Session 2010-11
Publications on the internet

To be published as HC 726-i

House of COMMONS




Strategically important metals

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Professor David Manning, Dr Bernie Rickinson and Dr Mike Pitts

Ian Hetherington, Sophie Thomas, Tony Hartwell and Louis Brimacombe

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 69



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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Science and Technology Committee

on Wednesday 26 January 2011

Members present:

Andrew Miller (Chair)

Gavin Barwell

Stephen Metcalfe

David Morris

Stephen Mosley

Graham Stringer

Roger Williams


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Professor David Manning, Secretary for Professional Matters, Geological Society, Dr Bernie Rickinson, Chief Executive, Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, and Dr Mike Pitts, Industry Technology Division, Royal Society of Chemistry, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Welcome, gentlemen. Thank you for coming as witnesses this morning. As you know, the Committee has decided to embark on an examination of strategically important metals. We are interested in a number of areas. Clearly, the reason why we have invited you is to listen to the scientific views, but we are also taking evidence on recycling, sustainability, product design and a whole range of other issues, some of which came up in an excellent lecture that Dr Pitts gave at the Royal Society of Chemistry not so long ago. The ground that we want to cover is going to be particularly important as time goes on. For the record, would you introduce yourselves?

Professor Manning: My name is David Manning. I am Professor of Soil Science at Newcastle University. I am here as Secretary for Professional Matters at the Geological Society, representing the views of the geological community.

Dr Rickinson: My name is Dr Bernard Rickinson. I am chief executive of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. I am a metallurgist by training. I also support the activities of the Materials Knowledge Transfer Network.

Dr Pitts: I am Mike Pitts. I am the sustainability manager for the Chemistry Innovation Knowledge Transfer Network. I am here today representing the Royal Society of Chemistry as I sit on the Industry Technology Executive, and I am a champion for sustainable design.

Q2 Chair: Thank you very much. Let’s start at the very basic level. What criteria should we use to define a strategically important metal?

Professor Manning: The key factor that underpins the geological perspective to this is the ability of these materials to be sourced from mined resources. It boils down to security of supply. We have seen in the submissions that we have talked about the concept of reserves and resources. The important thing for the Committee to be aware of is the difference between those two terms, and I would like to clarify that a little, if I can. Resources is a term used to describe the overall availability of materials. We know that these materials and metals are out there. Reserves is the term used very specifically to define that material that can be won from the ground and has a particular value in terms of current technology. So reserves are defined in accordance with stock market regulations to guide investors. With any mining operation you know what the reserves are because you have to declare them according to very strict rules and regulations. But, equally, the geologists who might work for those operations, and indeed the directors, know that there is more to be found.

Q3 Chair: For practical purposes it is available in an appropriate form?

Professor Manning: It is there in the store cupboard, yes.

Q4 Chair: But in a form that can be extracted?

Professor Manning: In a form that can be mined, yes, and can be produced into a product.

Dr Rickinson: Taking it to its very heart, what I would see as a critical metal, a strategically important metal, is one that directly affects the wealth creation available within UK business. There are many metals that can affect that and can affect that supply chain, but, seeing metals as just one part of a materials panoply, there has been a tremendous explosion of development of materials, and metals is one part, during the last 13 years. We can reflect on being in the same position previously. Your inquiry in terms of this as an area of concern has similarly been voiced in the past and there are lessons to be learnt from the past.

Dr Pitts: I would echo the comments about the way in which metals underpin technology, development and growth within an economy. Of particular importance is where they are critical towards future sustainable technologies, which is the way we are going to have to move towards operating as a future healthy sustainable economy. In that respect, we have seen demand grow very strongly for some metals at a pace that will probably outstrip supply in the short term because we just can’t react that quickly to get them out of the ground. That is when they become extremely strategically important.

Q5 Chair: Some metals, of course, have very volatile prices in the markets. Tin is an example. It is not necessarily rare yet but the prices are very volatile. Because of your responses, presumably you would be arguing that we ought to be including in our studies metals that are very volatile in price.

Dr Rickinson: You can have volatility of price but you can also see over a period of time price increases. For that, if you looked at the pricing of copper or aluminium, you would see a trend there. As a consequence of that trend, other things happen. One of the things that has happened, as I am sure you are aware, is the tremendous increase in theft of copper. That is driven by pricing relationships. The same is true of nickel. I would certainly classify what would be considered as, perhaps, almost commodity metals of nickel and copper as something that is important to wealth and infrastructure within the UK.

Professor Manning: You need to think about other materials as well in the sense that we are concerned about food security. The fertiliser minerals are being talked about as being in short supply. Phosphorus is one example, but the one that worries me is potassium. We saw in the Financial Times over the last six months the saga of the takeover bid for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan in Canada, which reflects the business interest in the supply of potassium. We know that world potash production has to double to feed the current population, that there are not enough mines to do that and that $1,000 a tonne was the price of potash a couple of years ago. It has come down but it won’t come down too far. So there are major issues relating to other minerals that we take for granted which are used in other parts of society at the present time.

Q6 Chair: Dr Pitts, you have published a version of the Periodic Table with splashed all over it a list by scarcity almost.

Dr Pitts: We all know about endangered species-plants and animals. It is an attempt to show that the elements are potentially endangered. It is a dynamic situation, of course, and price isn’t always the best indicator of that. We are speculators with certain metals and materials. I would encourage you to broaden the remit to look at phosphorus but also at materials such as helium, which we are losing irreversibly from the atmosphere. That is the only element we are going to definitely run out of at some point in the future. You can’t create or destroy elements, but the way we are managing most elements is really bad, and we are dispersing them in the environment in a way that makes them harder and harder to recover. We know on a grand scale what we are doing with carbon. We are starting to wake up to how badly we are managing the nitrogen or influencing the natural nitrogen cycle, the phosphorus cycle and other minerals. We just need to be a little more careful.

Q7 Roger Williams: Perhaps you could set out what the key factors are that will dominate the supply shortages for strategic metals for the UK in particular.

Professor Manning: The important thing to bear in mind is that metals occur where they occur in the world, so we are looking at a global distribution of materials. Of course, much of the production is then related to local factors. So we have a complete spectrum of mining activity from what you might imagine in your mind’s eye as a modern huge copper mine or something like that in the western United States through to what is called artisanal mining, where you have very poor people working under very informal conditions to produce columbite and tantalite for our mobile phones. There is this entire spectrum. This is the nature of the business, effectively, across the world.

The supply varies from the large mining companies that are producing the commodity metals, to a large extent, down to the artisanal miners who are producing the more speciality metals. Some of the smaller companies on the AIM market are interested in that as well. The trade is global.

Then we need to think about where the use is. Of course, with commodity metals the use can be global as well, but with a number of minerals the use can be very local. There is a complete spectrum here. Much depends on where the value added chain then takes off. Is manufacturing going to start closer to the mine so that the components that contain those materials are then sent to other units elsewhere, or does the raw material leave the mine and then go off to be blown up and produced elsewhere? I am thinking of perlite in that respect, which is not a rare material, but that is an example of a commodity that is mined, taken to where it is needed and expanded to give the fluffy insulation material that we use in building. It is a very diverse spectrum, and it is very difficult to generalise.

Dr Rickinson: In a similar analysis that went on in the late 1970s and early 1980s, from my own institute, they successfully forecast that the growth of developing countries’ needs would provide a stimulus by which the export of raw materials-ores-could be made more limited as a consequence of their infrastructure development to satisfy growing needs within an emerging or growing population. The recent activity within the rare earth’s area is very much prevalent to that same philosophy. There has been a consideration that, with limited mining reserves, the capability of satisfying a local market has started the throttle, the export, of very important materials to other Asian communities that have grown to accept that that material was almost on standing order. But these self-balance because, as David has explained, material resources exist elsewhere and with commercial pressure those can be re-financed and brought on stream. In many cases related to the present feelings about rare earth elements, there is a balancing taking place day by day in the market to bring on stream resources that, particularly in the States, were previously closed down associated with the commercial realities at that time.

Dr Pitts: As a chemist I look at it in reaction rates. Essentially the rate of development of some technologies and the demand that that creates is far outstripping the pace at which we can find new sources to open up or reopen new sources and get them up to speed. It takes something between six to 15 years to either reopen or start up a mine to produce. The cycle time of some technologies come and go much quicker than that. That is where some of the imbalances come. A big future factor that is going to be very important is energy. They use a lot of energy in mining and energy prices are on the way up. This will cause considerable price rises in the future. That will start to limit their availability or price certain technologies and uses out of the market.

Q8 Roger Williams: I don’t think that any or all of you have talked about trade restrictions. Certain Governments have been preventing or trying to work against the export of particular materials. Would you like to say something about that?

Professor Manning: I don’t think that is something we can comment on from a geological perspective.

Dr Rickinson: I can give you another example that doesn’t affect metals, but I was recently made aware that my own institute embraces natural materials just as well as it does metals. Appropriate levies that were being applied from Russia in terms of exporting wood will certainly have impacts associated with the UK’s consumption of that as a commodity, perhaps not at the present time because we know that some construction is at a low, but it affects materials endlessly. There is more and more political debate going on to underpin what is important for local consumption. Last week Materials KTN organised a mission to Holland to understand in actual fact designing out landfill. This was a broad envelope. We succeeded in drawing together many presentations from Dutch business. Every single presentation really started from the point of material scarcity. The Dutch, as is going on in the UK, are very concerned about the way in which resources consumed within the UK’s economy are moved outside the international boundaries. Materials resources is all about not just bringing materials in but controlling their use almost in second life and third life within the international contours of every nation. It’s a legacy that we must protect.

Dr Pitts: I am not sure that I am qualified to speak about the politics, but we do see a price differential between internal customers in the countries that control many of these minerals and the export, but that doesn’t really show all the picture. As you go up the value chain in terms of the materials that these are made into, that is often the way these things are now exported or imported by the UK. I believe the trade restrictions and the price differentials aren’t quite so strong higher up the value chain. It means that we are more and more reliant on foreign manufacturing.

