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They hate us

kljhWhy has ‘mining’ become a dirty word? asks Chris Mackenzie*

“They hate us”.  The words were as chilled as the Spring Toronto air. 

Two Brits catching up after the world’s pre-eminent mining and exploration conference, the PDAC 2017 show.  The subject: the leadership of the Geological Society, and why our field appears to be looked down on by fellow professionals in our home country.  The words were uttered by a successful explorer with at least one major mine discovery to his name.  Someone to be nurtured, someone to be tapped into as a mentor.


So how, and why, have we got here?  Minefinders are special.  For decades the UK exploration sector has been subject to major under-investment compared with just about everywhere else in the world.  Mining is a dirty word.

CO2-phobia has led to the growth of farms of hundred metre-high wind turbines, blighting the view and creating new, unintended problems.  The growth of these typifies NIMBY-ism of the first order.  They export much of the pollution and environmental degradation associated with power generation to the developing world, where it is unseen by your average subsidy-payer – not many of whom holiday at Bayan Obo.

‘Green’ energy?

The recent focus of the Society’s Mineral Deposits Study Group on ‘critical metals (critical for this new ‘green’ energy industry) is interesting.  Our Society appears happy to fall in line with the mantra of ‘Sustainable Development’ – an oxymoron of note.  Surely, with our environmental awareness it makes sense to source metals responsibly, in a jurisdiction where mining is well regulated and eagerly overseen.  The major mining companies are remiss in not raising the public’s awareness of the issues around mining, the fact that the ever increasing demand for smartphones and cleaner energy and all trappings of modernity are dependent on increased levels of mining.  Somewhere.

So - why not in your back yard?  Hence the despair at the wasteland that is the state of mining in the UK in 2017.  No investment, no encouragement of explorers to find mines.  Even the BGS appears to want nothing to do with it.

HM Government recently published the Resource Security Action Plan.  But no monies resulted to cover proper exploration (read ‘extensive drilling’) in the UK.  Likewise the EU has implemented a programme boasting of ‘sustainable exploration’ focused on Rare Earth Elements.  Again, no funding for drills to turn sufficiently to find a mine!  Perhaps this is what ‘sustainable exploration’ means: fund a hoard of academics to burn around the world looking at things and research them to death, but find nothing.  Does IQ really get you there?


The ultimate irony is that the hugely polluting (to overseas environments) wind farms of the new ‘green’ UK economy are being sited in areas where strategic natural resources are present - effectively sterilising them.  BGS has no voice whatsoever in the planning process.  At least one very strategic resource has already been sterilised this way, and others will follow.

High time for mining to be given a voice at Government level, perhaps?

  • Chris Mackenzie work in global mineral exploration and environmental management for Peak Minerals Ltd, Sheffield.  He is based abroad.  E: [email protected]