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201112 | New clean mining circular technology research centre to be launched in Cornwall

New clean mining circular technology research centre to be launched in Cornwall

The Camborne School of Mines and Exeter University will lead the new research centre, designed to revolutionise how crucial metals are extracted, used and reused in clean and digital technologies

13 November 2020 0 comments
Olivier Vergnault

By Olivier Vergnault

A new research centre on clean mining circular technology is to be created in Cornwall.

The University of Exeter has announced it will lead the pioneering new research centre, designed to revolutionise how crucial metals are extracted, used and reused in clean and digital technologies across the UK.

The Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre in Technology Metals, led by experts from the Camborne School of Mines, is one of five new centres announced by the Government.

Funded as part of a £22.5 million Government investment, it will explore how to create a circular economy for the technology metals such as cobalt, rare earths and lithium that are essential in all clean and digital technologies including electric cars and wind turbines.

The Camborne School of Mines and Exeter University will lead the new research centre, designed to revolutionise how crucial metals are extracted, used and reused in clean and digital technologies
The Camborne School of Mines and Exeter University will lead the new research centre, designed to revolutionise how crucial metals are extracted, used and reused in clean and digital technologies (Image: Cornish Lithium)

The centre aims to develop a new cycle, right from the first stages of extraction, to enable secure and environmentally-acceptable circulation of these crucial materials within the UK economy.

Professor Frances Wall, from the University of Exeter and who will lead the project said: “We have been looking for this opportunity to join up across the value chain for a while.

"Individual research projects can only go so far in solving the problem of sustainable supply and use of these specialist materials.

“This opportunity is really exciting because we bring together all the disciplines ranging from geology, chemistry, engineering to social science and business to consider the whole system.

“Together with our project partners we will make a new road map for a technology metals circular economy centred on the UK.”

The centre will bring together experts from the Universities of Exeter, Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester and the British Geological Survey, as well as 40 partner companies and organisations.

As well as researchers from the Camborne School of Mines, Exeter will also provide expertise from the Environment and Sustainability Institute, the Renewable Energy department and the Business School.

Lithium, tin and copper are all in abundance in Cornwall and Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre in Technology Metals, led by experts from the Camborne School of Mines will look at how crucial metals are extracted, used and reused in clean and digital technologies
Lithium, tin and copper are all in abundance in Cornwall and Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre in Technology Metals, led by experts from the Camborne School of Mines will look at how crucial metals are extracted, used and reused in clean and digital technologies (Image: Paul Richards PR4Photos Ltd)

The centre will apply circular economy principles to every aspect of mineral use in clean and digital technologies, including the initial extraction stage.

Prof Wall said the research will start with a case study of the industry ecosystem in Cornwall.

She said: "With its exploration projects for the technology metals, lithium, tin and tungsten, the region has the opportunity to lead in whole systems circular economy actions for these metals."

The five new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centres across the UK will be dedicated to exploring how the reuse of waste materials in the textiles, construction, chemical and metal industries can deliver huge environmental benefits and boost the UK economy.

As well as catalysing scientific and technological advances, each centre will generate the environmental, social and economic understanding required to support a successful transition to a circular economy, ensuring we strengthen the economy while improving resource use along the whole materials cycle.

Moving to a circular economy will provide significant benefits by reducing UK waste and the environmental impact of production and consumption both in the UK and abroad and creating opportunities for new UK industries.

EPSRC executive chairman, Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, said: “The move to a circular economy, where we use less resources and reuse more materials, is central to the UK’s green industrial revolution and our commitment to achieving a net zero economy by 2050.

“By bringing together a wide range of academic disciplines with industry partners the centres will catalyse innovative new technologies and approaches that will boost the UK economy and benefit the environment.”