Q9 Roger Williams: Perhaps you could tell us which sectors of the UK economy are going to be more vulnerable to shortages of these metals?

Dr Rickinson: Perhaps one important area in which the UK has a strong presence is power generation, aerospace and defence. Certainly from the point of view, particularly, of power generation and aircraft power generation, the complexity of materials that are used in an engine is incredible and the demands on that are growing all the time. The staple base material for the compressors parts of engines rely on nickel. At the front end you are using titanium or composites. Within the recipes that go on within manufacturing goods within our aero engines, there are a lot of very special materials for coatings. Hafnium is one and platinum is another. Without those materials, the performance and, therefore, the wealth creation of those businesses could be seriously jeopardised.

Dr Pitts: I have spent quite a lot of the last few days talking to all sorts of companies around the UK about material security and every one of them has some kind of issue. It is pretty broad, certainly from a chemical manufacturer’s perspective. It impacts on oil refining, which is something we do a lot of. These materials are used in catalysis, fuel additives, catalytic converters in our vehicle industry and glass manufacturers. Most of the rare earth materials are used in about every consumer product you can think of in electronic equipment. You are all carrying some around in your briefcases, I assure you. So it is pretty widespread. It is probably more hidden that we can really get a full picture of.

Q10 Roger Williams: Given the fact that the Government has set out certain priorities in terms of green technology, IT and medical technology, are the Government’s priorities going to be in any way impeded by these shortages, and, if so, which particular ones out of those three groups, then?

Dr Pitts: Most of them. Rare earths and other strategic metals are used in the manufacture of most renewable technologies, from solar panels, through wind turbines, hybrid vehicles and in medical applications. If there were no liquid helium, it would be very hard to use MRI scanners. The alternative is rare earth magnets, which are also at risk. Medical lasers and all of these things are at real risk.

Professor Manning: I was going to comment about lithium batteries, which is something that Nissan is trying to develop. They will need to be resourced to supply that. There are a lot of uncertainties.

Dr Rickinson: If you look at some specific numbers, much has been said recently about neodymium iron boron magnets. Just to give you a scale of things, not only will you have some of these rare earth materials in your briefcase but you have plenty surrounding you in a car. Hard drives in computers certainly exist as one, but in the car you are talking about 1 to 2 kilos. If you are talking about wind energy, then the figure I have been quoted is about a half a tonne per megawatt hour. If the UK wishes to drive a strategy towards the use of wind power for renewable energy and renewable energy of that type is likely to be offshore, then the use of neodymium iron boron magnets-neodymium being the operating element, the rare earth element in question-is going to be critical to the development of that strategy. The UK wanted to build a strategy, a supply chain, associated within that. Is the present situation associated with rare earth availability going to impact on that UK strategy? I think those types of questions would need to be asked.

If you go into the medical field, if you are unlucky enough to have had a medical implant, the base of most medical implants these days is cobalt. If you go to the European summary of what they considered as critical materials, cobalt would appear there. Cobalt certainly is important, but it is probably at a different level than some of the other materials, like rare earths, but it is nevertheless important for wealth within the UK. So there are a number of materials that underpin wealth for the UK and strategy for the Government that really need evaluating.

Q11 Roger Williams: I am not quite sure if this is the right panel to ask this question to, but I will give it a go anyway. Given the fact that the Government have set out their priorities and, obviously, industry is very driven within their own particular sector to deliver and improve their technologies, is it the responsibility of the Government or industry to hedge against these particular shortages?

Professor Manning: There are certainly things the Government can do that would be strategically valuable to help us make better use of these resources. One of these is to make sure that we have an adequate supply of expertise coming through the system of people who understand these materials and who can answer questions of the type that you are asking from the different disciplines that are in front of you. We note that within the public sector we have bodies like the British Geological Survey that have been monitoring the production of minerals globally for 100 years or so now, where the expertise that is required to do that is almost unique globally. There is only the United States Geological Survey and the British Geological Survey that do this. It is terribly important that that type of expertise is maintained.

We also note that the provision of teaching and research in universities of the work that is needed to bring new people into the field of economic geology and understanding the distribution, origin and where to find these materials is something that again needs to be sustained and it needs to be sustained through making sure that there is a research base that will allow us to attract the best academics in the world to come and work on this and then to inspire the youngsters, who then have brains agile enough to be able to respond to the needs as they arise. So there is a need for that kind of joined-up strategic thinking.

I note in the submission from the RCUK that there is evidence of this and some very positive signs coming out of that in terms of the plan to invest £6 million through the Natural Environment Research Council. We really do want to see that go ahead. Talking amongst those who have been a party to that, it seems that part of the idea there is to join up across different groups and different disciplines. That is exactly what is needed, so I hope that is taken forward.

Roger Williams: That is helpful.

Dr Rickinson: From a Government strategy point of view, perhaps it is useful to make comparisons, and the comparisons that I can best give you were articulated to me about a month ago from a Japanese delegation whose Government had been considering this for the last four years. So they had seen on the rare earth side something coming over the horizon. Their strand of strategy was four-pronged. It was stockpiling, committing cash to exploration and resource development offshore, looking towards alternatives and recycling.

Looking to the UK’s strategy, whilst I am not suggesting stockpiling or exploration, other than potentially re-examining UK resources, the UK could develop itself incredibly well within the field of recycling. Recycling won’t be the area unique to halt all problems in the future, but what the UK has, and this was very clear to me when we made the Dutch mission last week, is the fusing together of materials science and product design, which is a very important and well developed ingredient within the UK.

What we ought to be spending some time to develop is the way in which products can be disassembled more easily through which those materials that are strategically important can be recycled. Certainly, our capability on materials and product design is world class. By putting those together, we could become globally significant in so far as dealing with these crucial shortages in the future.

Also, within our materials envelope within the UK, we have an excellent materials research and development structure. Therefore, from an alternatives point of view, there is an opportunity of developing alternatives from within the UK with additional research and development.

Coming back to the EU document, there was concern where a great deal of resource was coming out of one particular country, one of which is niobium, where a large proportion of the world’s supply of niobium is coming from Brazil. There are alternatives to niobium. The vast proportion of niobium is used in steel making for high strain steels, particularly for pipeline steels, and it is very effective. Vanadium, similarly, can be employed also as a substitute for niobium. So, looking at that Periodic Table, one can pick out certain things that are more critical than others, but I would come back from a strategic point of view to saying that recycling for the UK is an important investment to look forward to.

Q12 David Morris: Given that substitution of one metal for another carries the risk of replacing one supply problem with another, how much effort do you consider should go into developing substitutes for strategic metals?

Dr Rickinson: I have just given you one example-the vanadium-niobium link. Another one comes back to medical. There has been a tremendous surge of interest in the use of titanium rather than the use of cobalt. Titanium in certain alloy configurations has certain disadvantages. Cobalt is somewhat well balanced, but the chain is there because if you turn the clock back 25 or 30 years-and it is still true in terms of animal implants because implants go into horses as well as human beings-you go from stainless steel. There is a chain reaction to improvement. The materials research and development activity within the UK is globally recognised as being a very significant player. To put more effort into alternatives to what we envisage as critical materials to wealth creation would be money well spent.

Q13 David Morris: What, if anything, can the Government and industry do to promote any of this substitution?

Dr Pitts: Invest in research. With some of these, direct substitution is not always possible because the properties are fairly unique. In many cases you might have to go even deeper in the innovation and replace it with a whole new way of delivering the same effect. For example, one of the most critical materials is indium, which we use in the screens of phones, televisions at home and all sorts of different LCD-type products. The next generation of technology will probably be organic-based polymers to replace that. It will be organic LEDs that don’t require those metals. But that takes a long time. It has a long lead time in terms of development, but investment in that could put you ahead, and this is something that is happening in some eastern countries, Japan, Korea and so on. Samsung are working very hard on this, for example. I have a Samsung phone. It has an LED screen. At the moment it still contains certain metals. The technology is not quite there yet but it is getting there. Within the UK, we have a strength in that area that could be nurtured and we could become real leaders. If you have a substitute technology like that, then you really can take on the world and solve a lot of people’s problems.

Q14 David Morris: So that is in perpetual development?

Dr Pitts: Yes. It is long-term investment. Let me make a quick comment which picks up the last point as well. In talking to a lot of companies recently, they are actively looking to find ways to substitute but they do need support in doing that. I was working in the last few days with the Technology Strategy Board. We are setting up an activity that brings in the Materials Knowledge Transfer Network as well the Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network. We are all different parts of the puzzle on this one and we are working together to try and deliver this.

One of the things that companies would like the most, rather than stockpiling as well as help in looking towards substitution, is some understanding of what material will be critical in future, because they get surprised sometimes by the changes in the prices. They don’t always know where they should be focusing on substitution within their own product ranges. It’s the International Year of Chemistry this year, and I hope you were all at its launch this week. One of the things that this group, together with the Royal Society of Chemistry, is hoping to do and will be looking at is material security, and it would be great to see this as a recommendation from this Committee as we move towards the fourth quarter of this.

It would be helpful for companies to have something akin to the Stern report for resources, putting an economic value on the linear economy as it stands, where we dig things out of the ground, add value to them and discard them so that we can have a real understanding of not only where materials go within the UK economy but where they come out and the value we are not placing on those, and even the environmental cost of removing these. Once you get to a certain low grade of ore in mining some of these materials, the environmental impact goes up because it is harder and harder to get to that. Although economics might say, "If the price rises, we can get to more inaccessible grades", there is a concomitant rise in the environmental impact that needs to be costed in.

Professor Manning: I would like to make a very small comment because of course we have heard the response that there is a need for more research. Of course, we have the mechanisms for doing that through the research councils, through various links with industry and all sorts of schemes. The important point to bear in mind is that we need to make sure that what we are discussing today rises sufficiently high in the priorities, because what we recommend as research that needs to be done has to compete with other priorities. So having some kind of joined-up strategy is really important here.

