developments at South Crofty

South Crofty surface workings, BGS©NERC

Western United Mines (WUM), the owner of the South Crofty tin deposit, has outlined its strategy to bring the mine back into production. Chief operations officer of the mine, John Webster, said that WUM plans to focus on developing the poly–metallic nature of the deposit so that South Crofty would not be solely reliant on tin. However the owners of South Crofty also expect the price of tin to rise in the future due to its increased use in electronics making mining at South Crofty once again profitable. WUM has invested £12 million on the site and plans to invest a further £50 million. WUM has also recently agreed with Cornwall County Council to relocate the surface infrastructure of the mine allowing the council to develop 18 acres of the site into road, office and leisure facilities.

Sources: [No longer available] and

US reports outlines criticality of rare earth elements

A report released by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) this month outlined the growing reliance on China for the supply of rare earth elements (REE) although the USGS found that global REE reserves are sufficient to meet current needs due to large undeveloped deposits in China and Australia.The reports highlighted the growing demand for REEs due to their use in modern electronics and their importance in many new clean energy technologies. However China accounts for 97 per cent of global production and is currently reducing export quotas for some REEs to meet its own demands. The USGS suggests that a shortfall in production caused by reduced Chinese exports could allow prices to rise and make REE deposits outside China more economic.

A report has also been released by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources outlining how supplies of REEs are critical to the development of new clean energy technologies. Senator Lisa Murkowski commented “By cutting rare earth exports, China is seeking to ensure the manufacture of clean technologies within its own borders. But the implications for energy security and job creation in America are also apparent: We risk a future in which wind turbines, solar panels, advanced batteries and geothermal steam turbines are not made in the USA, but somewhere else.”

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