UK and South Africa announce partnership on clean technologies for minerals

The United Kingdom and South Africa have announced that they are establishing a new partnership dedicated to the responsible and sustainable exploration of minerals in South Africa for use in clean energy technologies.

The UK government announced earlier this week that it will work with the Republic of South Africa to deepen cooperation on a number of mineral and energy projects, including through regular ministerial and technical dialogues between the South African Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (RSA) and the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

South Africa is a leading producer of a number of minerals that are used in clean technologies, including platinum, palladium and iridium, which are used to produce hydrogen, and vanadium and manganese, which are used for battery storage.

Demand for minerals used in clean technologies is expected to grow in recent years, raising concerns about security of supply and the environmental impact of large-scale mining.

As such, under the new partnership the UK and South Africa have committed to work together to promote the responsible exploration, development, production and processing of minerals in South Africa. By working together, governments said they can help support investment in mineral exploration and production that adheres to high environmental standards, while expanding access to minerals that are key to clean industrial and economic development and the global transition to clean energy.

They said that promoting responsible mineral extraction will be central to the global transition to clean energy, as well as ensuring the sustainability of the mining industry and supply chains through financing, high environmental, social and governance standards, health and safety and by building a highly skilled work force.

The countries said they want to cooperate on a range of clean technologies, including but not limited to battery storage, fuel cell technologies, energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

“Working together, we hope to identify mutually beneficial projects and related initiatives,” they said in a statement.

In addition, they hope that the partnership will also encourage the participation of private sector companies in the sustainable mining industry and support investment flows into the sector, which in turn could create and expand new clean jobs.

Both countries said they will promote and support partnerships between UK and South African companies across the minerals and clean energy value chain to grow and strengthen business links to the benefit of both economies.

The announcement of the new partnership is part of a wider updated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Republic of South Africa and the UK Government, focusing on cooperation in science, technology, research and innovation, which was unveiled earlier this week.

The new memorandum replaces and updates the previous agreement, entitled Memorandum of Understanding on Scientific Cooperation, which the parties signed in 1995.

In the new memorandum of understanding, the two countries said they were “committed to expanding the scope of cooperation in research and innovation through the establishment of a productive partnership for peaceful purposes and mutual benefit.”

The news follows an official state visit by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who visited London for two days this week.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met President Ramaphosa to discuss the next stages of the partnership between the two countries, which also includes the launch of the UK-South Africa Infrastructure Partnership, supporting South Africa’s economic growth through major infrastructure developments and offering increased access to UK companies to projects worth up to £5.37 billion over the next three years.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverley welcomed news of the visit and the new memorandum of understanding, highlighting the opportunity to collectively explore eco-innovation.

“This week’s state visit, the first under the leadership of His Majesty the King, is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our links, but it also allows us to drive greater growth, create even more opportunities for both British and South African businesses and further to encourage South Africa’s transition to green energy,” he said.

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