Additionally, we need to recognise that, although the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council were named in the submission from the RCUK, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is active in mineral processing as well and we need to make sure that that is not excluded by virtue of not having been mentioned in some of the documentation that you might have seen so far. I think there is a lot is going on.

Bearing in mind the way in which a great deal of research is funded at the present time, perceptions of the public are also becoming increasingly important. Again, we need to take that on board, especially if we are considering the way in which we might consider mining again in this country or developing our own natural resources. We know that this country is one of the most difficult in the world to get planning permission to take a mine forward. Much work remains to be done there.

Dr Rickinson: Could I just add another comment appropriate to substitution and take the discussion slightly wider? There is a problem when you are trying to develop substitutes, alternatives. It is not necessarily in the properties through which you can meet the properties and therefore displace the previous material. It is what happens next. Sadly, in many cases what happens next is a whole raft of testing and feasibility analysis, and that is a long process. Within the aerospace world it certainly exists over a 10 to 13 year period, so it is not short.

I would suggest to you that the word "substitution" is actually broadened to incorporate the recycling of second-use material. There are downsides within including used material into virgin materials because sometimes the properties aren’t exactly as you would wish. Therefore, if you are talking about the way in which Government could develop things, not only is there a need for the development of alternatives, but a need exists to consider the way in which we could reuse more of that material and apply development to improving that reused material. Perhaps from the people point of view, we should be encouraging the populace not to see recycled, reused material, that perception, as being second best.

There are two strands to the argument, but they very definitely come back to your words "substitution" and "alternatives", but they are using more of the same rather than seeing a different element being used for the same purpose.

Dr Pitts: In relation to straightforward substitution of one material with another, you can spend a lot of time and a lot of effort, as Bernie suggested, just to be where you were when you started and there is no overall improvement in the material. An approach which Bernie has just described is to substitute a material with a better business model and a better process. Again, that takes longer and more effort but potentially it puts you in a better position at the end of it. Some of these developments will take longer but we will have a more sustainable approach when we finish.

Q15 David Morris: Do you think the technology is in place at this moment in time to refine the recycling of these materials to make the quantities and qualities uniform in the recyclable approach?

Dr Pitts: Certainly potentially. In most cases it is technically feasible but economically not, because we are not really costing properly the use of virgin material. Hence there is a need to put a proper price on this and understand where it goes. In most cases the technology exists, but because the research funds are not necessarily in place it is not seen as a nice academic challenge and there is not the concentration on it that there could be. There are some really good groups around the UK that are already working on this.

Q16 Chair: If we model things based upon labour and energy costs in this country and applied that to the cost of the natural material, in that way you would be forced to think more rigorously.

Dr Pitts: It should be the full costs of taking it out of the ground because that is usually displaced in another country. It would be the energy cost and the environmental impact of mining the material in the first place. That has to taken into account and balanced off. We all know that aluminium is something like 5% of the amount of energy used to recycle the material rather than to mine it in the first place. That is not the case for every metal.

Q17 Chair: The more scarce it gets, the higher the price.

Dr Pitts: Yes. Obviously, the higher the price goes anyway, the more economic the recycling methods are, but I don’t think we are seeing the true price of it, anyway, in the first place.

Q18 Graham Stringer: Dr Pitts told us one of the recommendations he would like to see out of the report. What recommendations would the other two witnesses like to see out of this report?

Professor Manning: The most important thing from our perspective is to make sure that we have the expertise coming through the system. I mentioned this earlier on. We are conscious that those people who were involved with a lot of the fundamental work about mineral deposits and the occurrence and formation of these things, which is the very base of understanding where minerals come from, are getting to be quite grey haired and there will be a bit of a demographic time bomb there potentially. We reckon that there may be six or seven universities in this country which, truly globally, are competing in terms of the science that is required, but they are competing against some extremely strong players in Australia, north America and Canada. We really do need to sustain this activity and make sure it continues.

We also see at the present time, for example, that there is only one Masters programme in mining geology in the country and that is in Camborne School of Mines, which is part of the university of Exeter. Of the 40 graduates who they take each year, which is a very successful course, they mostly go off to South Africa and Australia to work, so we are not retaining brains in this country. It was ever thus. This is a global industry, people work globally and it is very good for our people to go and study and work overseas and then to come back in the fullness of time. But, over the years, it has meant that we have tended to neglect what we have in this country.

We see, for example, a major survey carried out in Northern Ireland using modern geophysical methods, which has never been done in England and Wales or in Scotland, and 90% now of the territory is licensed for mineral exploration as a consequence. We assume that because Cornwall has been around for thousands of years as a mineral stockpile, we don’t need to do any more work there, yet there are treasures in Cornwall waiting to be found. We need to make sure that this is consistently being worked through and that continued work takes place on the geology and aspects of the geological science.

In a way, we face a fundamental decision, especially as the universities and the British Geological Survey are going through a period of change, thinking about to what extent we are going to be spectators on the world stage or to what extent we are going to continue to lead. Given the success we have in sending our young people, our graduates, through to recruitment in the global mining companies, which is where we are still the preferred source of recruitment, it needs to continue. We see the long-term benefits of that coming through, but we have to make sure that we are able to capture the interest of the school leavers and turn out people through the universities who are stimulated by research that is appropriate. That is where the biggest challenge lies at the present time.

Dr Rickinson: I have seen almost four strands in some recommendations. I think it is timely that there be a re-audit-that could be part of your own remit-and an in-depth analysis of those materials in the broadest sense that are important for the UK economy. Certainly, from my point of view, I would like to see a recommendation that a more detailed audit is taking place.

You would probably find that many of the solutions to the problem already exist. It is one, therefore, of awareness. To give you an example, on the neodymium iron boron issue that I have already mentioned, through funding that has gone on within the TSB and collaborations at the university of Birmingham, a recycling technique has been discovered, evaluated and proven, and it is looking now for commercial development, by which neodymium iron boron magnets could be recycled within the UK. So out of that university of Birmingham work funded by the TSB, which was a short, sharp programme, a solution is pending. We have to make that awareness of what is there available.

We have to influence the way in which product design and materials work more closely together in the marketplace. Can we reduce our reliance on critical materials by alternative choice but at the product design stage just as much as at the materials science stage? I see the linking together of product design, the recycling and the ease of disability all being part of an important solution to the issue. Coming out of the mission that we ran in Holland last week, it was a reflection that we can’t do it on our own. The Dutch were saying that just as much as the UK were saying that. Therefore, I sense that this is a collaborative activity that has got to go on over international boundaries. So I would like to see those four recommendations very definitely coming through.

Q19 Graham Stringer: That’s our report written after those answers. If we can go back to the point that Professor Manning was making earlier about resources within this country, in Cornwall and the south-west, how big a problem are the planning regulations on mineral rights issues? If there was a will in Government, is it possible to exploit the resources that we have in this country or are the barriers too high?

Professor Manning: The barriers are certainly complex. We know that where existing planning permissions exist for all sorts of mining operations that is the easy way in to build on the back of something that has been granted many years ago for a different purpose sometimes. That can be taken forward. There could be some ease in terms of the strategic need for materials being recognised in the same way that the planning law is being changed from the point of view of looking at major installations over power generation and things like that. If mining could come into that category, that would help.

The important point about mining is that much of the problem arises from the automatic assumption that a mine is definitely not a good neighbour. This is where the mining industry has a role to play in demonstrating that a modern mine, run to standards that we would expect in this country, can be a very good neighbour. We see this in some of the open pit coalmining near where I live, and one of the very good companies there is invisible, and so has a terrible problem in getting planning permission because no one knows it is there. It has backfired to some extent and they have to work very hard to demonstrate to the public just how quiet they are. That is where there is a double edge to this. The consultation process tends to throw up objections that are based on historical perceptions rather than present day perceptions, and there may be ways in which that can be eased.

In general terms, the issues of mineral rights and mineral ownership are extremely complicated and can also get in the way. Of course, they vary between England and Wales, and Scotland, on the other hand. I can’t comment on those in detail.

Q20 Graham Stringer: Dr Pitts was saying earlier that the other side of this equation is where we buy rare earth and other difficult-to-obtain metals from. How bad environmentally and to the individuals involved is the extraction of rare earths in China? Can you give us a description of what conditions are like?

Professor Manning: Have you come across this in detail? We were talking about this yesterday. We don’t know much about the extraction process.

Q21 Graham Stringer: I have just read that the conditions are poor.

Professor Manning: We were saying yesterday that one of the ways in which this is done is that the shale is taken out of the ground, it is treated with acid in vats and then the materials are leached out and taken away for refining. The important thing is that there is a huge amount of residual material left because we are seeing mining of a material that is quite low in concentration, even though these are abundant in these particular deposits. So there are huge amounts of waste. There is the use of acids. There is the potential of natural radioactivity associated with the rare earths in particular. So there is a whole accumulated set of issues even before it leaves the mine to go through to wherever the output of the mine is treated. We would like to know a lot more about it in this particular instance. It is not something that we are very familiar with.

Dr Pitts: They are working very hard to improve environmental standards and manage the industry right across China, which is having a knock-on effect on the price because there is an associated price with better management of tailings, radioactive waste and human welfare.

Q22 Graham Stringer: Has the European Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive helped with the recycling process or should it be developed further?

Dr Rickinson: I think it has very much helped but I am not sure that the logistics are absolutely right yet. Certainly, the evidence that we gathered from the Holland mission suggests that a significant amount of electronic goods related to either IT or straightforward domestic appliances is being recovered in a much better way than has previously been the case. I tended to see that the practice in Holland was somewhat better organised than in the UK, but it’s no doubt had a beneficial effect.

Dr Pitts: I don’t think the legislation has quite done everything it was intended to in terms of driving better product design and encouraging manufacturers to design their materials for recovery and reuse. That is not to say that there aren’t extremely good examples of companies that have done them, even within the UK. I know of one very good example which my colleague, Tony Hartwell, in the next session may be able to elaborate on some more, where Unipart has made a profitable business out of recycling the Sky receiver boxes. But in other cases the linking is not there. A parallel directive is the End of Life Vehicle Directive. It won’t be long before something like 90% of a vehicle has to be recycled. The people taking the vehicles apart aren’t necessarily connected up with the people making the components in the first place, who would really like to get those materials back. It is a lot easier if you are taking back a product but, if you are part of a very long distributive supply chain, it is very hard for you to keep track of those materials and get them back in an economic way to use them again. You can design it for that.

Of course, there are conflicting design requirements as well in terms of safety and longevity. Before Christmas, we talked to a manufacturer of car stereo speakers, for example, that use neodymium magnets because there is a huge pressure on weight. They want higher performing magnets for very good quality speakers but these things have to last, with car warranties extending all the times, to 20 to 30 years. They have to be as lightweight as possible and as cheap as possible as well, but of course there is no way that a car speaker manufacturer, from the way we manage our vehicle waste at the moment, is ever going to see those speakers again, much as they would like to.

Q23 Gavin Barwell: Professor Manning was just saying that a modern mine run to a high standard can be a good neighbour. Does the panel as a whole think that a resurgence in domestic mining, either terrestrial or offshore, is compatible with contemporary attitudes towards environmental protection?

Professor Manning: Yes, I think it is. One of the goods things about mining in this country is that we can be absolutely sure of the control of the environmental parameters. If we are interested in making sure that we are responsible consumers of mined materials, then the more we do that under our own control the better.

Dr Rickinson: I would certainly endorse that the change over the last decade in terms of sustainability, environmental parameters and health and safety associated with mining has changed in all respects. Therefore, a mining application within the UK would be at a different level than it was probably previously thought of by the public. It’s a matter of perception, though, and convincing the public that that, indeed, is actually taking place.

Dr Pitts: I am not qualified to comment on mining but I would say we need to get better. We have the capability in the UK within our chemistry, science and engineering infrastructure to develop much better ways to get materials out of mining ores and also so-called waste streams where the concentration can often be higher than in the ore that it came from.

Q24 Gavin Barwell: My next question is to Professor Manning. The Geological Society of London in the written evidence it submitted said that with modern mining extraction techniques, coupled with high levels of environmental safety, you believe it is possible to satisfy concerns as well as deliver an economic benefit, and you would be happy to provide details of specific instances to the Committee. Could you give us a couple of examples?

Professor Manning: Yes. We can certainly supply some examples in writing in the fullness of time. With regard to the examples which come to mind, if I can call upon something which is not necessarily part of your inquiry, we can see that one of the justifications of open pit mining of coal is that it supplies the fire clay which is required to give a pale coloured brick that architects specify. If open cast coalmining did not take place, then it would not be possible to source those bricks. So that is a very small example of how a single operation can produce different products for more than one market and more than one requirement, making best use of the opportunity to break open the urn. That is just one example.

Q25 Gavin Barwell: Oakdene Hollins, in their written evidence, said that there was a case for voluntary labelling schemes, such as that which the Forest Stewardship Council uses to improve standards of mining across the world. Is that something that any of you would like to comment on? Is it something you agree with?

Professor Manning: It’s an interesting concept. There is certainly scope for that. Certainly the more reputable companies would be able to wear such a badge with pride. There is a lot to be said for that.

Dr Rickinson: I couldn’t answer.

Dr Pitts: Generally, with labelling schemes, the aim is engaging the retailers in understanding the issue because they tend to be the ones who make the decisions, not the consumer.

Q26 Gavin Barwell: Finally, can any of you offer any specific comments in terms of what can be done to protect the marine environment from offshore mining activity?

Professor Manning: Yes. There is obviously a long history of marine mining and damage that it has caused. That is a major concern in many parts of the world. It is like mining on land in the sense that there are, undoubtedly, going to be environmental costs. You cannot deny that in any mining operation. You have to make sure that those are acceptable. Then it comes down to how you define what the acceptable environmental burden is that mining might impose. I think that would be something carried out on a case by case basis. We see the biggest damage being done in the offshore extraction of aggregates to fuel this city with its construction needs. That’s one example which comes immediately to mind. If we were to look for materials like platinum offshore in western Scotland, it would be another matter again. A case by case basis is what is needed.

Dr Rickinson: Certainly from a materials point of view, manganese and magnesium are often cited as two materials that have the capability of being extracted from oceans. Of the two, manganese is probably more easily accessible on land rather than resorting to ocean mining. As for magnesium, quite a lot of development work is going on at the moment since magnesium is seen as a material of choice for light weighting going forward, but magnesium costs at the moment are prohibitive.

Dr Pitts: I couldn’t comment.

Q27 Chair: To what extent are mining opportunities offshore a significant part of the solution?

Professor Manning: It is very variable in the sense that you can think of some examples in some parts of the world where offshore mining would be possible. I am thinking of materials that are sands that have been eroded from the surface and deposited offshore. Those have been mined particularly, for example, in south-east Asia, for tin in the past, and there is scope for going back to look at that. There has even been consideration of doing that offshore in Cornwall in the past, as I can recall, during my career.

Generally speaking, I think the preference is to mine on land, because logistically there are some benefits. Offshore brings in additional uncertainties. We also have the issue of mining the sea water itself. Indeed, with the magnesium, that is from sea water itself rather than from any minerals that are found underneath the sea. So there is a difference there to be borne in mind. Sea water itself is a raw material in that particular context.

We need to be aware that offshore mining is not so much a case of having a mine like an oil well that goes from an offshore platform, down a shaft and then you have mining offshore in that sense. Offshore mining is generally taking something that is at the sea bed and removing it for processing on land. So it is necessarily going to be very disruptive to the sea bed. Underground mining offshore is something that can be contemplated and, indeed, does take place in this country at the present time for potassium in Yorkshire. We know that you can have a mine where you start off onshore and end up offshore, underneath the sea. That is something which will go on with the same type of environmental restrictions as you find for an onshore mine. It just so happens that the sea is between you and the atmosphere.

Q28 Stephen Metcalfe: If we were to expand mining activity here within the UK, would the driver for that be because it is economically viable and we would be adding to the overall capacity, to the pot of strategically important metals, or would it be to protect our own supply chain? Is there a diversity available within our own country that would help do that?

Professor Manning: It is fair to say that we don’t have the resources in this country that would enable us to go out and mine what we need on a strategic basis, particularly for something like rare earths. For tungsten we might have, but tungsten is the only metal that has come out of our inquiries in connection with this matter that would be in that category. We have to work with other people. In the context of some of these strategic metals, then a European approach might be the most appropriate way of looking at that. Even then, there are some materials that we don’t know of as resources let alone reserves in Europe. So we are going to have to work with the north Americans, Canada and the United States, to look at rare earths, for example. This is the way the industry functions, of course, as a global industry and, in a sense, we want to see ways of encouraging that type of global exploration and trade but where we are in the driving seat and able to understand the commercial opportunities.

Dr Rickinson: Could I answer your question in a slightly broader way and suggest that mining opportunities might exist but not necessarily in the traditional way in which you are creating a new mine? Certainly the activities that I have seen over the last few years of our KTN activity starting to gain favour is the mining of resources that, to some extent, we have created-in other words, mining of landfills. There is good documentation within landfills as to what they contain. As the choice of the public has changed over the years, there is a repository of material that exists within our landfills of today. As a future life rather than simply to extract methane as a fuel gas from evolving landfills, here is an opportunity to create that second resource.

Alternatively, one goes back to the tailings that exist in previous mines. I would suggest that work should go on both from a strategic point of view and from meeting domestic supply in tailings rather than necessarily sinking new mines. In both cases, one is re-evaluating that which has already been used. Certainly, the opportunity of re-mining landfill is something that we should take seriously. I was struck by the fact that, again, coming back to our Dutch mission, they were suggesting that the UK had a unique opportunity not to make the same mistake that the Dutch had fallen into. They had very little landfill to consume and needed to slow down the rate of landfill use. So they opted for a pathway towards incineration. Incineration has a habit of effectively using up the resources that are coming into the country. From the point of view of containing that raw material that has been used on our island and giving it a new life, I would suggest that mining might be considered in slightly different contexts.

Dr Pitts: I would endorse that and add to it slightly in terms of not really knowing where all our so-called waste material goes. I don’t really have much in the way of data for where much of our electronic waste goes, for example. Most of it gets exported because it is cheaper and more economic to have that process dealt with elsewhere in the world.

I have some data with me. In 2005, we exported 800,000 tonnes of non-ferrous metals. That was a 20% increase on the previous year. Would it have been better if it had been kept here and been used and processed? Bernie, you might want to comment on that.

Dr Rickinson: I could. It is incredibly sad. Part of an activity that we are involved in with the Home Office comes back to copper and copper theft-effectively, it’s getting out of the country and, potentially, it’s going out to China and it might even be to Poland. Why is it going there? It’s going there because the evidence we have at the moment is that scrap dealers who are dealing in scrap copper have no place left in the UK for it to be re-melted. This has gone under the radar, effectively.

When I trained as a metallurgist, the north-west area around Preston was rich in so far as the manufacture of copper cable was concerned, and it still is. As we understand, but to be confirmed, all of that raw material is actually coming in as coil to be drawn down to supply our national infrastructure. It seems rather sad, then, that all of that theft or all of that scrap material is exiting the UK, with all the carbon miles associated with bringing it back, rather than a recycling industry being established within the UK to turn it round as a resource that never leaves the UK.

Q29 Chair: That ignores the morality of those awful pictures of kids sitting on scrap heaps dismantling things, doesn’t it?

Dr Rickinson: Yes, it would.

Q30 Chair: They are our goods.

Dr Rickinson: If one developed a strategy along these lines, it might also create a greater deterrent through which you could stop copper theft happening in the first place because much of it goes outside the country without it necessarily being observed.

Q31 Graham Stringer: Do you think we need a form of Government intervention or do you think that the market will deal with that situation? It is rather surprising, given those enormous figures, that the market hasn’t dealt with that.

Dr Rickinson: I think it is commercially related. The market could respond, but herein is an opportunity. Within your own evaluation, whether it is rare earths or whatever, there are immense technical opportunities for the UK, because processes have been developed in which the UK could invest without necessarily going through a melting route.

Q32 Stephen Metcalfe: Assuming that we did develop this recycling capacity, how would we then encourage manufacturers to design products where either we are minimising the use of these particular metals or we are making it much easier to recover them? You spoke of mining old landfill sites, but not much thought was given to how you might get the material out of the product again at a later point. Going forward, presumably, this has to be a priority. How do we encourage manufacturers and designers to do that?

Dr Pitts: Behaviour change does come with changes in price. I have heard much anecdotal evidence in the last few days where companies, because the price has risen, have started to do internal recycling where they had not done that before. As I said, good quality information is what they need to know what might surprise them in the future. They can’t say what it might be because they are going to be surprised, and we need to know what is coming in, what is going out and what might be a future threat. The picture is really not as clear as it should be. The real value is not placed on them.

Professor Manning: The only point I would make in connection with recycling is, of course, that the demand for raw materials far exceeds the amount that is being thrown away, or at least I would like to be satisfied that we are able to bridge that gap quite happily. Provided that limitation is taken on board, there is no reason why recycling shouldn’t contribute a major amount, but whether we are going to go the whole way remains to be seen because we simply haven’t thrown away enough yet. We are still using it. That is a major issue that means that continuous mining is going to be needed.

As to the mining of landfills, as one who has spent many a happy hour on a landfill site, it is a challenge for us. The interesting aspect of this is that some of the innovative ways of treating domestic waste are mineral processing-type activities that are being applied to what the dustbin lorry delivers to a works. We are seeing movement in that direction. We will see this develop more and more as time goes on, but the materials that would be coming out of landfill would be the commodity metals, I would think, more than anything else at the present time.

Q33 Stephen Metcalfe: I understand that as we recycle some of these metals they lose their properties. You touched upon that earlier. Is there any way of mitigating that? How does one maintain the quality of material that has been recovered and then recycled, or do you lose it eventually?

Dr Rickinson: It varies from one material to another, so there is no universal rule here. You can certainly go through product development in terms of greater and greater use of recycled scraps, but when it comes to critically performing materials like turbine blades in aircraft there is only a limited amount of material that might be returned for a particular specification. The same is true of aluminium in terms of picking up tramp elements like iron, which reduce properties. I am convinced that, with additional alloying substitutions and development in that area, that might be counter-balanced. From metals it goes into plasterboard. Plasterboard has a limit in terms of the amount of recycled materials that you can put into it. It is really a matter of helping and encouraging that development, by which we might increase that quantity to reduce our net inventory of raw material coming into the UK.

Dr Pitts: Pure metals are infinitely recyclable. It is only when we start to combine them that it causes the problem. It is economy of scale, really. When you are mining, it is the same kinds of processes. If you can get a high enough concentration of a particular type of material, you will find a way to do it because it will be worthwhile.

Chair: Gentlemen, thank you very much. That has been an extremely helpful start to our i nquiry.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Ian Hetherington, Director General, British Metals Recyclying Association, Sophie Thomas, Council Member, The Design Council, Tony Hartwell, Knowledge Transfer Manager, The Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network, and Louis Brimacombe, Head, Environment and Sustainability Research Team, Tata Steel, gave evidence.

Q34 Chair: Thank you for attending this morning. Perhaps, for the record, you would be kind enough to introduce yourselves.

Sophie Thomas: My name is Sophie Thomas. I am here representing the Design Council of the UK.

Ian Hetherington: My name is Ian Hetherington. I represent the British Metals Recycling Association.

Tony Hartwell: My name is Tony Hartwell. I am from the Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network.

Louis Brimacombe: I am Louis Brimacombe. I am research manager for R and D for Tata Steel but also I chair the Sustainable Development Group of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

Q35 Chair: I have a simple question for you all and then I have a couple of specific questions. Perhaps you would tell us what criteria you would use to define a strategically important metal.

Louis Brimacombe: Tony and I have been discussing this. I regard something as strategically important if the UK is vulnerable in terms of either supply or production in terms of our future viability from a GDP viewpoint. I would include more than just rare earth metals. I would include steel, aluminium and all the alloying elements that go with that as well.

Tony Hartwell: Traditionally, "strategic" has been thought of in military terms. Historically, people have stockpiled to cope with situations to deal with military applications. Certainly that is the case in the US. In Japan, they have stockpiled for different reasons for their own economic performance and manufacturing industries. The US has one definition, which is called "critical materials", when the Department of Defense is the major customer for that material. For example, beryllium is what they consider to be a critical material. It is not only the materials themselves that are important but the facilities for processing and making a finished product from those materials. It is no good just having any rare earth metal itself if you can’t process it and then convert it into a finished product. It is technology throughout the supply chain that makes a strategic material.

Q36 Chair: In your earlier written evidence from your organisation, you referred to the form of metals in the context of what was strategic. Could you expand on that?

Tony Hartwell: For example, there is a new manufacturing technique called Additive Layer Manufacturing where you can make complex components from metal powders, but the powder has to be in the right form. It is a special technique to make the powders for that particular process. You may be making something out of titanium but if you have a titanium ingot you can’t use Additive Layer Manufacturing. You have to convert that titanium into a titanium powder that can be used in the process. That is the point I was trying to make. It’s not just the material but it’s the form that it’s in that is important.

Ian Hetherington: Yes. We would hesitate to define strategic metals or strategic materials. In very broad terms, it’s those that are critical, in danger or their scarcity would endanger the economy, not of the UK because I don’t think we can look at this on a domestic UK basis, rather we have to look at Europe and at other western developed countries. A narrow definition of what is strategic to the UK leads us down some very blank alleys and some dangerous paths.

Q37 Chair: Again, coming back to your evidence, Mr Hetherington, you encourage us not to look at metals that have volatile prices in the market. If the word "strategic" does mean to some end users what they pay for it, why are you trying to discourage us from looking at that?

Ian Hetherington: The reason why we submitted in that form and would continue to assert that is because metals are traded as a commodity, whether it is steel, copper or any of the rare earth metals, although some of those are special cases, we believe. These prices are volatile. They are volatile for particular reasons, but that in a sense does not make them in any national or geopolitical sense strategic. The economics of extraction, recycling, recovery and processing are such that they have price volatility. It is an inescapable fact. It doesn’t necessarily signify any great scarcity. We would argue that there is no intrinsic scarcity of copper. The reason for price volatility at the moment is as much to do with hedge funds buying vast quantities of physical copper as it is to do with excessive demand within the Chinese infrastructure. There are many factors affecting price and we would contend that they do not form a basis on their own for needing to develop national strategies.

Sophie Thomas: I suppose I come from a very different point of view. As a designer and somebody who is representing the design industry, I see these materials as the building blocks of design. They are the raw materials that we make things with. If you look from the other side of the argument, with regard to the waste stream that is coming out, the fact that we are not being responsible in the way we are using these materials and the way that design is thinking about the whole loop of how we recover them, I see great opportunity in that. That is probably why I am sitting here just trying to say that there is a bigger picture in terms of material scarcity.

Tony Hartwell: I would like to comment on one point that Ian made. I was talking to an alloys producer yesterday that uses a pure chromium metal in their alloys. They used to buy it from a company called Elementis in the UK that shut down their plant two years ago. The price they pay now is about £9 per kilo when they used to pay about £5. I agree with Ian that the UK needs to look at it in a European context, to consider the European Raw Material Initiative and the critical materials strategy and find places where the UK has niches where it can contribute in a European context. We have manufacturing facilities for magnesium and magnesium alloys in Manchester. That is a special facility which we should expand on. It makes special alloys for the aerospace industry. Let’s find the niches where we can support a European programme.

Q38 Stephen Mosley: We heard in the previous panel that there might be an opportunity for UK domestic extraction to meet some of the shortfall in future demand. We are also considering the environmental impact of that. As a starter question, how do you consider that the environmental impact of mining in the UK compares with the impact of mining elsewhere in the world?

Ian Hetherington: I have nothing to add to that, I’m afraid.

Louis Brimacombe: The economics of mining some materials in the UK has reduced its viability compared with some of the richer grades of material in Brazil and Australia, for example. When the crisis got near and iron ore prices escalated, you have another look again and say, "Is it more economic to look at the low grade materials?" and, even, " Is it economic to look at, for example, landfill materials?" It is an economic issue to begin with.

In terms of environmental impact, if you look at it on a global basis, we probably manage environmental issues of our mining operations very well and probably do it better than overseas and further away. So the net impact globally might be better than overseas, although I think that the mining community now in general is improving its environmental and social performance overseas as well.

Tony Hartwell: Once upon a time we had the biggest copper mine in the world in the UK in Anglesey, and Swansea was called "Copperopolis". It was the centre of copper production in the world. That was one of the bubbles before the internet or after the tulips.

There is a demand for these metals and they are going to be produced somewhere in the world. The point is that, if we are using the metals, we have a responsibility to see that they are mined sustainably wherever they are made. The International Council on Mining and Metals is working towards a sustainable development programme for all of their members, for all of the international mining groups. There is the prospect to develop a tungsten mine in the UK. Coming back to the military connection, it was developed during the Second World War because tungsten was a strategic material. They built a pilot plant. It was never quite developed before the end of the war. It was revisited in the 1970s, and they were going to reopen it. They had planning permission to reopen it, and then there was an oil crisis and it never happened. Now they are looking at redeveloping it again. Tungsten is certainly a strategic material and Europe is very dependent on imports of tungsten. In my view, tungsten is a critical material so we should look at how we can develop it and process it sustainably within the UK.

Sophie Thomas: It helps in terms of when you are looking at closed loop systems and concepts of cradle to cradle, which is about knowing where your materials come from, how they are mined, making sure that there is a wellbeing attached to it, the fact that you have proper labour laws and things like that, and building it into the whole infrastructure of when you get it back. The more you can control quality throughout the whole phases of material and design, reprocessing and recovering, the better.

Q39 Stephen Mosley: On that last point, when it comes to importing materials from elsewhere, do you think the Government have a role in setting and monitoring environmental standards, or do you think that we should be moving in the direction of some sort of voluntary scheme, for instance, similar to the Forest Stewardship Council, having some sort of mark to demonstrate that the materials are coming from an environmentally friendly source?

Sophie Thomas: They are very interesting points. I was with the Institute of Materials last week on a signing out landfill mission in the Netherlands. We were shown really good case studies of manufacturing systems which are very closely connected with their waste manufacturing companies that have good, strong central Government laws and municipal laws that helped to make sure that the chain of custody, knowledge and experience of all the people were brought together to create very innovative ways of designing and recovery of materials. The examples that were shown were very innovative. We could learn a lot from them here. It was a mixed collection of things. There was a big push from Government there, including things like a landfill ban, for instance, and a move towards recovery and incineration.

Tony Hartwell: I am in danger of being considered a Japanophile if I talk through this presentation, but they have an organisation called JOGMEC that looks at resourcing materials such as oil, gas and minerals for the Japanese industry. They not only look at what they do with materials within Japan but they invest in mining developments. If you are going to influence how a mine is developed, then investment and engagement in the mining activities is a way that you can do that. They will take a share. People are now talking about the Chinese buying into mining organisations and controlling them. The Japanese have done that for many years. Britain did it, but through commercial companies in the past. There is not really a central agency in the UK that is responsible for managing resource inputs into the UK. So there is not one department that is responsible for that. Maybe that is something we could consider.

Q40 Chair: Should there be?

Tony Hartwell: When we produced 200 million tonnes of coal we had a National Coal Board. Materials are responsible for a great deal of energy consumption and a lot of CO2 emissions. So if we have agencies for energy and CO2, it would make sense to have an agency for materials that was looking at aspects of materials.

Q41 Stephen Mosley: In answer to one of the previous questions, you mentioned about planning permission being granted in the 1970s for this tungsten mine. One of the issues that we heard about from the previous panel was that it is difficult to open new mines because of the planning restrictions, and in many cases you do have to rely upon mines that gained planning permission many years ago in order to look for new resources. Do you think that the UK’s planning system needs some sort of reform to make it easier to open new mines?

Tony Hartwell: Yes. I don’t think it is just the UK, but Europe as a whole is in a similar position. We spoke to a company that was looking at developing mining assets and they said they wouldn’t even look at deposits in Europe because they know it is going to take them 10 or 15 years to go from discovering the deposit to getting into production. They just can’t afford to do that. They can’t afford to invest in developing the deposit, exploring for it and going on to do that. The same is happening now in America where they are trying to shorten their planning process from two years to one year for minerals and metals. Certainly the planning process takes a long time.

There are two aspects to that. Of course, these things do need to be properly evaluated, but we need, perhaps, to educate, not indoctrinate, the public that we all use materials, so if we are using them they have to come from somewhere. If you have a quarry or a mine close to where you live and you don’t want that, then maybe you shouldn’t use any materials at all because we all use them, so somebody has to have a mine next to them.

Q42 Stephen Mosley: One thing that is a slight contradiction from what we heard earlier was from you, Ms Thomas. You have just said that we need to move to a process involving more extraction and incineration.

Sophie Thomas: No. I was saying there is evidence that the Netherlands had moved towards incineration. Now, they have put the infrastructure in place and they are now closing because they have overcapacity. That is what we were discovering from what they were doing. They are putting more emphasis on recoverability. It means that their waste streams are reducing, which they have now started to factor into the planning of their business models. The people who are dealing with the structure of their waste manufacturing now know that they can’t rely on keeping those incineration plants open. They are looking more towards recovery.

Q43 Roger Williams: There are plans to reopen Par y s Mountain on Angelsey, which has been exploited , I think, since Bro nze Age times. You never know how t hese things come around again. There are other ways of meeting the needs for these materials other than mining virgin ore and virgin materials through reduction, reuse and recycling. Some of the metals that we are talking about were not used to any great extent 10, 20 or 30 years ago . S o the opportunities for recycling are reasonably limited in terms of the current day use. What is the potential to meet the UK demands for these metals from reuse and recycling? I know that may vary between any particular metal, but perhaps you could gi ve us some examples.

Louis Brimacombe: Can I make a general point? Picking up on what Sophie said, you can have an avoidance of landfill by having incineration and so on, but there is no doubt about it that, in life cycle terms, in trying to reduce impacts reuse, recycling and reduction are key aspects. The way you have mentioned it is as if the systems are already there, but they are not. There is a huge opportunity for the UK to develop infrastructure and knowledge to improve reuse. That would be a significant change to the environmental impact, but it would also be a significant change in terms of the availability of scarce materials because the range of materials that we are talking about is broad. But there are things in electronic goods, phones and computers. The material is in there. If we have a scarcity of supply, why not develop technologies to move into that area? It is fairly new technology. We need to do some research to support that.

Ian Hetherington: The volumes of strategic metals-I will borrow that phrase- occurring in the end of life supply chain at the moment are very limited. As to the life cycle for any of this type of equipment, if it is a car, it is running currently at 16 years. I suspect that some of the energy generation equipment that we are talking about and some of the more sophisticated electronic uses of rare earth metals may be shorter than that. They are of that type of dimension-10 to 12 years. If we look 10, 12 to 16 years back from today, the use of these materials was not as great as it is today and, clearly, it is probably not as great as it will be in another 10 years. We are now at the point of having to plan as recylers to start to receive these materials in meaningful quantities. At the moment the quantity is not available, so it is not that the capability does not exist within UK recycling because it does exist but the volumes are not available.

Currently, we are recovering substantial quantities of platinum metals, rhodium and palladium, along, obviously with gold and silver, mainly from recovered waste electrical and electronic equipment. Recovery rates from materials that actually get to UK recylers are very high. We are hitting over 90% of all materials that are recovered and reused. The difficulty comes from collecting the stuff in the first place. The rates of collection are low. Government are trying to do more with that at the moment and I think they will succeed in time. So the capability is there. Not only is there not the supply but also there is not a market. I did some work ahead of today to find out what the current quoted price for secondary neodymium was, which is probably the most frequently occurring, and nobody can find a price. There isn’t actually a market for a lot of these secondary strategic materials. While there isn’t a market, there won’t be any effective recycling.

Q44 Chair: I t sounds to me as though you could have a discussion with Mr Brimacombe afterwards and a deal could be struck. You talked about the collection issues. Have you given any thought to how that ought to be put in place strategically ? Do we need regional collection structures? Who should be responsible for it?

Ian Hetherington: I think it’s very clear. Domestic WEEE-excuse the acronym, but I mean waste electrical and electronic equipment-is controlled under the European directive. Local authorities and, primarily, manufacturers have an obligation to secure the recycling of equipment they are putting into the market. That is working. It’s working more slowly in the UK than in Holland, for example. Holland have embraced this and done it very well. Some other European countries have done it less well than the UK, but we are all moving in the right direction. Where there are no controls is in the area of industrial and commercial electronic and electrical waste. That is an area which Government need to grasp but equally industry. A lot of this can be done on an informational basis, especially as we are beginning to see some of this more sophisticated material coming through, which is essentially industrial equipment. We need to build more sophisticated models for its collection, recovery and reuse. Reuse is absolutely critical, especially with magnets, for example, because they can be reused.

Tony Hartwell: There are two important points that I would like to make here. We don’t consume metals. When we use oil, we burn it and it is destroyed, but, with metals, we don’t consume them. We dissipate them to a greater or lesser extent. So when we look at metals, we have supply from ore and from scrap, and it goes into the technosphere and is available for future use. We have to try and balance the supply of primary material and the supply of secondary material to replace the losses in the system, and that is different for different metals. If anybody talks about consuming metals, it is a term that is used loosely because they divide the number of tonnes produced by the number of people and it gives you consumption per head. But please don’t think of it in consumption terms like we do with oil. It is available.

What is important with secondary materials is that the environmental impact of using those, if the system is designed well, is significantly less than primary production. We can help to reduce our CO2 emissions and improve our energy efficiency by a well-designed secondary recovery.

The second point is that the problem we have with recovering some of these hi-tech metals is that they are used in very small quantities. It is probably 50 mg of tantalum here and 50 mg of other materials. We need to try and design them in a way that we can dismantle segments of it that have compatible metals. At the moment this would probably go to a copper smelter in Belgium or Sweden and they will recover some of the metals, but some of the hi-tech metals will not be recovered because they are incompatible with that smelting process, whereas if you separated them out into different components and processed them in a different way you would have a better chance of recovering them.

Q45 Roger Williams: Mr. Hetherington, f ollowing on from that point , we have been told that British metal recycling is a big industry. It has a £5 billion turnover. We were told by a previous witness that much of the recovered material is sent abroad to be processed. So there is a lot of recovery taking place in Britain but not quite so much of the reprocessing. Is there any opportunity to increase that reprocessing in this country and then, at the same time, recovering some of these important r are e arth s but in very limited quantities?

Ian Hetherington: Yes. If I can just use that opportunity to make another point, when this discussion was taking place in the earlier evidence session, there was some confusion between the theft of non-ferrous metals and the export of non-ferrous metals. Metal theft is a serious issue for us. It’s illegal and it is not endorsed by anybody in the industry. We work with the police and the Home Office to try and eradicate it. It is a criminal activity, so let’s put that down as a marker. This is entirely different from the legitimate export and import of secondary metals.

The numbers are right. Yes, we process, as an industry, round about 15 million tonnes of metal every year and about 40% of that is exported. There is a very good reason why it’s exported. Our friends at Tata Steel were always the mainstay of the UK ferrous recyclers and virtually every tonne of iron and steel recycled in the UK was sold into Tata and its sister plants. Sadly, those volumes and the scrap buying of Tata Steel has followed the pattern of many other UK metal processing activities by falling away. The UK has a substantial surplus of recycled metals. As a consequence, we have a highly successful and very well developed export market. I would add that our members would love to sell all their material to UK processors. Nothing would give them more pleasure. They are producing a furnace- ready product and it has an international market.

Q46 Chair: Just for the record, because there is potentially a slight contradiction between what you and Mr Hartwell said, I want to be clear. You were not disagreeing with the example of his mobile device when, earlier on, you were referring to 90% being recycled. Your 90% was of those big volume metals-steel, copper and so on.

Ian Hetherington: Yes.

Q47 Chair: You are accepting that there is a real problem with those low volume small devices and things like that.

Ian Hetherington: I totally agree. I am agreeing, not disagreeing.

Tony Hartwell: That’s a design element that I think we’d all agree with.

Q48 Chair: We are coming on to that.

Louis Brimacombe: On Ian’s point about recycling in the UK, it is quite true that we have been exporting 5 million to 6 million tonnes of steel scrap for many a year now. Part of the explanation for that is because the UK has built up infrastructure for primary ore steel production and glass furnace operations simply because it is more economic to do so when electricity prices are very high and the scrap-based route is electric arc furnace-based. The iron ore prices at the moment are going up pretty high and there is a lot more incentive for us to move to scrap, because the arc furnace infrastructure is not really there in the UK. There is about 20% to 30% arc furnace infrastructure. We could do with improving the rates of recycling scrap in the primary routes as well. The BOS route has the opportunity to increase the scrap levels. When you do that, when you use scrap, your CO2 emissions per tonne will reduce. In a way, when you are exporting scrap, you are exporting carbon credits. We need to think about that.

Tony Hartwell: This is important, too. People won’t invest in electric arc furnaces or aluminium smelters in Anglesey if they can’t get an electricity deal that is suitable for them for long-term production. Uncertainty over electricity prices will mean that those large infrastructures won’t happen. The only reason we have any aluminium smelting left in the UK is because it is relatively low CO2 emissions. They are very small plants in world class terms. The one in Scotland handles about 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes a year, but most world plants are working on half a million tonnes a year to be economic. The reason why it is in Scotland is because it is hydropower, so it is a low CO2 emission product. We need to think structurally about what we want to do with these secondary materials. If we want to process more, we need to have a system in place that encourages that.

Q49 Roger Williams: The other way to reduce demand is to reduce waste. So the question is: are these materials wasted in some of the manufacturing processes in the UK, and what can be done about it to make the use more efficient?

Tony Hartwell: I suspect a lot of them were talking about invisible imports because we don’t import a lot of these special metals directly. They are in the computers and the equipment we purchase and support. In a way, we could look at that as a potential resource. It makes sense for us to look at special ways and techniques of dismantling and researching on doing this. That is the sort of work that is happening in Japan.

Ian Hetherington: We are not excluded from that in the UK. We are now starting discussions with the automotive manufacturers on advance battery packs because the design of the battery pack in the cars we are going to be seeing in the next 10 years is absolutely critical to the means and effectiveness by which we can extract the critical metals from those battery packs. Those discussions are going on. They are very receptive to it and we are looking here at a closed loop, so, hopefully, by the time we are seeing the volumes of these materials coming through on to the end of use market we will have those processes in place. The UK is not immune from that.

Q50 Chair: We are going to move on to look at the design and disassembly issues now. Before we do that, when it comes to large volume smelting of scrap materials, the larger the volume, the better the economics in terms of design of furnaces, I guess. But for recovery purposes of very specific materials that are in scarce supply I am presuming that, with some of the smaller more sophisticated furnaces that per tonne might be more expensive, but in the long term might be a better way of operating.

Louis Brimacombe: That may be true for some of the lower volume materials.

Q51 Chair: When you deal with large tonnages, as you do, what effort is put in to screening them for more scarce materials?

Louis Brimacombe: I don’t think there is very much effort in the scarcity of materials in terms of our scrap.

Q52 Chair: But you can see the logic that there ought to be.

Louis Brimacombe: No. The key thing for us is that to manage the metallurgical process you need to define scrap in certain qualities because you don’t want to mix alloys, alloying and so on. Scrap management is about optimising the through value, if you like. The scarce materials, from a steel industry perspective, is fairly low on the agenda. For niobium, for example, which is in high strength steels, it is in tiny amounts. It is just insignificant. If you are referring to trying to recover low volume materials that is probably true, but you wouldn’t go to the steelworks to try and recover rare earth metals, I don’t think.

Tony Hartwell: Generally speaking, in the scrap process, to separate steel is relatively straightforward because it is magnetic. The valuable materials go in with the non-magnetic fractions. It is processing of the non-magnetic residues from a scrap processing method.

Q53 Chair: My point is that there is a dilution factor, is there not? You lose some of the rare materials in that recycled steel.

Louis Brimacombe: It’s possible, but there’s not much of it, really.

Q54 Chair: That’s the whole point. There isn’t much of it. That is why we are having this inquiry.

Louis Brimacombe: But some of it is useful, though. If you can get some low niobium alloy steels in the scrap, you factor that into your design of the required alloy. So you are reusing that alloy again. It is not all waste, by the way. It is cleverly done. The recycling of scrap in steelworks is a very efficient process. It is very technical and very economically organised. I don’t think we waste very much in that respect.

Q55 Stephen Metcalfe: We touched on the design qualities of products. How do we encourage manufacture r s to design with reuse and recycling in mind? What incentives do we need to put in place to make that happen?

Sophie Thomas: From the experience of going round different manufacturing systems in the Netherlands, as I said before, there were many different issues that pushed the agenda forward, particularly the way that they have been looking at landfill issues, which for them is a big critical factor, and also looking at different ways to reduce and recover.

From that, what happened was that crucial partnerships were set up within manufacturing systems, so you had waste manufacturers coming on board. There is Van Gansewinkel, which is a big waste manufacturing group in the Netherlands, working with Philips. They are setting up what they are calling "cradle to cradle", which is about looking at the whole process of a closed loop system, because what they needed to do and Ingrid Zeegers, the head of sustainability at Philips, was saying was that they needed to know exactly what was in their product and how it was collected at the end of life. If you have a design product which, for instance, is a coffee maker that they send to you, which is a closed loop product, they needed to know that they could easily recover all the materials in it and they could almost have accreditation for the quality of those different separated materials afterwards so that it would go back up into the loop to recover. The design of the components and their recovery was made much simpler.

When we were on the tour, we went round a fridge recovery facility. What was incredible was the huge factory you need just to take apart a fridge to recover everything from that fridge. As Ian was saying, there is a lag between the fact that some of these fridges are 10 to 15 years old and therefore we are having to deal with technology from 10 to 15 years ago. It was amazing that they could come back with a chunk of aluminium, steel, copper and the polyurethane foam but without the CFCs, and they had recovered all the different elements from it. But you have to bear in mind the amount of people you need to do that.

It shows that the way we recover things at the moment is not as innovative and technologically efficient as the way we are designing our electronics-our goods. Therefore, when he was saying, "We get the chipboards from computers", they crunch them up, but then you think that in a phone there are 40 different elements. From Dr Pitts’s evidence that we have used before, there is about as much gold in one tonne of computer scrap as there is in 17 tonnes of gold ore. There is the opportunity to get it back just from having a place such as Philips has set up as well with the waste manufacturing company. We have a group of people who work together on all the different processes along the way, and you can have a very efficient recovery system.

Then you can start looking at how we recover that gold because there is a lot of dispersion that we have been hearing about. Very small amounts of these materials are very important, particularly for electronics, but they are in such small amounts but it all adds up in the end. So how can we incentivise designers? We have nothing at the moment that is pushing that. There is such a need to lead by example. That is what the Design Council is looking for. How do we start having conversations with material scientists, with the Institute of Materials? There is a huge opportunity for Government to push the design industry to take this on board because we are, effectively, a cottage industry. There are 232,000 designers in the UK and most of them work in studios of five or fewer people. So we are small, entrepreneurial and very innovative. How do we gather these people together? It’s not like we are in one big company.

Ian Hetherington: I am taken with Sophie’s description. I would add that the most sophisticated and largest WEEE recovery and recycling plant in the world is in Newport. I commend the Committee that if anybody ever wants to come and visit, you are very welcome. We can arrange it.

The other point I would make on this-we were talking about exports earlier-is that the UK is a major importer of waste electrical and electronic equipment, largely because European manufacturers are working with our partners on design for recycling. It is happening now. It may not be perfect but it is happening now, and the UK is the preferred route because of the economics of using high technology as opposed to the use of a very large labour force in that plant you looked at.

Sophie Thomas: Yes.

Ian Hetherington: It isn’t really very economic and we are employing some high technology. I am sorry. Advert over.

As I said earlier, in terms of Government policy, there does need to be a focus on industrial and commercial product and driving the producer responsibility for those products and those materials within those products down through the recovery chain. It’s not working perfectly, as I say, but it is beginning to work with domestic consumer electrical equipment. It isn’t working with industrial and commercial. I think there is something that needs to be done there with a degree of urgency because that connect isn’t being made. Some manufacturers and our members are working closely together but it is patchy. It is a very patchy picture. We must have compartmentalised use of critical materials so that they can be readily removed.

I would add this with regard to the refining process about which the Chairman was asking earlier. There are small refiners, mainly copper refiners, that are set up specifically to extract very small trace quantities of precious metals and what we would term critical metals from chipped WEEE, and this comes in in very small sizes. They are extracting probably 90% of what exists there but not in terms of certain metals. Mobile phones are a classic example where they are not set up to extract some of the critical rare earth metals that exist.

Q56 Stephen Metcalfe: Do you think, therefore, we need to change the WEEE legislation to widen the range that it is covered by and perhaps use it to target some of the more specific critical metals that we are after, so not just the weight issue, but actually trying to target material from it?

Ian Hetherington: First, the WEEE regulations should be expanded to cover industrial and commercial waste, yes. Can the WEEE regulations target particular materials? I am hesitant about that. Once the regulatory framework is in place, the commercial imperative will drive it because it is in manufacturers’ interests-OEMs’ interest-to drive this through, because these materials will and should find their way back, especially if it is closed loop, into the manufacturing process.

Q57 Stephen Metcalfe: As some of these materials are recycled, they lose their properties. In particular, I am thinking about rare earth magnets. They are very fragile, they break very easily and as they are recycled they lose that magnetic property. How easy is it to develop a recycling policy for materials that recognises different qualities in different materials? Is it possible to do that? Are we talking about recycling when actually what we should be doing is finding alternatives, substitutes, for some of these really rare metals?

Sophie Thomas: I was just reading the KTN material security piece. They were saying that when you start looking for alternatives you end up using something that is probably rarer or you end up swapping it with something that does not have any kind of infrastructure at all to recover it, whereas before you might have something that has been developed. A huge amount of incentive needs to be built. In terms of Xerox, for instance, the evidence suggests that, because they have started to build things, they have redesigned them, so that they can take bits back and redesign them into other products. They reckon that they can get their products to have up to seven lives within each piece and the remanufacture of that is twice as profitable as manufacturing in the first instance. That incentive is not talked about. In terms of policy, designers tend not to be that clued up on policy. A huge amount of communication has been missing. In relationships that we are setting up with British Standards, for instance, and looking at the new design guidelines, there is great opportunity.

I came away from the Netherlands with the incentive to create new conversations with manufacturers, designers, recovery and recycling facilities together. That is where the power is and having the Government there and legislation in place is really key.

Tony Hartwell: It is not so much a question of recycle or substitute. You have to research on both because whether recycling is viable or not depends on the relative costs of the recovered material compared with the primary material. If the primary material is highly valued, then you have a big incentive to recover and recycle it.

The question then is: can you develop techniques that make it economic to recover those secondary materials? While the value remains high, you can. If you have recovered so much that the value came down again, there is a balance. When the price goes high people certainly look for substitutes.

My overall answer is that we need to continue that long-term research on recovery methods and on substitution, because if you don’t have the expertise on the materials then the beginning of your whole supply chain doesn’t exist and the reason for having manufacturing and production in the UK is weaker. If you have knowledge and expertise of the materials, you have the basis and the beginnings for doing that.

Louis Brimacombe: Following on from all the comments, one of the key things is that directives like the WEEE and End of Life Vehicle have been very positive in terms of environmental improvements, but we need to emphasise more and more the whole product life cycle. You can make decisions about end of life, which might have a marginal effect or even a detrimental effect on the use phase. Whichever way you look at it these days, roughly 60% of the environmental impacts of something is in the use phase, be it automotive, buildings and so on. We need to be careful that any kind of guidance or regulations takes that into account. There are tools such as life cycle assessment to assist with that kind of evaluation. That is a good thing.

Life cycle assessment tends to look at environmental issues, carbon and water footprinting and so on. I am very much of the mindset that we should broaden that to a sustainability agenda which includes the economics and the social value of these products as well. We get into a fairly complex discussion about what is sustainable economically and how you drive that, because, if you drive sustainable economics in the right way, you will end up with a more efficient system. I appreciate there is no simple answer to that, but it is something we should be building into any policymaking, for sure. Also we must not underestimate the social value of all the things we are talking about. They are devices, buildings and consumer products, all of which we use in our everyday lives. That should not be undervalued or underestimated. The materials contribution is huge to that.

Q58 Stephen Metcalfe: Ms Thomas, in the written evidence that the Design Council gave us it stated: "For every £100 a design-alert business spends on design, turnover increased by £225." Can you give us some examples of how this is achieved in companies that use strategic metals?

Sophie Thomas: In relation to strategic metals, I have been trying to find them. In terms of the Xerox example, because they have a recovery system in place so they get back their materials, they have managed not to have to bring in raw materials for that. That was a design decision. Therefore, they worked with their designers. They built them so that they could pull them apart and they are easy. Also, their designers were in touch with their waste manufacturing people, so it was a completely closed loop. Again, Philips have now set up nine different cradle to cradle design teams within their group. They also take a different perspective in that their profit also includes things like wellbeing, so they are broadening out their definition of this. Because of that, they are in a situation where they can build in components with all the strategic metals they use within their board chips, within the coffee machines, for instance, so they can recover them in a way that they don’t have to scrap them. They can recover them and reuse them.

Q59 Chair: Are they marketing things like the coffee machine in a way that focuses on, "It’s cool to have a recyclable coffee machine"?

Sophie Thomas: They are, but probably not in the UK because we put less emphasis on it. If you go to the Netherlands, they do. It is added value.

Q60 Chair: Britain has tremendous strengths in design and that is recognised across the world. Is it something that your profession needs to run hard with, to encourage designers to sell the concept that recycling is cool, to use the customers’ language?

Sophie Thomas: Yes. Maybe not recycling but more designing for recovery.

Chair: Yes.

Sophie Thomas: And then recycling.

Q61 Chair: You are there to put the language in place because you know your customers better than I do.

Sophie Thomas: The UK is definitely a leader in terms of design, entrepreneurship and innovation. We are recognised for that. Because we are quite small groups of people scattered around the UK, we are very thought-led and creative-led in terms of how we go and find projects, how we go and work with different manufacturers, to promote that and to push this industry to start talking properly to manufacturing. What is missing is the life cycle analysis knowledge-the LCA knowledge-the education in terms of what materials they are using, how they are using it and where it is going to end up. So there is this holistic thinking.

Q62 Stephen Metcalfe: So education of the designers.

Sophie Thomas: Education of the designers. We rely a lot on their knowledge on the WEEE directive, for instance, but if we had papers like that on materials, then we could push them that way and say, "This is now a law."

Q63 Stephen Metcalfe: Should the Government be encouraging or legislating to make that happen?

Sophie Thomas: I would say both.

Tony Hartwell: One thing we should be doing is encouraging more engineers and scientists to have a knowledge of sustainability. Probably what we shouldn’t be doing is asking them to pay higher fees.

Louis Brimacombe: I agree with Tony about the content of courses. For sure, the Institute of Materials, for example, is encouraging much more life cycle assessment being taught to material scientists, mechanical engineers and so on. I still think that has not necessarily got through to the product designers and the architects on the more creative side of design. One of the things that would improve things is awareness.

Q64 Chair: At the moment, the mobile phone industry market is very complicated because of the packages that are sold on phone use and so on. If it were possible to encourage the market to look at recovery of materials as one of the criteria, it would undoubtedly help shift that market, wouldn’t it?

Louis Brimacombe: I think so, yes, as long as it can be done economically as well, because otherwise it just shifts to somewhere else.

Q65 Chair: That’s the problem. It is how you encourage the customer to look at all the design holistically and buy on the basis of other interests than simply their short-term financial ones.

Louis Brimacombe: Yes. That is absolutely right. If we encourage sustainable purchasing or sustainable consumption of things, that is the ultimate goal. It’s the goal of Europeans.

Q66 Chair: That is precisely what the automotive industry is going through at the moment on trying to create the volume market to justify the investment in battery technologies. How do you incentivise the public to think about buying into an early technology?

Sophie Thomas: The automotive industry is a very good case study. We were discussing outside how we can get the mainstream design group to follow on from that. How can you incentivise these people to say, "Set up a system. Look at all your processes", because they are looking at it and they are looking at how you deconstruct an object like that. But when you start talking about a toothbrush, a pen or something that has been designed by a designer, has a brief and has taken a chain of people to make it, it is a different ballgame because then you go back to the dispersion of the elements. When we get back to the mobile phone, even though there are 40 elements in them, they are very small amounts.

Louis Brimacombe: But it leads on to awareness, for example. There is not a great deal of awareness of the contribution that materials can make towards sustainable design and improvements. It is quite significant that there is not an awareness of it. There is lots of naivety about recycling of materials. Quite a few groups that we have questioned didn’t realise that steel was recyclable, which it clearly is.

Q67 Stephen Metcalfe: So what’s the best way of raising that awareness, though?

Louis Brimacombe: For me it would be awareness, promotional campaigns, education, university education, and it is simple to build these things into courses, but you have got to hit the general public as well. It is not just about academia here. It is about raising people’s awareness. If they want to be more sustainable, there are easier ways of doing it. Be aware of what materials are and how they are used.

Tony Hartwell: I have been accused of being a Japanophile, but they have done that since 2000. They engage their civilian population in those programmes. It is amazing what is possible. They even recycle disposable cameras. They refurbish a disposable camera so that it can be used again. There is no reason why we could not make phones or laptops recyclable and reusable. There are a few more bits and pieces that people pile on them, but the basic platform could be refurbished so you would reduce the amount of materials that you use in the system.

Q68 Stephen Metcalfe: I have one final question. If we are to change policy and amend regulation, how do you think that might affect the smaller businesses? You said that the designers are functioning in relatively small teams up and down the country. Do you think there is a risk that by overregulating we could damage that innovation and creativeness, and would that make us a less attractive country in which either to work or invest?

Sophie Thomas: Designers always moan and complain about legislation but they also thrive on it, too. Once you start putting boundaries on where we can do things, we are lateral thinkers. We enjoy challenges. That is what we are trained to do. It would probably be very good for designers because they would start to understand and educate themselves, obviously depending on what the legislation was. They are very woolly. Basically, there is very little that they can grab hold of. Stephen Mosley was talking about the FSC accreditation. That has been a very good driver for communication designers, for instance, to start looking at their paper material as a raw material. So something similar to that, even though it is flawed in some areas, is a very useful incentive.

Q69 Stephen Metcalfe: Are there any other comments?

Ian Hetherington: In terms of legislation, given that we are talking essentially here of a combination of consumer goods, consumer goods manufacturing, development and design is not a UK-centric activity. We know it is a world market. Anything that is done in the domestic context needs to be done very carefully to ensure that competitiveness is not in any sense eroded. We would encourage promotion and encouragement rather than, probably, a regulatory solution there.

Chair: Thank you for a very interesting session.